After a group of three Fall 2016 students bonded over their love for food, a business was formed. BuzzDine, an app created to “make food discovery social, affordable, and easier than ever, one picture at a time,” came to actualization in the Entrepreneurship and Business Innovation core course at DIS.
Coming from different universities, majors, passions, and knowledge, the brain behind BuzzDine consists of Founder and CEO of BuzzDine, Will Samuels, who studies Business at Franklin and Marshall College; CMO, Jake Gindy, who studies Communications and Social Entrepreneurship at Tulane University; COO, Hayley Parry, who studies Business and IT at American University.
We met up with Will, Jake, and Hayley to hear how their academic experience influenced the inception of their new business.
How did the idea for BuzzDine come about?
Will Samuels: I started thinking about it in June by talking with friends and observing people taking pictures of their food at restaurants. I then thought about Instagram and Yelp, and how I could carve a unique market spot between the two.
Hayley Parry: Before arriving to DIS, each student in our class was tasked with naming a problem that we would like to solve. In the first weeks of our class, our teacher put each one on a post-it note on the wall and told us to place ourselves under the one we think is the most salient. That’s how we found each other.
Has your core course shaped BuzzDine’s inception?
Jake Gindy: The class provided us with the framework and resources to get our idea off the ground, as well as proven entrepreneurial methodologies to follow. Specifically, the course taught us about lean start-up processes, business model canvas development, and building and testing a minimum viable product. We used these resources to push beyond the course requirements regarding these basic deliverables (business model canvas, minimum viable product, etc.) and create a scalable business. We were able to skip a lot of the trials, tribulations, and failures of early stage ventures by applying concepts from the class. BuzzDine would not be where it is today without the help of our core course.
HP: We have to give credit to the core class. Our teacher established a framework and pushed us to think of new ideas. It’s not a traditional academic setting. Our assignments are coming up with business models, getting out and talking to people, and preparing for potential failures.
What does your work with BuzzDine look like right now?
WS: I handle the logistical side, which means speaking to our programmer every day about things I want to see. I’m also submitting apps to angel investing firms. Basically, we are working hard every day to get the app to where we want it to be.
JG: I’m constantly promoting the platform and our vision for the company, as well as maintaining a dialogue with users to improve the app. I also create our social media graphics and draft up new designs for our interface. We’ve definitely learned that we need to be relentless. We know we need to make a lot of noise as far as marketing is concerned. Recently, I had a very long Skype call with a family friend and successful app developer. He told me, “This market is really saturated and honestly I wouldn’t invest in you.” We took that feedback and used it as motivation to be better than any existing food discovery service. My mentor at Fund 17, a micro-finance non-profit back home once told me, “You have to be crazy to be an entrepreneur.” After a long day of classes and BuzzDine work, the crazy love for the idea and vision is what keeps me going.
HP: You don’t want to do too much too fast. We first have to build a critical mass of users.
You recently went with your core course to Dublin for your Week-Long Study Tour. Did you get a chance to talk about BuzzDine at the companies you visited?
JG: Absolutely! We were constantly throwing around ideas about BuzzDine. One of the great things about Dublin is the city’s vibrant startup culture. Everyone has an idea that they want to share, and everyone is willing to listen and give feedback. The opportunity to visit Google and Airbnb and gain insight into that world was priceless. We also went to Enterprise Ireland, which is a government venture incubator, and had the opportunity to pitch there. We received some incredibly valuable feedback about our business model at that particular visit.
WS: DIS set up a pitch workshop for us. We individually went up in front of a camera and gave a three-minute pitch on our app. We got instant feedback, which was great. We met start-up founders and got their input on the early stages. A crucial step for an entrepreneur is a finding a good mentor, and the course has given us many mentorship opportunities. The week was incredibly grounded in reality. Our faculty focuses on how to fail successfully and bounce back. We never felt like we were wasting time.
What does the future of BuzzDine look like?
WS: We want to target anybody who eats food and uses a smartphone. Our app can be meaningful to all those people.
HP: The general goal is to continue building out the platform and hit a thousand users. When you have that stat, you are taken more seriously.
JG: For me, it’s more about the story and mission than the actual numbers. We strive to make food discovery social and affordable, one picture at a time. That overarching statement is really what we do: be innovative and meet people’s needs. The future of BuzzDine is the process of finding and meeting those needs as they relate to our service and our potential for growth.
What are your future career goals? How will your DIS experience help you along the way?
JG: I have a list of ventures ideas that I intend to pursue when the timing is right. I’m also an avid musician, which plays into a few of my planned ventures. The path of an entrepreneur is not linear in the slightest, so I see my career going in a few different directions, all of which will add to my entrepreneurial abilities. The entrepreneurial spirit can a manifest in a bunch of different ways. Success comes from how, where and when you nurture that experience.
HP: I personally would really like to go back to school for data science and be an analyst. Finding a job for me will be about necessary skills and a compatible work environment.
WS: As of now I would like to stay in tech. If you had asked me six months ago, I would have said banking. Now, I know that world isn’t for me after my experiences here. In the professional world, you have to prove traction and show that you’ve actually done something. With BuzzDine, I can do that.