TL;DR – a year of two halves. First 6 months was about pivoting from B2C to B2B, a sad but necessary decision. The second half of the year was about accelerating and validating our new business plan, and networking like crazy in order to start selling our tech. Bottom line, dishq has never been stronger.
Two years ago today, I started working full-time on dishq. It’s insane how fast the year has flown by and so would like to share some random reflections on year 2 and our plans for 2018.
Firstly, I’m thankful that we’re still alive. As an early-stage startup, you’re never far away from the end of your runway, and we definitely got very close a couple of times. That’s because fundraising is tough, and rightly so. But being a food tech venture in India means the odds are stacked firmly against you. More on fundraising shortly.
We started 2017 as a B2C mobile app helping people find the most relevant food for them. Personally, I think we did a great job on the UX and build quality but there was one fundamental flaw which ultimately led to us pivoting to B2B. While users of our app could discover great food for them, they weren’t able to order the food directly through the app. That was a deliberate choice by us because establishing relationships with restaurants is resource intensive and we’re focused on being a pure data and tech company. Therefore, the only way to allow users to place an order within the app was to integrate with major aggregators like Just Eat and Zomato.
That’s a tall order for a young startup and even if they were to agree to integration, we would be totally dependent upon them, both for our UX and potentially any revenue. And the potential revenue wasn’t exactly lucrative. Assuming aggregators would even agree to a rev share deal, we’re talking about a commission of a commission. So it was with a heavy heart that two B2C food tech guys decided to retire the app, essentially writing off a year of time, money, and sweat, and re-align the company as B2B. The worst part about this decision was the realization that we had to let several great, founding team members go, as they were in B2C roles.
We made the transition from food discovery app to taste tech provider over the course of several months, in fact, most of the first half of 2017. We had to re-purpose our core recommendation engine to work for other food businesses, find companies to pilot our tech, understand the B2B sales process, and hire people for our new operation. All of which we achieved.
It turned out to be a pivotal moment for dishq, both literally and metaphorically. Suddenly, there was a long list of potential customers and a clear path to revenue, essentially the hallmarks of a real business. Unsurprisingly, investors were also much more interested to talk now. This consequently led to dishq being accepted into the AI focused, Hong Kong-based accelerator, Zeroth, which came with $120k in funding, not insignificant for an India based startup.
The Zeroth experience was fantastic for several reasons:
1. They helped us further validate our business plan through intensive scrutiny from their network of Venture Partners.
2. We were learning from a global audience of successful Founders and senior executives, not to mention our fellow cohort companies.
3. We got to work in Hong Kong for a month!
Post Zeroth, we were busy building our name in the world of food, as potential innovators of taste and AI. We attended and/or participated in events from Seattle, to London, to Bangalore. The response to our technology was very positive and just today we signed two new customers! That’s doubled our customer base and we’ve got a very healthy pipeline too.
As always, the part of the company I am most proud of is our amazing team. It’s easy for a Founder to say this to rally the troops but I genuinely mean it. Not only do they work extremely hard but they participate in the development and nurturing of our excellent team culture. This year we started a new initiative called Potluck, where on alternate Fridays, one of the team will cook for everyone else. It’s that kind of commitment and willingness that continues to drive us towards success.
Towards success, that’s the key phrase. We’re not there yet, but all the signs are clear, that we’re headed in the right direction. In fact, dishq has never been stronger than it is today, and if all the pieces of the puzzle for 2018 fall into place then we might even be a profitable company this time next year.
So what is the plan for year 3? Well, everything comes from one of our 4 pillars: People, Data, Technology & Sales.
People: We need more engineers, particularly experienced specialists. While there’s no shortage of developer talent in India, picking the diamonds in the rough is no walk in the park. If you’re interested or know someone who might be, please get in touch.
Data: We already have such rich data on dishes but we’re hungry for more! Data collection and enrichment is a job that never ends and we wouldn’t have it any other way. We have some big goals around nutrition data next year.
Technology: The product and tech roadmap are jam-packed. From iterations to our existing offering e.g. adding a RESTAURANT recommendation API, to bolder projects e.g. a taste analytics platform for enterprise-level food companies.
Sales: That’s an easy one. ABC (Always Be Closing), nothing more, nothing less.
I’m really excited about our prospects and potential heading into 2018, and I hope to be reflecting upon even greater achievements this time next year. Happy holidays and new year!
P.S. A special thank you to Ritesh at Petoo.in and Sandipan at HungerBox.com for helping us pilot our tech on their platforms!