Armed with a dream investment team, and $6 million in Series A Funding, semantic recipe website Yummly is getting ready to build the world’s first ‘digital kitchen platform.’ Yummly’s technological capabilities combined with the funding round led by Physic Ventures, with contributions from Unilever Corporate Ventures, Harrison Metal Capital, First Round Capital, Intel Capital, The Harvard Common Press, and angel investors, makes the platform poised to revolutionize the way we shop, cook and eat.
Built by a team of former eBay and Half.com engineers, Yummly is already one of the most technologically advanced recipe websites on the market, utilizing semantic search web technology and their food ontology to allow users to filter recipes by nutrition, diet, allergy, price, cuisine, time, taste, and source. Users are also able to substitute ingredients or adjust the quantity of a recipe. But this is just the beginning.
“I always envisioned Yummly as a digital kitchen platform,” said Yummly CEO Dave Feller. “I consider the current site a very good proof of concept. This investment will enable us to grow our team and turn Yummly into the hub for the kitchen – a platform that helps people make more intelligent decisions about what they cook and the products they choose to cook with. Whether it’s finding a recipe or going to the store, we want to make it easier for consumers.”
In addition to financial support, Yummly’s investors also bring a wealth of brand and content partnership opportunities, as well as technological expertise to the table. And for many of them, investing in Yummly offers an opportunity to explore the digital space and/or realize core mission. These factors make Yummly’s success that much more promising.
Physic Ventures’ mission, for example, is to invest in solutions that keep people healthy. Last summer, they began focusing efforts on cooking, which they see as the thing that could have the most transformative impact on physical, social and mental health and wellness. Physic identified 120 companies working in different stages or facets of what they term “food at home,” but discovered that these companies only give home cooks a fraction of the tools and experiences they need to making cooking easier and more engaging. According to Physic Ventures Partner Andy Donner, it became clear that there is a real unmet demand, and business opportunity, for a comprehensive kitchen platform that enables menu planning, procurement, preparation and participation.
“Though the kitchen is the social hub of the house, and it’s the connectivity point, it’s the last room in the house, in many ways, where there has been real mass digital media disruption,” said Donner in a telephone interview. “You look in the living room and you see Netflix. You look in the closet and you see Amazon and Zappos. You look in the garage and you have zipcar. Pandora is streaming throughout the house, but no where in the kitchen is there what I would call a billion dollar digital media company. So for me, the big opportunity is to provide a solution to the end user that gets them to cook more, that’s fun, entertaining and engaging. And on the other hand for shareholders, to create a billion dollar Netflix of the kitchen.”
Believing that recipes are the “atomic unit of cooking,” Physic determined that the first step in developing such a platform would require an advanced technical approach to recipe search, personalization and database structure, hence their interest in Yummly.
The Harvard Common Press (HCP) sees Yummly as an opportunity to share recipe content and explore the digital recipe space.
“As a recipe content publisher, we deeply believe both that the future of food is online and that no one entity will “own” the food world, but rather, the future will be built on partnerships where companies bring varying strengths to the table,” commented HCP Associate Publisher Adam Salomone by email. “In Yummly, we see a strong platform for recipe aggregation, led by a very creative and forward-thinking team, but also a company that can utilize our own backlist of knowledge in the recipe content space… Yummly offers us an avenue through which we can explore the future of food, and also bring some of that thinking back to our own initiatives at HCP.”
For Unilever, the opportunity seems to exist in exploring new ways to help their brands navigate the digital space.
“Unilever Corporate Ventures invests in early-stage companies which have the potential to be strategically relevant to Unilever and can benefit from access to Unilever’s assets and capabilities, particularly in the areas of health & vitality and novel foods, personal care and digital marketing,” said Phil Giesler, Venturing Director for Unilever Corporate Ventures, in a press release. “Yummly fits this bill well and we are now exploring how it might be able to support Unilever brands in the digital space.”
While Feller is not ready to comment on what’s to come, I suspect Yummly will be incorporating many of the opportunities I highlighted in the 2011 Recipe Trends Report, including: