myfab5 Wants to Reinvent The Way You Find Food | Interview With Co-Founder Calvin Schemanski

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myfab5 featuredForget visits to random restaurants, myfab5 uses the power of the crowd to help you search for the best restaurant in town. The platform connects foodies to restaurants for a win-win situation for both parties.

Founded by Omeid Seirafi-Pour, Calvin Schemanski and  John Gulbronson they aim to help users find fabulous restaurants in their cities. The platform uses an iPhone app and website to help users make decisions quickly and confidently while also helping them share their valuable restaurant experiences with others.

TechZulu caught up with co-founder Calvin Schemanski chat about their upcoming launch, their product and why Long reviews suck.

What is myfab5?

myfab5 is a platform that reinvents the restaurant review. Unlike typical review sites, our platform does not use star ratings or long reviews. On myfab5, people rank their favorite places instead of giving them star ratings and write bite-sized reviews instead of writing long reviews.

You can use myfab5 to share your foodie knowledge by ranking up to five of your favorite places for any food or drink related category (e.g. my favorite places for #DeepDishPizza in Chicago). This is much more natural than giving restaurants arbitrary star ratings. Furthermore, we allow you to review any business you rank, but limit review length to 260 characters; this is much quicker than having to write a 500 word review and forces people to get to the point.

myfab5 automatically aggregates individual opinions to power our local search engine.  Use myfab5 to search for any type of food, and we will show you which restaurants that are recommended most for that specific type of food.

Finally, myfab5 is a great personal tool for keeping track of all the fabulous restaurants you’ve tried or want to try while exploring new neighborhoods and cities. Next time you’re trying to remember the name of that Cuban restaurant you tried (or want to try) while in Miami, just go to your myfab5 profile and search “Cuban” to quickly find the place.

Why rankings + bite-sized reviews instead of ratings + long reviews?

myfab5 postThe combination of star ratings and long reviews creates a lot of unorganized/low-quality content that people have to sort through when trying to find a restaurant to eat at and discourages people from sharing their opinions. To understand this better, consider these two scenarios:

Scenario 1: You want to find a pizza place

If you search for pizza on a site like Yelp, you will see a list of places that are between 3.5 and 4.5 stars. You quickly start wondering, which places are good for deep dish and which are good for thin crust? Are these places actually good for pizza or are they actually popular because they have good pasta and salads? To answer these questions you begin reading multiple reviews for multiple businesses until you feel you have enough information to make a decision.

On myfab5, we make it much easier to figure out which pizza place is right for you. If you search for pizza on myfab5, not only will we show you the places that are recommended most for pizza, we will also show you what other categories each business is ranked highly in. For example, in Ann Arbor, the number one place for pizza is also number one for deep-dish pizza and cheesy bread, while the number four place for pizza is number one for thin crust pizza and organic food. This information is presented in the search results so you don’t have to waste time looking into restaurants you’re not interested in. If you want more information about a restaurant, you can find short reviews, pictures and menus on the restaurant’s profile.

Scenario 2: You want to recommend your favorite pizza places

Let’s say you want to recommend three of your favorite places for pizza. You would have to spend anywhere from 15 – 60 minutes to review all three places on a site like Yelp or TripAdvisor. When talking to review site users, we found the top two reasons people don’t write reviews is because it takes too long and it is confusing.

On myfab5, we remove these barriers; simply take a minute to create a ranking of your favorite pizza places and write short reviews if you’d like to add more details on why you love each place.  We encourage short reviews because it forces people to get to the point and prevents people from thinking they have to write long reviews for their recommendations to be useful.

Finally, star ratings give people a platform to talk trash about small-businesses; this gives other restauranteurs and disgruntled employees a platform to write fake reviews that hurt the restaurants they compete with and dislike. myfab5’s ranking system only focuses on the positive so there is no way to hurt a business on our platform; if you rank a business, even as #5, then you are helping it. Don’t like a restaurant? Then don’t mention it.

Who are the founders?

Omeid Seirafi-Pour is the CEO and Domain Expertise,  John Gulbronson is the CTO or Software Developer and I am Calvin Schemanski, the CMO or 2-Time Entrepreneur.

What inspired you?

Omeid was inspired to start myfab5 because he suffers from “food swings,” which cause him to get cranky when he is hungry. His crankiness is most evident when he is hungry and tries using Yelp to find a restaurant for him and his girlfriend to eat at.  He decided to start myfab5 with the hope of preventing his own crankiness and saving his relationship.  However, Omeid’s displeasure with Yelp extends beyond his own problems. Omeid’s mother is a small business owner that has had to deal with the Yelp’s sales team on multiple occasions.

The Yelp sales team is exploiting thousands of small business owners across the nation every single day. Yelp currently is the go-to source for reviews for the simple fact that they have the most reviews; this puts Yelp in a position to use questionable and aggressive sales-tactics when selling overpriced advertisement packages to small business owners.

Our team believes that hard working small business owners and consumers deserve a reviews site that has integrity and doesn’t rely on instilling fear in small business owners or creating a bad user-experience for consumers just to increase short-term revenue.

What’s your business model?

We are currently testing our business model in Ann Arbor, MI and will release the features that power our business model in December of 2013 when we come out of beta. To summarize, business owners will be able to use our platform to increase their revenue in a way that is not possible on platforms like Yelp, Google or Facebook.

Any competition?

Our direct competitors include big companies like Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor and Facebook, a bunch of medium-sized companies like UrbanSpoon. FourSquare and Ness, and smaller players like Everplaces and Forkly.

There are many more competitors and almost every big tech company is trying to become relevant in the reviews/recommendations space. For example, Apple, Microsoft and Yahoo have all either acquired small startups in the space or are forming big partnerships with other players like Yelp and FourSquare. Local search (powered by reviews/recommendations) is extremely important to any company with an interest in mobile, social, local or commerce experiences.

Any funding raised?

We are currently using funding from Omeid, grants from the state of Michigan and the University of Michigan and prizes from pitch competitions.

Our burn rate is extremely low so money hasn’t been an issue for us. We’re almost done with the experimentation phase and will soon focus on growth (when we come out of beta in December of 2013). At that point it will make sense to raise money, but not until we solidify our business model and go-to-market strategy. We don’t want to take money at the wrong time or from the wrong people. We’ve seen plenty of well-funded startups fail because they took money too early or from the wrong people. We’re in this for the long run and are trying to build our company the right way.

Expansion plans?

myfab5 will be available in international markets when we exit the beta phase in December of 2013.

How many users so far?

Our registered and content creating users count is currently in the thousands, but many more visitors use our site and app to simply discover or search for a restaurant. A majority of our users and visitors are in Ann Arbor (the first market we were available in and company HQ).

We recently had a “soft launch” to make our platform accessible nationally. We encourage anyone in the US to join our community or test our platform out. Be one of the first to submit rankings for your city and watch the impact of your rankings unfold in real-time.

We will officially launch our platform in December of 2013 with a new user interface, improved user experience and exciting features that will help millions of foodies in a way that no other website or app can.

Any features that make you stand out?

We just launched our beta version in August so all of our features are “new.”  However, we have released a couple new features since our beta launch.

New features:

  • Rank your favorite menu items at a restaurant and see menu items people like most
    • You can rank up to 5 of your favorite menu items on the entire menu or create separate rankings for each section of the menu (e.g. my favorite appetizers at Buffalo Wild Wings or my favorite sauces at Buffalo Wild Wings).
    • Get personalized recommendations for new places to try based on what people with similar taste recommend
      • This feature is still being optimized and works best in cities like Ann Arbor where we have a high concentration of users.

Upcoming features:

We currently have a really big feature in development that we will announce in December of 2013. This feature is not available on any website or app that exists today and will immediately solve a big problem for millions of foodies.  We believe this feature will give millions of foodies across the world a reason to sign up for myfab5 and start ranking their favorite restaurants and menu items.

Thanks for you time Calvin and good luck.

 

Sam Wakoba

Sam Wakoba travels around the world's technology hubs and events writing about startups, VC’ s and ventures. Spends nights reviewing trending gadgets, ICT initiatives, and disrupting technology.

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