The below is a full (unedited) transcript of a Youtube session / podcasting episode I recorded with Richard Wu and Vaibhav Verma, the co-founders of Sommer in Q2 2019. You can view the video/listen to the podcast on Youtube, Apple Podcast, Stitcher or wherever you get your podcasts.
Erasmus Elsner 0:00
Welcome to another episode of Sandhill road, the show where I talk to successful startup founders and investors about the companies that they built an investment. And the goal like always is to give you a sense of what it’s like to be in their shoes basically,
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 0:13
say like two different rooms next to each other. I woke up and first thing I did was message him and he messaged back every time.
Erasmus Elsner 0:20
Yeah, so I’ve built my fair share of failed MVP is obviously I would never call them failures.
Excerpt from HBO Silicon Valley 0:25
What is failure? What those in dying business sectors called failure, we in tech know to be “pre-greatness”
Erasmus Elsner 0:35
Pre-greatness, yeah. And I remember this one MVP that I was working on, while living in New York in 2017, was called finest, the website is actually still live. I was inspired by the whole new york gastro scene. And the idea was really that instead of Yelp, reviewing entire restaurants, we would have this level of very granular user generated reviews, I never took it anywhere beyond MVP stage. So fast forward two years, I go through the list of the recent YC batch. And I see this app called Simmer, which is doing exactly this, but in a much better way than I could have ever imagined it. They’ve. And so I’m super excited to be joined by the two co founders, Richard Wu and Vaibhav Verma, to talk about what Simmer is, what challenges they have to overcome so far, and where they want to take similar going forward. So let’s jump right in.
I’m super excited to be joined today by Richard Wu. And by Burma, these are the co founders of Simmer, which used to be called Foodie, when we last talked back in, in May when you were straight out of the winter YC batch and you’ve made a lot of progress since then. But before we jump into the the product and the company, I want to find out a little bit more about both of you. What’s your background? And how did you end up in this co-founder relationship which a lot of people say it’s, it’s like a marriage relationship. So talk a little bit about your journey and how you found each other.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 2:23
Yeah, so Richard and I met at the University of Chicago, we’re both friends and yeah, second year college. And you know, both of us just like had a couple of classes together. We met we sort of both had a lot of experiences in you know, food tech as well. Yeah. Um, for me, you know, I actually my second year in college had founded a food fruit delivery company that delivered the offices in downtown Chicago, we thought to get to you know, 100k Arr, which through fulfilling love the tech side user side was in love with the operation side. So I did a product stint at Blue Apron, or kind of got more visibility there. And then when it came time to they were having a pure tech product that addressed a real pain point in the market like you know, left all that behind to join by Baba and starting Simmer. So in your background, any at all? Yeah, no. So I was a computer science and economics double major at the University of Chicago, did a couple of software engineering internships did a couple of finance internships. I only had one food stamp that was that, you know, this really awesome candy store called Lolli and pops. And I was like one of their first software engineers, which was really, really exciting. We know we both had downloaded tonnes of food apps that had reviews for dishes, because it was like, cool, we use Yelp to get you know, tell us where to go. And then this app tells what to get there be out of popular restaurants downtown together and you have like four reviews. This guy is like machine learning genius. Realising that we can bring like the sentiment analysis technology to know bootstrapping away past that, not to get into a basket, you know, we fell off the tech fell in love the idea of bootstrap there. And that’s why we are where we are today.
Erasmus Elsner 4:04
And when was the first moment where you thought okay, this could be more than just beside project side hustle.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 4:11
So like, right before I graduated college, was when we sort of started thinking about this as like an idea. We sort of treated it as a project for several months, you know, up until we got into YC, I would say and then like, once we got into YC, then we started like, treating it much more than a project more like a startup more like a company things like that. So I’d say like it’s been, you know, a little bit nearly a year now, where it’s really like turned a little bit. Yeah.
Erasmus Elsner 4:40
So let’s talk a little bit about this YC journey. Was it the same idea that you applied with and what was the interview process like,
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 4:45
I can give a little bit of colour. So the YC journey has been definitely a really exciting one. We actually just presented and officially launched Simmer to the public as part of the summer 19 batch. But like you said, way back when you were still in college, we had applied and were admitted way back into the winter 19 back cycle. So who is definitely a funny experience, because we knew that this tag was powerful, and at one point, even joked that like, we were actually building the world’s most sophisticated database of dishes, we just weren’t really sure what the biggest pain point was to apply that five out. And I was super convinced that it would be like the in restaurant experience, I still feel like we’re a 2x 3x solution to maybe scrolling through Yelp reviews. But the truth is that like, I mean, I you know, once or twice a week as a waiter at the restaurant, maybe it’s like a good experience. But when we parted YC and we were ordering delivery, like tonnes right to our door to the home were like, wow, this experience really sucks. No distribution site for all them are like, you know, yeah, the food is cold is missing surprise. And even the graphic chokes out, you know, like, really didn’t help us decide what to order even worse. It’s like great restaurants, we got not great. Maybe we picked the wrong dish from you know, like, good. We got some pretty awesome dishes who kind of got the wonder like, with our dish database? Like, why is delivery, still viewing they’re kind of services and like help making users go to restaurants, right when what you actually get at the end of the day is the dish that led us to this big change and that’s without wishing to kind of
Erasmus Elsner 6:26
Okay, so let me back up a little bit. The way I understand it, you started off with with a large database, basically scraping a lot of Yelp review data and then basically running sentiment and NLP.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 6:37
Yeah, we don’t use Yelp specifically. But that’s the general idea. Okay.
Erasmus Elsner 6:41
I talked with Richard about this. Three years ago, I was working on an on an MVP, which was really like user generated dish level data. I was in New York, I was enticed by the whole gastro scene. And I was always looking for the best burger best sushi best, best ramen. And so I really wanted to sort of hone in on the benchmark dish for for this and that restaurant. Yeah, and I really started from this pain point, and then sort of work backwards. And the way it seems, from where you started, it was like, a little bit the other way around that you started with a large database and an output, and then basically, you found a product, would that be a correct description? Or was it a combination?
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 7:22
Yeah, I think though, like, when we started, we really believed in the in restaurant experience, and, you know, we sort of went to restaurants saw a full menu, and we’re like, hey, like, why? There were like, 20 to 100 dishes on this menu, like, Why are there reviews for like, each one of these individual dishes? You know, it seemed like a, you know, various, very obvious, I guess, yeah, idea to set the time. And then when we started, like looking into like apps that have sort of tried this before, we saw a bunch of apps that sort of tried to do reviews, predictions, but they were never able to bootstrap their database, and get enough reviews to be an attractive application for users in the first place. So then, like, you know, with my sort of like machine learning sentiment analysis, background, I sort of realised that what we could do is we could aggregate all these different, you know, review sites, all this data online, and like generate reviews from dishes algorithmically. And that’s sort of like is how we built this like, very powerful database that sort of powers our application.
Erasmus Elsner 8:22
And so I remember when we last talked in May, that you basically, you went out with an iOS app first. And I assume that you built this during the winter YC batch. But you just said that you pitch now this current Demo Day? Yes. We’re part of both. Both batches. Okay. Interesting. So basically, during the first batch, you you worked on the app, right? And during the second batch you basically you worked on on the web app, and also on the go to market I assume right?
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 8:53
Exactly. Right, that sounds exactly right. I think when we first got to YC our partners were very excited about the fact that like wow, you’re applying this technology on a consumer side usually seen in like b2b SaaS and things like that. That’s really exciting. No, but I was actually still in college like I had to go graduate. Like we’re basically using that time to make a tonne of mistakes. You know, after sort of like the winter battles over where, you know, we knew we were actually planning on fundraising in the summer. So we actually did a huge Chicago pilot back in June where we added like a tonne of distributors I think 70,000 distributors in the US to Chicago greater area saw like 1300 weekly active users and we’re like this is it like delivery angle like people are fighting like these college students are eating a tonne, there’s a huge volume effects and all these sort of go to market has developed a university playbook. And we’re like, now the traction is going up and we know exactly what’s going to take the launch into the market. So that’s how we decided that our summer 19 Let’s fundraise and then let’s let’s do this across three different markets.
Erasmus Elsner 9:56
I just recently listened to this “How I built this episode” with Jerry Stoppelman from Yel, I was surprised how hard it was for him even as a PayPal mafia member to raise a seed round. Yeah, just super hard to get the the critical mass of reviews on there at YC. How was the general sentiment? Were people saying, well, this is a data play, don’t go direct to consumer.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 10:18
Yeah, I think that like the biggest learning and why he was that, just because we had valuable data is not necessarily the usual calling. Because we found that like, because data was almost like, could be used in, in restaurant delivery, hacking, integration of Open Table could even be sold as analytics to restaurants, to enterprise level restaurants, like, you know, the the Popeyes or Wendy’s of the world, we spent a lot of time just chasing different avenues. And in many ways, like everyone was excited about the data. But the men at the end of the day, like we had app that highlight, you know, just really starting off in both places, like being able to build something overnight, just like having a tonne of different features. And the biggest thing that like, you know, we learned from one of our partners, Michael Seibel, he was just saying, like, why is your metric for success, like the number of features you built this week? Right? Like, just because you add a new like bookmarking collection, like liking social feed does not necessarily mean all of a sudden, you’re going to see that hockey stick, focus on one thing and do it incredibly well. I think that’s what we learned in Chicago pilot, we were like, No, we people are always saying like, Hey, why don’t you do this product on the side, we’re have this like no other future like during that, but we felt like we just kept focusing on that core core product feature that was delivery. And then we saw that number increase.
Erasmus Elsner 11:32
And another big pain point of Yelp, in the beginning was really like to drive traffic to the site. And Yelp famously built 1000s of landing pages around different categories of different zip code dishes and restaurant types. And we know that Yelp had huge problems with Google. So how do you think about driving traffic to the site?
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 11:51
On top of additional Yeah, exactly. So you know, these Vanguards of like the restaurant food sort of SEO companies that are really good at capturing two types of searches, restaurant based searches, so like, you know, this restaurant Chicago grown adult like grown, the goat, etc. Like they capture a tonne of accept content curated for that one restaurant, as well as like best you know, x and y. So best cuisine in New York City while you invest, you know, burgers in Mission Bay in San Francisco. So that’s definitely the majority of searches happening. What we found is that there’s actually a huge long tail, you know, of sort of dish Lavoie SEO so maybe not the best burger, but now people are focusing on like, best possible burger, right? in Mission Bay, you know, heck, like where can I get the best chive dumplings in Chinatown, right? Because people have cravings and is directly correlated to like, well, I want to order those chive dumplings now on delivery, right? It’s directly correlated to a transaction. So our one of our you know, we’ve punted playbooks in terms of going to Market. But I think one thing that’s really going to get us from zero to 100, is a big way is capturing all those fish level SEO, sort of like searches, or edits, from optimising.
Erasmus Elsner 13:01
And that’s when you basically pre populate some of the reviews, if I understand correctly.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 13:06
So we will create landing pages of these specific dishes. And we would have like, you know, top 10, top 20, top 30 list for these particular dishes, such as chopped off. Yeah, and then have reviews that are basically backing up each and every one of those dishes. Exactly.
Erasmus Elsner 13:23
Let’s talk a little bit about the ideal customer that that you’re focusing on. And I found it interesting because earlier, you said you were thinking about this in restaurant experience that you’re like standing in front of this menu with hundreds of different items to order and you’d have decision fatigue and you don’t know what to order. And that’s, that’s something that I was thinking about when I when I was working on my MVP. But I was actually before that thinking about this millennial foodie consumer who’s like searching through hundreds of reviews, when you think about your ideal consumer, what’s the demographic profile? Like?
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 13:53
Yeah, I mean, we’ve definitely like don’t have a specific, like a demographic for like mothers and things like that, but like, we are targeting like Gen Z’s across like different college campuses. And you know, the one thing that we found is that there are a lot of users who love using our application to like write a bunch of dish reviews, and then order via delivery. So we have one user, I don’t know if we should bring up her name. But she she basically has reviewed like, 750 dishes so far. Wow. He basically goes to restaurants all the time, orders delivery all the time. And like, basically uses us like, you know, 789 times, like every single week.
Erasmus Elsner 14:34
So that’s a super user, how many of those do you have by now?
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 14:37
We have a bunch of it’s always Yeah, so we’re like, yeah, like, you know, we’d have to don’t need super users. And all of a sudden though, because we have bootstrap people who used to or would have been your beliefs but agenzia Do they really go on your believe they’re not instagramers they’re all just populating tonnes of content. Yeah. I will add a caveat though, in terms of like not having a, we don’t yet know what exactly is our quote unquote target. persona, but we know who we definitely are not trying to be an app for. At the end of the day, we don’t just want to be utility out, right? We love adding all these kinds of layers to our application, like, you know, adding cool facts, but ingredients. Right? That was actually one thing you talked about, as we call it item education. You should check it out,
Erasmus Elsner 15:16
Right? You’ve added that already.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 15:19
Yaeh, cool cuisines that, you know, regarding like, you know, hundreds a week, you know, getting books really awesome. No, like three sentences for each ingredient. Yeah. And the truth is that, like, we obviously want to be a utility out and that we’re solving problems. But in the day one, it also be an app that users love. And that’s not just being a super, like, you know, utility based thing that like people come and leave a bunch of views and exit with, it’s an app that people stay in, find awesome dishes for delivery, not only because it’s highly rated, but because they’re looking to ingredients and being like, wow, I’m Korean American, and I’ve never tried this Korean dish before, or, you know, hey, I’m, I’m Chinese American, I’ve never had, you know, this Indian delivery, you know, it’s like food delivered, or even any home cooking, all of a sudden, like this is making it so much more approachable. We want to really make a dish. I mean, now, in the day that people really do love, a love just kind of playing around with it.
Erasmus Elsner 16:08
Let’s talk a little bit about the go-to-market (GTM) strategy. You have a little bit of this marketplace, chicken and egg problem. If there are no reviews, then people don’t come in. And so when I was thinking about my MVP, one angle that I thought about was like using authoritative reviews, for example, the infatuation and I think I saw in one of the app reviews that now you already toyed around with, like basically using authoritative food reviewers to populate some of this office dishes.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 16:37
Yeah, so in a nutshell, you know, just to go over to colour. I’m a huge fan of Anthony Bourdain huge fan of like Eddie Wong, David Chang, like these people. And then also like, their vibe loves reading, infatuation, you know, either and things like that. And like a lot of times, you go through review the reviews, because you want to know what’s good, right? Yeah, to actually get there. It’s not just about like, you know, the glamour of what, you know where the, whatever of the Jambi is. So it’s been just kind of relatively easy, just kind of take all the dish mentioned and layered on top of our app as just like, hey, again, like I was saying, it’s like not just an app to kind of get to the end ish, but it’s like something you can actually explore and understand better when it’s also an execution thing. or all of a sudden, if we’re adding like, you know, a famous celebrity, then they’re like, okay, you saying the famous celebrity has been on this app before? We’re like, no, we’re big fans, actually. So I think, but in terms of content strategy, and just in terms of having an app that like was kind of cool to notice exists, you can follow the follow Gordon Ramsay’s angry reviews on Simmer, I think it’s still a cool habit for love to love to be like, you know, explore and play around with. In terms of go to market, though, I think definitely like, that is kind of a cool thing to kind of have as a better product. But one of our true go to market strategies and focusing on users who deliver a lot. And for us, those are two examples. One is university campuses, we know the playbook. Well, we did a super successful pilot in Chicago. And we know how to basically scale three cities target like the five to 10 universities in those cities to get like 10,000 weekly active users each within months. Second, is the financial districts of these cities. These are folks who, you know, with corporate cars are ordering every single day, every single evening, right? If we can make sure that they’re not working the same damn, like, you know, like, pepti every single evening like and have more and more like, I think it’s another group of people we’re excited to basically have a playbook for. So in addition to the things you said, like SEO, etc, etc, like, these are two things that we’re going to hit the ground running hard with. And we launched these cities in fall.
Erasmus Elsner 18:31
Okay. So the way I understand it now, you have sort of developed playbooks for different customer segments and the university one is, is the one that you’ve executed on already. And, and the the fidi Yeah, I mean, it makes a lot of sense, you know, that seamless was, was actually Yeah, one of the first like food delivery apps long before you had something like doordash and Postmates, just because you had such a high frequency orders in in New York City, right? Well, that’s definitely that’s definitely a very valuable segment. A few other things I was personally thinking about when I was working on my MVP was that in the foodie community, you have a lot of vanity users. I mean, you have now some of these power users, right? Having this profile of yourself where you can basically document your own foodie journey can be a vanity thing, right, let’s say after a Paris trip and send to their friend their profile, look, I’ve been to these places in Paris. That’s something which I think could add a lot of engaged.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 19:31
That’s exactly right. Like we we’ve, you know, sort of talked to a lot of our power users, you know, the people who have left like hundreds and hundreds of distribution we asked them like, how can you guys leave so many distributions on our platform, you know, like it’s crazy, and like, recurring over and over and over again, they tell us the same thing. They just love keeping track of their different, you know, their dishes, and like you want to share their experiences with their friends. So like what you see a lot is like they are they carefully construct their profile On the Simmer, and end up like sharing that profile with the friends on like Instagram messenger, things like that. So like there’s a created a viral loop in a way because people just love sort of creating that content and then sharing that with their friends. So it’s pretty exciting.
Erasmus Elsner 20:14
And this has that taken off once you have the web app, because I felt like sharing it with its own distinct URL with a web app, right?
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 20:23
Yeah, that was pretty shot, right? it well, hundreds of reviews on our app. And also the next day, we sent them to our power users, and they’re like, create a website for me, that’s cool a website. But even on Instagram, like these people also, like, you know, our users, they have 1000s of followers on Instagram. And it’s a way of tracking food. But you know, similar, it’s much more painless, because we actually dish restaurant information. We’ve also enabled them to basically, once they leave a review on Simmer, generate a very beautiful PNG. That’s, you know, ensured on their stories. Yeah. So it’s like the dish to review the photo they have layered in the background, like really made this beautiful that like, they can really take pride. Yeah, they have this, they’ve written these reviews, right?
Erasmus Elsner 21:04
That they can put on their Instagram. I mean, one thing I really like about the app, to me, it feels like like a Pinterest for food. When I researched this problem space. Before we had like horizontal Instagram, photo sharing apps, there were a lot of vertical photo sharing apps. And I think you know that better than me, because it’s your generation, there are a lot of like instagramers are only doing like, we’re only eating out to take the pictures, right? But if you can really like hone in on this, this feed is vanity feed, then I think you can really get through a strong engagement there.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 21:37
Yeah, everyone’s iPhones or DSLRs. Yeah, right. Bring it everyone’s to go in restaurants or get the delivery and take beautiful photos like, Yeah, all of a sudden, every single delivery dishes and you can exactly see what you get with voice thing is like, the other day, we got like a takeout dish. It was like 80% of rice. I was like, I wish, you know something about this. That got for me. So I think you know, we just enable all that.
Erasmus Elsner 22:01
How’s it been for your personal behaviour? Have you been eating in more diverse places? Yeah,
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 22:05
I eat a tonne. So like I ordered delivery using Simmer all the time. I review dishes all the time. Richard doesn’t review that way. It’s crazy. Like I’ve reviewed like 380 dishes so far. And like two and Richard’s only at 200. And you know, a lot of times we go to the same restaurant, we have the same meal. And then I see my review on the platform, but his reviewed every month. So Richard, here’s the reason I used to take out my DSLR like an actual DSLR. Because I’m like, like, it’s my responsibility to take beautiful photos of the food I’m eating. That’s the same kid. That’s my phone. Maybe that’s an artificially, artificially created myself. Well, you know, I have dozens of photo photos my phone said waiting to be there are dozens of users who are like, harder, more hardcore power users.
Erasmus Elsner 22:58
That’s a good sign.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 23:01
That’s, that’s kind of a unique insight there because like, we sometimes we were like, you know, how we use it doesn’t like you know how to do users don’t necessarily audition every single day, right? And sometimes it was like some power users were like, all of a sudden, a week later, we’re like, oh, my God, what did go do we lose one, you know, I mean, but then like a week later, we believe like, literally all down through the whole feed will be like 130 requests as because like, you know, they are taking photos or thinking about Simmer, moving and making overpayments experience, but like, they always come back. And like the users that have left reviews, you know, early on those retentions are like as flat as it was, then power user probably left, I’d say 150 distributes. And then we stopped seeing her for an entire month. We’re like she was just like, we’re just like, I guess she stopped using the app. And then like a month later, she literally added 100 different views in three hours. Like she just like spent three hours, just like leaving review after review. And like the entire feed was just, we’re just like, wow, the truth is like that’s the moat, right? People have been wanting to do this. And so Gen Z, like, they’re no longer I mean, they’re kind of using Instagram as proxies, but like, you know, I mean, not to kind of get right back into the business sort of things like that’s kind of a moment, right is that like, you know, the machine learning is super awesome. Like, we all got a bunch of technical background, but like, Who’s to say, you know, someone can’t, quote unquote, do this faster than we do go to market faster than we do. But the truth is that because we’re the first person to do this, here’s the first person to leverage and bootstrap machine learning to do this, we can be the first to market and we can capture all these, you know, super users, we’ve already like Yelp leads that have retention for like, over 10 years.
Erasmus Elsner 24:34
So let’s talk a little bit about the business model. So when Yelp started, there wasn’t there wasn’t a lot of food delivery apps out there. And yeah, obviously, I mean, we’ve seen we’re now in the midst of delivery wars with Uber going public and Uber Eats obviously being a large part of of their operation, and doordash, raising at a 12 billion valuation. And since we last talked, they’ve acquired calm Are we have this new intermediate, right, which wasn’t around when, when when Jeremy Stoppelman started out with Yelp. And I’ve seen that, since we last talked, you’ve added the delivery affiliate links.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 25:13
Exactly. So like when Yelp got started, they didn’t think about revenue for more than a year, I think a couple of years out until they started having like a very strong user base for us. Because of delivery, were able to monetize like very soon, which is really exciting. You know, to be clear, we’re still pre revenue. But we’re currently in conversations with all these delivery platforms and speaking to their affiliate partnership teams to start monetizing this application, you know, within a month, which is really exciting. And like the way the way that these affiliates work is that we can get up to 25% of the Total Net Revenue for each transaction that’s completed on these applications.
Erasmus Elsner 25:51
I think the review mechanism isn’t as sophisticated for any of those players as a new mechanism.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 25:58
Yeah, they just have restaurant reviews, they don’t really have dish reviews, this review, they’re like, yeah, and they focus on sending you to those restaurants that they have exclusive agreements with, rather than the restaurants that are particularly the best ones on their platform. So I forget which delivery platform now has moved Donald I know that, too. And they lost their exclusive. Yeah, there was some exclusive agreements with McDonald’s, I think with Uber Eats a few months ago. And like, back when there was that exclusive agreement, like because McDonald’s is so valuable, like, you would just be sent to McDonald’s. If you went to the homepage, you know, which isn’t very particularly exciting, and definitely not the best thing you can order on that particular delivery platform. But it just goes to show like how like there’s misaligned incentives, essentially, when it comes to that delivery platforms, just a land grab, they’ve been commoditizing themselves and just trying to win off exclusive agreements and getting as much as much coverage as possible.
Erasmus Elsner 26:54
So what’s next for Simmer? You guys are currently in the process of raising your seed round and you’re thinking about building out a team probably focus more on the product first.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 27:05
Yeah, great question. So we’re extremely excited to finish fundraising and get back to work because we now have the capacity 1000 restaurants so we can do the app which means we can launch in San Francisco, Chicago, New York, really rapid basis. So what’s next in the short term it’s just being the first place anyone goes to when ordering food delivery, it’s not like oh should open doordash grubhub cab or whatever right? It’s like Alright, well consumer will get us to the right place. And the delivery companies handle the rest. But I think just because we have dish level reviews, we unlock a lot of metadata and that leads to a lot of future of applications that we can not just be a better way to discover if you’re you know, a new restaurant or you know that delicious dish like can really really get crazy with that data.
Erasmus Elsner 27:49
And so Richard you finished your degree now and you’re all in now?
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 27:53
Yeah we’re both full-time. My mom was like “You better not quit and not get your degree” and I think that’s fair that’s fair let me let me grab a perfect time to do our pilot then now you know raise of raising money build out this you know small leading fast technical team and yeah, get the work
Erasmus Elsner 28:11
Given that you’re the CEO you know, how much operational work there’s involved with opening a new city right? Tell me a little bit about that.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 28:18
The biggest thing we learned in our Chicago pilot was that density works and that’s why we want to make sure we have high density in those three cities. Right that it’s not just like hey, sometimes you summer it’s like no, like I know definitively the best dishes and all these three plot little six platforms in my city are all on Simmer and I can find them they’re the great thing about sim and the great thing about being with bootstrap almost all with tech is that there’s like very little operational costs like think about Yelp like if they were to do this, they would have like a sales team a community manager like you know spend years curating having the 100,000 people leaving distributes this right but add them in restaurants that quickly like these cities is like you know, in a couple of months, they’re all up and running. So the true operational costs is really just making sure that like we’re building up that user bases as folks are spreading the word in a way revenue and doing the sort of go to market strategy in a way that’s like lean but also scalable and really getting to a place where like you know we are the first places that you stop but like a lot of these other sort of like you know costs that usually companies like ours would have to do you know we forgot all that.
Erasmus Elsner 29:22
Maybe a little bit on the personal note you guys are 21 and 23 I think I read in the Forbes article congrats on that. Thank you so so it must be kind of scary right to be a founder it’s the first time at the rodeo. How are you dealing with this in terms of anxiety?
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 29:41
it’s it’s not as scary as it seems like pretty freeing I must say like, we trade our weekdays like our weekends and we treat our weekends like our weekdays and it’s like really nice, you know, like we just we wake up nowadays we wake up really early, but before we could just like stay up till 5am jack mode and just like just build the product. We want and you know, make something people want, you know, and yes, it’s honestly awesome. Yeah, I think that’s actually the scary thing is that like, all of a sudden PDF, Forbes is covering us, you know, like investors are just being around and it’s like, yeah, believe in this can be the first to market this can be the new way people were gonna read like, Wait what, like, we’re gonna be the ones to do this, I will hire a company that we would have joined like, you know, as like engineers or like Product Manager Yeah, so I think like the fear isn’t necessarily even just like oh the opportunity cost of climbing the corporate ladder for years, but it’s like, this could be the next big thing. Like, are we up like maximising our potential as founders, you know, to do this in a way that could be big and really change the way people ordered to live? Yeah, yeah. No. And like, like, to your point, you know, now we have we just had before, before this month, we had YC, as our only investor, essentially. Yeah. And like, basically in the past week, and you know, coming week, like, jumping in debt started having a lot more investors a lot more angel investors, people who are putting their personal money into this company as well. And you know, our delivery, they’re like, oh, like, see this? We were like we do? Yeah. And you know, now there’s like this, like, I wouldn’t, I don’t know if the pressure is the right word, but there’s definitely this sort of desire to not let these guys down and really build something great for them. And, you know, yeah, before, we never really thought about returns, or like getting an exit or stuff like that. But we definitely want to now now that we have all these people’s money, like we’re just like, really want to make them proud. And like 100 bucks or so. Yeah, exactly. And like, you know, create a billion dollar company.
Erasmus Elsner 31:33
Yeah, and in terms of your, your friendship, I mean, I know a lot about co founder, relationships, and it’s sometimes you’re the therapist, sometimes you’re, you’re the girlfriend, take all these roles, how’s your relationship evolved in the past months.
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 31:49
In January to March, we lived in the same house. And like, it was fine. It was that it was at a profit. Like it was just like we saw each other all the time. I wasn’t hanging out with anyone else. Because it was basically in Palo Alto. spatially, we say like two different rooms next to each other, I woke up and first thing I do is message him and he messaged back. And same time, we have standard policy. We like to the rooms together before we slept at like 4am we’d all watch breakfast, lunch, dinner, YC meetings, basically, every everything, you know, and so so when we moved back to the Bay, we’re just like, we probably should live in two different apartments. Yeah, but I feel like, you know, it’s really it’s been like, we have a lot of friends. Who are, you know, co founders? Now we have, we’ve talked to so many startup founders. Yeah. And like, you can sort of tell what the problems are. And like, I would argue that, like, Richard and I have, like one of the best co founder relationship that I’ve seen, across all our sort of friends. Yeah. I mean, which is good. The way I view it is that like, I mean, we were friends in college, but like, when we first started to Simmer, like, a lot of the work that was being done by Bob and you’re having just graduated, me being still in the college was like, remote, right? It’d be like, 5am, my time in East Coast. And then you just go to bed at 2am. And we kind of like have some sort of interaction there. So like, we built a lot of this company also, like remotely initially pulling yourself out of YC Yeah, and after a while, you know, like, that’s just like the initial winter back before we you know, when all in fundraise. I also had to graduate Chicago by Bob, you know, was back, you know, the Bay Area, like growing the product. It’s also remote, I think the biggest thing I learned there was that, like, whether we’re in person were remote, like, it’s really all about trust. And I think the end of the day, it’s like, I know, this guy’s like, aggressively technical and smart. And if you weren’t, I don’t think we’d be where we are today. So I think it’s like, whether we’re worried I’m like, 100 miles, 1000 miles away from where he is, or like, in person, like spending every single second my day with them is that like, you know, as CEO is also my co founder, he’s going to take the company where it should be. And that’s great.
Erasmus Elsner 33:52
Because, I mean, I always think about the old Paul Graham (PG) saying: “most startups die of suicide, not of murder”. And so I think, the most important thing that you can trust your co-founder, and then you’re sort of on the same page, right? And that you also like if you have fights, that you sort of have disagreements that you sort of know how to how to plough through it. So yeah, I’m really excited to, to see all the progress you’ve made. Where can people find out more about Simmer?
Richard Wu / Vaibhav Verma 34:20
I mean, yeah, I think like, you know, going to use usesimmer.com and downloading the app. Yeah, we need to make a lot of changes, though. But like, the app is where the experiences so like, I think, just, you don’t even need to go to the website, you can just go on your app store and type in Simmer, get and download the iOS app. And then we sort of send an email to every one of our users who signs up and like to continue a conversation that way. So on my little response we had a lot of a lot of users think that like when they reply out to like a lot of users reply to the email and they’re like, I know you’re not To read this I just wanted to say extra for him by a response like 10 minutes like five minutes later being like a yeah that’s a good idea let’s roll that out next week yeah I’d say just like download the app send an email like we’ll be in touch Yeah, I think if like you know long term wise, like 510 years like there’s so many like I say tuna learn like so many different industries we’re going to be tangential to, I think also by Baba nice young founders want to build a really robust network of folks that just like love what we’re doing here at vision so like addition to download our app and it’s being a loyal user, obviously, you know, follow us on LinkedIn. Like the like you know, similar LinkedIn and then like, follow our training there. We love posting updates, and fun photos and everything. You can see us the be the next day take thing.
Erasmus Elsner 35:45
So this is it for today. I hope you found it useful. Join me again next time. Cheers, guys.