Foodspotting, a startup that allows users to share photos of their favorite dishes with friends and other food-lovers, has landed a $750,000 seed round from a series of angel investors led by former Google executive Aydin Senkut and Dave McClure’s 500 Startups fund and including Path CEO Dave Morin, Google product manager for location-based services Steve Lee and Dipity founder Derek Dukes. Foodspotting recently re-launched its site and unveiled an iPhone app, and also announced a series of partnerships with the Travel Channel and travel guide Zagat.
Unlike review-based services such as Yelp, where users can post their positive or negative reviews of restaurants and other locations, founder Alexa Andrzejewski says that Foodspotting is designed for people to share photos and descriptions of their favorite meals. Users can login to the service, then look at a map of their location to find nearby food recommendations from their friends and other users. The partnership with the Travel Channel, for example, allows users to check into the app in dozens of cities that chef Anthony Bourdain has visited and locate his 100 favorite meals.
In some ways, the service is like Foursquare’s user-generated “tips” about locations (which many users say is their favorite feature) as a standalone app, and also shares some features with Urbanspoon: a restaurant-recommendation application from IAC/InterActive.
Foodspotting was founded in 2009 in San Francisco by Andrzejewski and Ted Grubb, along with former New York Times social-media maven Soraya Dorabi, who joined the company full time earlier this year. All of the founders are self-described “foodies,” but Andrzejewski says that the service isn’t designed just for those who are obsessed with food.
“It’s not just for foodies, and it’s not about ‘food porn’,” the Foodspotting co-founder said in an email. “These are just a means to an end, which is answering the question, ‘What should I eat around here?'” She said that unlike other location-based services:
We aren’t teaching people a new behavior, we’re making an existing one easier — finding and sharing food recommendations with friends. The photos just seemed to be the simplest and most resonant way to do that…We see Foodspotting as a way to bring the ‘location based service’ trend to the mass market by using the technology to meet a practical need. My mom might never ‘check in,’ but she loves being able to discover new foods around Pittsburgh using Foodspotting.
Although Andrzejewski says that the service isn’t just for foodies, at first glance the company’s single-minded focus on food seems a little restrictive for a social or location-based network. For me, food is just one element of a trip, so an application that involves photos and recommendations of food would seem to make more sense as a feature of a broader service such as Yelp. To that end, Foodspotting’s CEO says that the company has integrated its application with Foursquare and other location-based services (it offers food-related badges much like Foursquare does), and plans to do the same with Facebook’s newly launched Places feature.
Andrzejewski also said that Foodspotting plans to move beyond food into various other products and travel-related experiences in the future (although presumably that would require a name change). Embedded below is a video that describes how the service works.
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