This is the application I am submitting to YC soon (before March 2020). I would love to hear your comments and thoughts.
What is your company going to make? Please describe your product and what it does or will do.
What should I eat today to lose/gain weight? It’s a question everyone has asked themselves before. You would think this relatively simple problem should have been solved already. After all, the basic set of nutrients required for human health is fairly well understood.
Many have tried to solve this seemingly simple problem with calorie counting apps, recipe apps, youtube videos, dieticians, trainers and more.
There are two key problems with optimizing health and nutrition:
- People generally don’t stick to a plan long enough.
- People that are ready to change need a much better way to log their food journal and eating routines. Tapping into a mobile app isn’t good enough.
People that do change their food habits use a combination of willpower, good planning, personal coaching, or otherwise find some way to rewrite their self-concept.
We can solve this problem with better ways for users to enter their food intake, better feedback mechanisms (a digital assistant that checks in on you), dieticians using the platform to manage their own clients, automated calorie and macro counting and much more.
I have some pretty big ideas:
- Hardware you can talk to (Alexa?)
- A watch that has a bar code scanner so you can quickly scan food items
- A smart scale that monitors your body fat and adjusts your food choices automatically
- An interactive smart mirror you can talk to
- Location-based meal suggestions so that you make better choices at restaurants
- Automated shopping lists based on the meal plan you (or your dietician) chooses
- Backend integration with grocery retailers and wholesalers
- Hyper-personalization based on your diet, culture, and tendencies
- Multiple methods of data input – in the car, at work, and at home
- Printed reports you get in the mail once a month with a state of your progress (emails get lost)
- A monthly (or more frequent) video email that the AI automatically records and sends to you (just like a real dietician would do)
Describe the next few stages in developing your product. For each stage, how much time and money will it take
Stage 1 – Build a seed database of food macros and nutrients in order to build subsequent stages below
Stage 2 – Build (and sell!) a voice-powered food logging app that dieticians can use to enter in the food journal, recipes and meal plans of their clients. Also reporting and basic customer management.
Stage 3 – Use that money to build a revenue-generating app and website that clients can use to work with the dietician of their choice.
Stage 4 – Build a two-sided marketplace where app users can find dieticians that match their goals and meal plan
Stage 5 – Various “moat makers” like ML/AI, mirror, scale, watch, automated shopping, grocery retailer partnerships, food and recipe channel and videos, marketing platforms for dieticians, mailed reports for customers, customer check-ins at various clinics, etc.
Stage 4 could be part of Stage 5, but I believe the marketplace would be critical in scaling up quickly.
If you were accepted into YC, what could you accomplish by Demo Day in late August?
Voice powered food journaling (web and/or mobile) and selling it successfully to Dieticians should be possible. Stretch goal: Build an app that anyone can use. The stretch goal could only happen once there is fairly good confidence that the macros and nutrition are being logged correctly, and there is at least some marketplace where a community could form.
Does your product need regulatory approval (i.e., FDA)? If so, what is the approval process? What is your plan to get approved, and how much time and money will it take?
There could be oversight from government if the system has any chance of being fatally wrong. I would need to reduce the error rate of the software to be lower than the standard for conventional dieticians doing this work manually.
Please describe the scientific basis for your product. How does it work?
We know the complete set of nutrition required for optimal health. The difficulty with nutrition and dieting, however, is two-fold. Firstly, entering nutrition data is time-consuming and easy to stop doing. It’s also not clear how to make adjustments if you fall off your food program. Software can solve this with voice transcription, and intelligent assistants to help you change your behaviour.
How long have each of you been working on this? How much of that has been full-time? Please explain.
This venture is new. I met with a few of the local incubators and a few professors at the local University to understand next steps and an execution path. One sent me Colossal Bootstrapping and was a fan of “getting money from customers”.
My cousin, in UK, is a successful Founder of a pretty well known UK startup. I’m leaning on him for guidance as well – what those early steps looked like for him.
Currently, I’m setting up interviews with dieticians to see what their biggest pains are in business and tech to see if they would even pay for an idea like mine (basically to see if there is “a market in the gap”).
Why did you pick this idea to work on? Do you have domain expertise in this area? How do you know people need what you’re making?
I have had this problem many times. I used Myfitnesspal before but the process of entering in food data is painful and it could be better. The entire health and nutrition space – tracking, journaling, and changing habits – has so much room for improvement. I don’t have formal education in the area but have tried food trackers and diets before.
What’s new about what you’re making? What substitutes do people resort to because it doesn’t exist yet (or they don’t know about it)?
People try to hire dieticians, use apps, and buy pre-made food. This probably does work for some people with specific conditions (diabetes). This makes sense at not following a specific protocol could be life-threatening. Most people don’t actively use a journal, system or method to accurately and specifically optimize their nutrition intake.
Who are your competitors, and who might become competitors? Who do you fear most?
Myfitnesspal is the #1 diet tracker. It’s also a potential competitor if they decide to use voice to power their data entry. I doubt it though as their user base is used to that experience paradigm. I’m taking a different approach: voice by default.
What do you understand about your business that other companies in it just don’t get?
The issue with food journaling apps and systems isn’t the food, the ingredients, the diet, or knowing macros. I could easily look up all this data. The problem is that entering the data is painful, and then tracking the data throughout the day/week is difficult. Other companies are not using “first principles” and really asking the question: what problem are we trying to solve?
How do or will you make money? How much could you make?
An estimated 45 million Americans go on a diet each year, and Americans spend $33 billion each year on weight-loss products. Yet, nearly two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. Taking 0.1% of that spending in the first year is $33m.
There are lots of revenue possibilities. Dieticians will pay to use the voice assistant for journal entries, pay to white-label the app for their customers, and pay to enter a marketplace to get more customers. Customers will pay for app access, automated monitoring, recipe creation, automated grocery shopping, monthly reporting, hardware, and more.
I haven’t worked the details much beyond that and need to be in front of more customers to drill this down.
How will you get users? If your idea is the type that faces a chicken-and-egg problem in the sense that it won’t be attractive to users till it has a lot of users (e.g. a marketplace, a dating site, an ad network), how will you overcome that?
The voice-powered journaling needs to be built first. This will get tweaked and optimized throughout the life of the business. Once an initial seed database is built, dieticians will be the first target as they would have access to the ideal customer base – someone willing to pay for professional help and would help to refine the dataset over time.
If you had any other ideas you considered applying with, please list them. One may be something we’ve been waiting for. Often when we fund people it’s to do something they list here and not in the main application.
I have had many other ideas but never pursued them as vigorously as this one.
I tend to ideate a lot. Here are a few:
TranscriptionAPI.com – a white-label voice transcription service that multiplexes voice inputs to all the transcription companies (Google, MS, etc), inspects the returned transcription, compares results for confidence level, and provides that optimized output to customers.
Coursebranding.com – bespoke Illustration, writing, and marketing for people making courses.
Tipvid.com – I first had this idea about 4 years ago. I thought (and still think) its possible to use cryptocurrency and other forms of micro-tipping for video content creators. The problem: I see a video I love on Youtube but (until recently) have no obvious way to send the creator a small token of thanks or appreciation (as low as a nickel or dime even). Youtube has since built some ways to create premium content, but they aren’t looking at micro-tipping. I did some wireframes and also have a different take on advertising (the maker would decide) as well as verified accounts, and some other ideas. Given that blockchain would play a crucial role, I have put this idea on the shelf. Non-profits would benefit from this. I registered tipsong, tipcause, tipchild, tipimage as well.
Mapifier.com / MapYourTribe.com – When I join a FB or LinkedIn group, I have no way to reach out and have a coffee with other members of the group locally. Sure would be great if the group owner/admin published a Mapifier.com URL where I could connect with other people locally. I could also create private/premium map groups and do other cool stuff with “local social” here. Facebook may eventually do something like this. I tried building but lack the technical chops. Also other reasons.
GoodMingle.com – something like the mapping idea, but looking at your LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram to gauge what you are interested in and suggest others with similar interests. I may want to revisit this given the AI/ML stuff I’m learning.
Brandsgram.com – Like Instagram but for brands, and by installing and using the app you get early access to deals, discounts, influencer programs, etc. Could go a few ways with this – charging users to access a brand, giveaways, schwag, etc.
Momremembersapp.com – A todo list, but powered by voice. TranscriptionAPI was a followup to this. So was trainercopilot.ai.
Makeuptalent.com – a makeup directory. I often revisit this but always fail at the dev stage. I can pull something together in WordPress, but it’s a poor UX. I started this years ago when I had a makeup client that wasn’t getting much SEO traction. I looked for directories but failed to find any so I decided to build my own and service the market. Makeup artists are typically low wage earners so that’s an issue.
Some domains I have recently registered as I have been looking at the AI space lately: fatloss.ai, notarize.ai, notarypublic.ai, vaccines.ai. Some good ones there.
What convinced you to apply to Y Combinator? Did someone encourage you to apply?
I have known about YC for a long time. The prof at the local university said I should bootstrap from customer money. I considered his advice and applied anyway.