Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs

CEO, President & Co-founders of Food52

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON April 13, 2016

Discussion

Merrill Stubbs@merrillstubbs · President, Food52
We're Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, co-founders of Food52, the online kitchen and home destination. We've noticed that the spontaneous, off-the-cuff cooking that people do every day is overlooked by most food media. So, rather than create a recipe app, we went the other way. We're giving people easy ways to share their cooking -- just as they might tell a friend how they've made a dish -- and making it useful to other cooks. We're really proud of our new (Not)Recipes app for iOS and can't wait to hear your feedback and answer your questions!
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
Hi Everyone! Just joining now -- excited to be here and will get to your questions asap!
Ruth Anderson@learning2013 · DL Facilitator @KHS online classes
How long have you been working Food 52 because I absolutely adore it. Is there a way to store all , I mean, ALL the recipes you post in an organized way??
amandahesser@amandahesser
@learning2013 Hi Ruth! So glad you like Food52! We launched our proof of concept at the end of 2009, and really got going in 2011. On your account, you can create any kind of recipe collection you like. So, if you wanted to organize your own recipes by "salads," "cookies," "weeknight dinner," etc., you can just create a collection and add your recipes to it. Hope this helps!
Ruth Anderson@learning2013 · DL Facilitator @KHS online classes
@amandahesser thank you, I actually figured it out just a few hours ago. thank you for your reply! I mean it is amazing all the fab recipes. and articles and everything. I could live on here! LOL
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
Hi guys! Def going to download the app today, and play around with it tonight. Where have you seen most of your following/traffic from, and where do you think you'll continue to see it coming from in the next 3-6 months? Thanks!
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@mrsharma Great, hope you like it! We're currently only tracking downloads from our own platforms; email is currently the biggest driver, followed by Instagram.
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
@merrill_stubbs Interesting! I would have guessed Pinterest.
Waldemar Juschin@wjuschin · Founder - 5AM Provisions, Inc.
Super cool app. This is like Instagram for Food but with more functionalities. I love it. What are some of the growth hacks you are working on?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@wjuschin Thanks! Glad you like it. We'll be releasing more features soon, including a mechanism for following other people.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
If you had to start again today, what would you focus on?
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What snack is your guilty pleasure?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@bentossell We don't feel guilt about any pleasures! But Amanda loves Fritos, and I'm a sucker for an Oreo.
Andrew Ettinger@andrewett · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Which apps are on each of your homescreen?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@andrewettinger Mine are: Instagram, Pocket, Fresh Direct, Google, Slack, Stitcher, Spotify, Waze, Uber and Amazon.
Harry Stebbings@harrystebbings · Podcast Host @ The Twenty Minute VC
thanks so much for joining us today, big fan of @food52 and would love to hear what the hardest part of the growth trajectory was and hw you scaled food52 so quickly? Currently what is your most effective channel for social media marketing? Would love to have you on @twentyminutevc would be a pleasure to hear the story in more detail!
amandahesser@amandahesser
@harrystebbings @food52 @twentyminutevc The scaling story is a long one -- happy to chat about it on your podcast. Instagram has seen the most rapid growth among our social channels, but to be clear, we don't see our activity on Instagram as social media marketing. We see our activity there as another place where we can build a relationship with our audience. We create content solely for Instagram and are not always looking for people to click back to our site -- it's more important that we develop a meaningful relationship with them on a platform where both they and we want to be.
Sachin Jain@sachinjain024 · Software Developer, Adobe Systems
@Merrill @food52 Did you perform Idea validation before implementing the app ? Like validation in terms of online survey or offline discussion with people. What gave you confidence that this idea will be happily accepted.
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@sachinjain024 @food52 We tested the concept on Instagram before we launched, by observing our followers' behavior there and running hashtagged F52 contests. Also, we've had a column on our site since 2013 on the topic of (Not)Recipes, which has been one of our most popular.
amandahesser@amandahesser
@sachinjain024 @merrill @food52 We did -- we tested the concept through our Instagram account. We noticed that people were casually sharing their cooking on our social platforms, and Instagram seemed a natural place to try out our ideas. We created a hashtag #f52contests and created themed casual recipe contests. They got a ton of engagement and excellent content, and from this we began formulating our app plan.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
Situation: You are (for one reason or another) sentenced to the chair. You have one last meal, 3 courses and can be whatever you want. What do you choose? 🙃
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@bentossell Well, that's a bit grim! I'd start with cheese and charcuterie (and lots of bread), then move onto steak with really buttery mashed potatoes and some kind of braised greens or a peppery salad, and then Eton mess for dessert.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
@merrill_stubbs haha sorry! I'm trying to set the scene for a 'last meal' - still haven't got my wording right yet 🙈 Cheese and bread is more of an after dinner thing here in the UK anyway.
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@bentossell I'd happily eat cheese and bread any time of day, at any stage of a meal. :)
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@bentossell I was going to explain what Eton Mess was until I realized you were from the UK...
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What do you think of the whole 'smart oven' movement?
amandahesser@amandahesser
@bentossell Hi Ben, we love technology in the kitchen and are curious about the smart oven -- but we also feel a little cautious about it. So much of the pleasure of cooking is understanding how and when a dish is cooked, and we'd be sad to have technology strip away the human judgment part of cooking. Of course, you could probably argue that the microwave already did this, and we both have microwaves!
Emily Hodgins@ems_hodge · Operations @ Product Hunt
Hi Amanda and Merrill! Thanks for being here today. What were some of your biggest challenges in founding Food52 and how did overcome them?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@ems_hodge Hi Emily! One of the biggest challenges was overcoming an initial bias against content -- and specifically food content -- among investors and the media. When we launched, neither of those two things was hot (now, of course, both are). We knew we were onto something, and we stayed the course. It wasn't easy, and it definitely helped to actively seek out people who believed in us and what we were doing along the way.
Sripathi Ramadurai@sripathi_ramadurai
Do your PMs have to be passionate about cooking? Not a trick question....
amandahesser@amandahesser
@sripathi_ramadurai We've been lucky in that most people who apply for jobs with us are passionate cooks and eaters -- so we haven't really had to screen for this. But with a Product Manager hire, yes, this would be important. They need to understand the mindset of our audience in order to help us create the best site/product possible.
JJ Tang@jjrichardtang
Thank you for being here today! If you weren't working on Food52, what would you be working on?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@jjrichardtang Our tans. JK. We'd probably be working on another highly disruptive business in the tech space.
JJ Tang@jjrichardtang
@merrill_stubbs Good answer! Not sure if it's been asked before but what companies in the tech space right now excite you the most?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@jjrichardtang Good question. In terms of things we feel devoted to, Pocket, Medium and Chairish come to mind. In terms of pure excitement, we're fans of the UX of Maple and have both gotten into FoodKick recently as well.
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@jjrichardtang Some more thoughts: I've ordered several Casper mattresses and love them. And Houzz is really a fantastic resource for home renovations. We're intrigued by Chariot for Women.
Sripathi Ramadurai@sripathi_ramadurai
What metrics/KPIs are important to you?
amandahesser@amandahesser
@sripathi_ramadurai Engagement metrics are important to us. We want to build a quality audience. So, for instance, on our site 74% of our registered users have faved/saved a recipe, article, or product on our site. Our Instagram posts get an avg of 15k likes. And our off-line events have always sold out.
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in this space right now?
Ben Tossell@bentossell · newCo
What would you tell your 20 year old self today?
amandahesser@amandahesser
@bentossell Don't ask for permission.
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@jakecrump We're working towards becoming the leading global food and home brand -- so hopefully a lot closer to that!
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical day look like for you?
amandahesser@amandahesser
@jakecrump The fun part of starting a company is that no day looks the same. We might start the day having breakfast with someone on our team (we have a sign-up doc for anyone on our team so we can have one-on-one time with everyone). Then we'll usually have a bunch of meetings -- could be an internal engineering or editioral meeting, a review of new products for our shop, an investor stopping by -- and sometimes we get roped into photo shoots and videos. In between we futilely attempt to catch up on email, and at the end of the day we often have evening events -- tonight I'm going to a dinner for the Women's Entrepreneur Festival.