By Aihui Ong (Founding CEO & CTO, Love With Food)
“I have a Computer Science background and I’m supposed to love technology.”
I spent the first 8 years of my career specializing in enterprise financial systems, and made a name for myself in the enterprise world. I’ve consulted and engineered many Fortune 500 financial systems (Sony, Fox, GM, etc). Counting money and being accountable for every penny seriously killed my love for technology and in 2007, I called it quits. I was so burnt out and sworn that I’ll never ever be a software engineer again.
I left Silicon Valley with my passport and a backpack and hopped on the next flight to wherever! It was my “eat, pray, love” adventure to help get back my sanity and recover from my breakup with “technology”.
With a backpack and 12 months, I traveled through 20 countries. I met many wonderful people but also witnessed many living in poverty with no clean water or food. Seeing their hardship jolted me back to reality. With so much advancement in technology, why is hunger still an issue today? When I’m angry, it usually gets my brain juice flowing. I was motivated to explore more into social entrepreneurship.
Idea + Idea Validation
I returned to the U.S. to find out my friend’s healthy sauce business was shutting down. I got really angry (again!) and found out that the food industry is old, traditional with lots of middle men involved. It’s a very tedious and expensive process to get products onto the shelves of grocery stores. I love to cook, and why isn’t there a place online where food companies can market their products directly to me? I decided to test this idea with food makers at farmer’s market and at food conferences. Most of them thought it was a good idea and many have been my greatest supporters since day one. They gave me feedback on what features I should build and what would make sense for them to grow their businesses.
Forming the Team & Learning Ruby on Rails
My co-founder and I have worked together before and we decided to collaborate again on Love With Food, though neither of us knew Ruby on Rails but decided to learn it together. Yes, I broke up with “technology” but for the first time in a very long time, I was so excited and passionate about this idea.
There are some really good resources online that I recommend – Rails Tutorial, Rails Casts and DevChix. Also, my co-founder and I split responsibilities – he’s the front end, UI/UX person, and I’m the backend.
While learning Rails, coding the site, talking to food makers, I also created a Twitter account and Facebook Fan page. At this point, we only had a sign-up for beta form on our homepage. But everyday, I would spend an hour a day to build our fan base and followers on Twitter. Prior to launching, we had more than 10,000 followers on Twitter and 5,000 fans on Facebook. These two channels turned out to be the best way to acquire users to join Love With Food, the 1 hour/day was worth the investment!
Today, Love With Food offers a smarter and tastier way to connect food brands with foodies by working directly with brands to offer tasty deals to our community of foodies and home cooks. Together, we are a community that gives back. For every deal, we donate a meal.
It not easy to be an entrepreneur but with enough anger, frustration and love, anything is possible. Those are the secret ingredients behind Love With Food.
LoveWithFood is one of 30 startups featured at Web 2.0 Expo Startup Showcase on on March 29, 2011. Vote for Aihui Ong and her startup Love With Food at Web 2.0 Expo’s Startup Showcase next week!
About the guest blogger: Aihui Ong is the founder, CEO/CTO of Love With Food, the easiest way to find tasty deals and free samples, curated by foodies for foodies She started her first business in her dorm room while pursuing her undergraduate CS degree in Singapore. Now living in the Bay Area, there are two things Aihu can’t live without: her MacBook Pro and KitchenAid mixer! Follow her on Twitter at @aihui and her startup at @LoveWithFood.