Gojee's Mike Lavalle On The Key Insight That Turned The Site Into Foodie Paradise

Despite its name Mint.com has nothing to do with food, but the site's charts-and-graphs approach to finance did inspire recipe recommendation engine Gojee. But not before it went through a couple of pivots.

A couple of overworked Morgan Stanley bankers read a story about Intuit acquiring Mint.com, the personal finance tool, for a cool $170 million and had an idea: What if they applied the Mint model to food?

They quit their jobs, corralled some groceries, built a website and signed up 1,000 people in the first week. Like Mint.com, the site was all chart-y and graph-sy, but it was about nutrition and loyalty cards. People stayed away in droves.

So they taste-tested a kind of Twitter for food—a stream of eating suggestions based on your shopping habits. That flopped, too. "It was hard to look at something you'd worked hard at for nine months and decide that once again you just hadn't done a good job," says co-founder Michael Lavalle. But with friends and family invested in the venture, failure was not an option.

Now Gojee is on its third iteration, as a curated recipe recommendation engine. Tell it what food you have on hand, and Gojee will tell you what you can make. Each recipe is accompanied by stunning photos. The foodie set has gone gaga over Gojee, which raised $1.2 million in seed capital last fall. The company's turnaround can be attributed to one key insight, which Lavalle shares in this week's episode.

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