Stick a Forkly in it!

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I got to sit down with Martin May on Wednesday to talk about his latest venture Forkly. The last time I interviewed Martin was three years ago when he and Brady Becker were in the midst of building out Brightkite. It’s been three years and much as changed.

I asked Martin how it was different this time around with Forkly? He said that because this wasn’t his first rodeo, things were a little easier. It was now easier to talk to investors and potential strategic partners: “easier to be bold”. (Forkly does have investors.) When he was working on Brightkite, talking to investors was a very real interruption and now it’s kind of all woven together.

I asked him if it was easier to raise capital this time around and aside from early 2009, the answer was yes. When I asked if they were working with the same group of investors and mentioned my experience with the fact that investors seem to become entrenched with a specific vertical once they’ve had success, Martin made a great point that investors actually seem to invest in people as opposed to a vertical.

The focus of the app is to share your tastes and discover new ones with photos and text via smartphones. It was created the help answer the age-old question: Where should we eat tonight. They’re creating a taste graph akin to Facebook’s social graph. (Actually it’s both. People are connected to one another through what they’ve eaten.) They’re capturing your tastes and opinions about what you consume. “We wanted to create an easier way to capture those opinions.” Martin said. The app is in alignment with their core competencies they developed when they created Brightkite: where are you and what are you doing. Forkly is simply more focused on eating as a social activity. (Yelp is focused on where you should eat while Forkly is focused on what you should eat. The what is inclusive of where and Forkly is “bringing it down to the dish level”. This model is in line with my thoughts around today it’s location and tomorrow it will be product.) Forkly was in private beta for 8 months (Martin coded it himself) and in that time they collected feedback from users who also asked for the ability to record a taste whether they were at a restaurant or at home.

When I asked him who their target market is and specifically if they’re foodies, he indicated that it was for everyone who was passionate about food, the taste(s) of food and is willing to share what they think was the target market.

I thought this was in line with my post about Facebook socializing activities such as movies and events through their interface. I received and email later that day about Facebook and Snooth sharing tastes.

When I asked if they had begun marketing their app, he revealed their preferred cycle.

  1. Private beta app
  2. Tweak based on feedback
  3. Release beta version of app and

They do have partnerships with Great DivideCho Lon Bistro and will be doing some promotions with the Great American Beer Festival. I think they should rename to Great Cho Lon Bistro to keep in-step with the “Great” theme. There are of course more partnerships on the way and I suggested getting Anthony Bourdain on the team. (Mainly because I’m a fanboy AND it’s a complete fit!)

In the near future the Discover portion of the app is going to be receive the lion share of development time and functionality like Forkly perks will be added. In many ways, as Martin pointed out, they seem to be utilizing the Instagram path; stupid simple and very personal. Although they will have a site up sooner than later and will not be going the Inkstagram way.

Overall, I like the model and I think it has legs. More people eat out today than ever before and we’re coming into the age of smartphone as Swiss Army knife. I’m excited to see how quickly they grow!

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I am an Associate Professor of Digital Marketing at the Daniels College of Business, University of Denver. I also consult with startups and established brands. I'm currently focused on artificial intelligence, cognitive neuroscience and culture. I am married to an amazing woman and have two incredible children. I was raised in Colorado and spend my free time with family, biking, snowboarding and going to the Pacific Ocean to SCUBA dive and/or surf. I'm passionate about architecture, design, street art, photography and the art that tattooing has evolved into.

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