Today NYC-based Gojee, a visual app that curates recipes based on user preferences, today announced the debut of its free apps for iOS and Android. Gojee’s base of 10,000 recipes are pulled from 300 bloggers and food writers, and users are directed back to the original source for full recipes. The site, which launched in July 2011 and before today was web-only, has over 500,000 members and raised $2.8 million in Series A funding from InterWest Partners in July 2012.
Gojee founder Michael LaValle said mobile was always a plan for Gojee, and that the existing web version is really just an extension of their design for iPad. “We built a mobile experience, we just put it on the desktop to start,” he said in an interview, adding that they wanted to get feedback on how people were using Gojee before they released mobile apps. ”We envisioned this experience as a mobile and visual experience from the beginning, and it’s just becoming more and more of a reality.”
Gojee curates recipes from food writers and bloggers, and provides a visual summary of each food or drink item, focusing mostly on high-quality photos of each dish or drink. Each recipe links to the original publication for the full version, and users can view similar recipes or additional recipes from that source. On the web version users can click to navigate to the next recipe, or use their arrow keys to navigate. In the mobile versions, users can swipe through to the next recipe, and recipes are displayed as a full-screen photo and title, with the ability to click through for more details.
Both on web and mobile, Gojee lets users search for recipes by cravings, whether a meal or main ingredient, or by ingredients they already have in their kitchen. Users can also filter out ingredients they dislike or are allergic to. Users can star recipes to favorite them for later, and can share on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, or via email. Mobile users can view a tab with their favorites, as well as an “inspiration” tab that shows a visual grid of recipes.
LaValle said the most important considerations when building the mobile apps were the ability to swipe through recipes quickly and see a broad spectrum of content that matches a user’s tastes, as well as the ability to save favorites and view them in a grid fashion (as opposed to swiping through each recipe). While the redesigned web app, which launched earlier this summer, closely mirrors the iPad app, LaValle said the iPhone is more tailored to a vertical viewing experience.
Lavalle and his co-founder Tian He were formerly investment bankers at Morgan Stanley, and started working on Gojee in April 2011 after spending time on other recipe sites, which they felt had the same experience and information architecture. ”We just felt that it was very data-driven and quantitative approach to what we thought was a more emotional consumption paradigm,” he said. “We wondered if we could create a much more visual and relevant way to discover what you want to eat.”
Right now the company isn’t focused on monetization, and LaValle said in the short- to medium-term they’re completely focused on the user experience. He said they have had interest from companies and brands looking to work with them though, and are considering several other methods for bringing in revenue. “We’re always thinking about revenue, it’s forefront in our minds, and we have lots of people that want to work with us, right now we just need to stay really focused on…making sure people can use it.”
Gojee’s visual approach is quite different from other recipe sites, Epicurious, ZipList and Allrecipes to name just a few, and LaValle said he views Gojee in a class of its own. “Other ones serve utility, and I think that’s a function that’s never going to go away,” he said. “If you go to 90 percent of the other recipe sites they’re just massive content repositories trying to give you the most information in the fastest amount of time.” The fact that Gojee works with food bloggers rather than competing with them also means they can share in those publications’ devoted audiences, and they don’t have to produce their own recipes.
LaValle said the company has amassed its base of users mainly through word of mouth, and hasn’t done any advertising. Though they have a solid base of users and over $4 million in funding in the bank (including $1.2 million in seed funding from Kapor Capital in September 2011), they’ll need to find a way to partner with brands in a way that doesn’t intrude on the site’s often-praised visual design.