Startup Spotlight: ForkOut

Jan 7, 2018

Startup Spotlight: ForkOut

Jan 7, 2018

Meet Lida Tang- Co-Founder of ForkOut, an app that simplifies the experience of going out to eat or drinks with friends!

GH: What is ForkOut?

ForkOut is the best way to make plans with your friends. Our app simplifies the experience of going out to eat or drinks. Instead of needing five different apps to choose, coordinate, and message, you’ll only need ForkOut.

GH: What was your Eureka moment: how did ForkOut get started?

ForkOut came out of an old prototype for a Bluetooth-based local messaging app called Sigil. One of the use cases that people really liked was using it to gather coworkers to go out to lunch. As we looked into that use case, it became clear that there is no app that really helps the coordination and decision-making process for going out to eat. So we decided to pivot and focus just on that pain point.

GH: How did you build/ are you thinking about building your team?

I met my co-founder, Caleb Singer, through Babson College. He was in the MBA program with my wife. Since then, we’ve had success finding people at great colleges in Boston like BU, BC and Northeastern. So many students are passionate about food.

GH: What is your company philosophy driving your company culture?

Our company philosophy is open communication. Our mission is to help friends connect over food and with local restaurants. So we have to be able to listen and understand the concerns of local businesses and diverse food expectations of users. This also means we have to be very open with our internal communication as well, since our team is very diverse as well.

GH: Startup life is full of failures and ‘make it work’ moments – can you identify how you bounced back from one of yours?

The origin of ForkOut came from the failure of another project called Sigil. We had an app prototype that we presented at different demo events. Feedback from the presentations was lukewarm and pinpointed a lot of weaknesses in that project, such as business model and target customers.  We took the one feature that looked most promising from the old concept and then built around it to come up with ForkOut. Focusing on a niche was the key turning point for us.

GH: What did you learn from your first customers?

We were very fortunate that our first restaurant partner is another Babson business, The Chicken and Rice Guys. They helped us understand the pain point of local restaurants and how we can leverage the app to improve their relationship to their customer base.

 

GH: What has the Boston ecosystem provided you?

The Boston startup community has been very generous and helpful to our growth. We work out of the CIC and have had many events in their buildings. Additionally, Babson College has been amazing with helping us build connections and promoting us through their PR.

GH: What is the Boston ecosystem lacking from your perspective?

The Boston ecosystem is focused around fragmented communities. Colleges such as MIT and Harvard have their own communities. BU and Northeastern are ramping up their startup programs. There are also startup communities in Cambridge and then some in the downtown/waterfront area. While it is great that there are so many different communities, a more common, unified community would be great to help exchange ideas and resources among the different initiatives.

GH: What’s the best/worst piece of advice you were given along the way?

The best piece of advice I’ve received, and the one that takes a few times to appreciate, is to focus. That applies to almost every aspect of your startup; the scope of the MVP, who your customers are and the business model all should be as narrow as possible in the beginning.

GH: What was the best thing that happened to you last year?

We made a lot of progress in the last year and we’ve finally launched the app and are starting to market it, so hopefully the best is yet to come. The best thing so far was actually having a launch party where we invited everyone who helped us get to this stage. There is still a lot of work to do, but it is important to take a step back and celebrate the milestones.

 

GH: What does the future hold for ForkOut?

We have many great features planning for the ForkOut app, such as personalized recommendations based on where your friends went, and even more exclusive deals and promotions through our restaurant partners. But, we are most excited about growing our relationships with local restaurants and colleges now that we have a tangible product that we can show.

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