amandahesser
Merrill Stubbs

Amanda Hesser & Merrill Stubbs

CEO, President & Co-founders of Food52

THIS CHAT HAPPENED ON April 13, 2016

Discussion

Merrill Stubbs
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 Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
Hi Everyone! Just joining now -- excited to be here and will get to your questions asap!
Ruth Anderson
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@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
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
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 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
Nik Sharma@mrsharma · Director of Performance Marketing, hint
@merrill_stubbs Interesting! I would have guessed Pinterest.
Waldemar Juschin
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 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
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
If you had to start again today, what would you focus on?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What snack is your guilty pleasure?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman
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
Andrew Ettinger@ettinger · 👟 @wearAtoms // ex @Twitter @ProductHunt
Which apps are on each of your homescreen?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman
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
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@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
Sachin Jain@sachinjain024 · Founder, Requestly (www.requestly.in)
@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 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@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
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
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 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
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
@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 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 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
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What do you think of the whole 'smart oven' movement?
amandahesser
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 Snowdon (née Hodgins)
Emily Snowdon (née Hodgins)@emilyjsnowdon · 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 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@sripathi_ramadurai
Do your PMs have to be passionate about cooking? Not a trick question....
amandahesser
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
JJ Tang@jjrichardtang · Product @IBMCloud 🚢
Thank you for being here today! If you weren't working on Food52, what would you be working on?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman
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
JJ Tang@jjrichardtang · Product @IBMCloud 🚢
@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 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 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@sripathi_ramadurai
What metrics/KPIs are important to you?
amandahesser
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
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What are some of the biggest challenges you face in this space right now?
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
What would you tell your 20 year old self today?
amandahesser
amandahesser@amandahesser
@bentossell Don't ask for permission.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman
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
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What does a typical day look like for you?
amandahesser
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.
Ayrton De Craene
Ayrton De Craene@ayrton · Code @ Clearbit
Hey Amanda, what industries do you think can revolutionise the food industry?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@ayrton There's been relatively little innovation so far in groceries. We're convinced there's lots more to come.
Jake Crump
Jake Crump@jakecrump · Community Team with Product Hunt
What would you do with a billion dollars?
amandahesser
amandahesser@amandahesser
@jakecrump A billion dollars would stress us out -- we prefer to work with what we need and do the most we can with it.
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
There is a lot of competition with food-tech. Do you think there will be clear, big hitters?
amandahesser
amandahesser@amandahesser
@bentossell Well, food-tech is expansive, so it's hard to say. If you were to look at a segment like meal kits, yes, there will likely be a winner or two. But in other areas like grocery delivery, it's not clear yet what shape this segment will take.
Luke Maher
Luke Maher@lwarrenmaher
I'm curious to know what's so wrong with following a recipe? I understand the point of the app is share your meal with a friend or follower, but if you want to attract people who are new to cooking or at a novice level it could be a turnoff to use. They wont know that a little bit of sesame oil goes a long way or how to balance out an oil and an acid. Recipes can be still be easy/quick even with measurements and thorough tips. I also think a search function would very helpful on the app!
amandahesser
amandahesser@amandahesser
@lwarrenmaher Search is in the works! We released the app before we had all the features in it that we wanted because we felt it was more important to get the app into people's hands to see how they're using it. And we agree with you -- there's a great need for recipes and we've built much of our business on Food52 around recipes. But we felt that formal recipes left people who cook more free-form out of the conversation and we wanted to create a place for them to share their ideas and tips. We're also betting on this social sharing to encourage new cooks to try things and not feel so bound by recipes. This is a trickier thing to accomplish but we're working on it. Also, because lots of people may start with a recipe but tweak it to make it their own, we're going to add a way for people to include links in their captions so they can share either a recipe or the inspirations for the dish they created.
Luke Maher
Luke Maher@lwarrenmaher
@amandahesser Interesting idea about releasing the app before including all your desired features. To be perfectly honest, I was excited about the app and downloaded it when it was released the first day. Though, twenty-four hours later I deleted it as it seemed to lack a lot of basic functions you would expect to be included. First impressions are important...especially in the food industry!
Ben Tossell
Ben Tossell@bentossell · Makerpad.co
Whats the best and worst piece of advice you’ve received
Merrill Stubbs Dorman
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@bentossell Best: Act first, apologize later. Worst: Tell investors what they want to hear.
Jonathan Cohen
Jonathan Cohen@jonathangcohen · UX at VitalsChoice
These days what's frustrating you personally in food tech?
Merrill Stubbs Dorman
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
@jonathangcohen The proliferation of meal kit delivery services isn't exactly frustrating, but it's certainly a bit confounding. There has to be some shake out there soon.
Jonathan Cohen
Jonathan Cohen@jonathangcohen · UX at VitalsChoice
@merrill_stubbs Agreed. Like little hobby kits. Doubt there is enough untapped demand to sustain the subscription model approach - imagine customer acq is very $$$$.
Dominique Christiansen
Dominique Christiansen@dominique_christiansen
Hi Amanda and Merrill! Big fan of @food52. I meant to ask a question earlier but got distracted scrolling through avocado dishes on the app. I love being able to aggregate my favorites in one place and search visually for an obscure ingredient. When transitioning from food writing to running your own company, who were some of your mentors?
amandahesser
amandahesser@amandahesser
@dominique_christiansen @food52 One of our mentors and advisors is now our COO -- Bridget Williams. Some other mentors were Amol Sarva, Rodger Desai, Ken Lerer, and Jason Rapp.
Merrill Stubbs Dorman
Merrill Stubbs Dorman@merrill_stubbs · Co-founder, Food52
Thanks so much for hosting us, @producthunt, and to everyone for all the great questions. It's been fun!