Food. We all need it. We all love it. And Tastemade wants to use it to connect the world. Forget cable, this new network lives online and features food-related programming from around the globe, showcasing everything from cooking tutorials to food-focused travel. Since its founding in summer of 2012, it has exploded from one video (“The Slacker Shake”), which has been viewed 2 million+ times and inspired the network’s James Beard Foundation Award-nominated series Thirsty For… to a 100-channel partner network with 12 million monthly visitors in more than 200 countries. And it was started by three guys who don’t even cook particularly well.
“None of us are culinary experts, but we all have a passion for food,” explains Steven Kydd, who cofounded Tastemade with Larry Fitzgibbon and Joe Perez; the trio previously worked together on Demand Media’s founding team. They knew they wanted to do something with video, creating high-quality content that could satisfy an increasingly sophisticated audience armed with smartphones and web-connected televisions. It was while brainstorming business ideas over lunch–French onion soup was the highlight of the meal–they realized they were taking about the food as much as they were the business.
“We were looking for an area where we could combine our personal passions with a really big business idea. We come from different perspectives; Larry is a cheese and cured meat aficionado, Joe is all about food as medicine, and I grew up in Maine, so it’s all about farm to table,” says Kydd, whose last meal on Earth would be lobster hauled from his parent’s boat on Deer Isle. “We have great respect for traditional media brands like the Food Network, but as Internet people, we thought it’d be interesting to start a digital network that’s more representative of people like us, one that’s less about celebrity chefs and more about food lovers. Just people sharing the things they love about food.”
Though it’s his first foray into food, Kydd is no stranger to the space where media and digital meet. After earning a degree in business administration from the University of Maine, he studied at the Ecole Superieure des Affaires in Grenoble, France, then returned to Europe to study at Berlin’s Free University as part of the Congress-Bundestag Exchange For Young Professionals. While there, he also worked at the Treuhandanstalt, the agency that privatized East German enterprises. It was just the beginning of a career that spans the globe, including stops as a project manager for a market research and consulting company in Poland and Russia; a VP of Internet marketing for 20th Century Fox International with posts In Los Angeles, Hong Kong and Indonesia; VP of Atlanta startup eTour Inc.; VP of business development and strategy for Yahoo!, and EVP at Demand Studios.
These days, he calls Santa Monica home, and it’s where he pours massive amounts of energy into growing Tastemade. The company has a 7,000-foot soundstage there, and nearly every day the sights, smells, and sounds of cooking food and whirring cameras fill the space. The 28-member team–half of whom are based at the company’s Austin outpost–is hard at work cranking out episodes of their popular shows, reflecting the ways a new generation interacts with food. “We’ve seen how creativity can be enhanced by tech platforms and communities. We’ve also seen firsthand how hard it is to create high-quality video in an efficient and scalable manner–and that is the big problem we set out to solve,” Kydd explains.
Tastemade’s latest answer to that problem is the Tastemade mobile app (free for iOS), which makes it super simple to produce one-minute restaurant and destination review videos. It was powered by last year’s $10 million series B round of funding led by Raine Venture Partners. “It’s like being the host of your own food show, but all done from your phone in minutes. People who use the app are blown away by how easy it is to create a really high-quality video–and then share it with the world, instantly,” Kydd says.
Up next, a new deal with Ryan Seacrest productions will soon bring some of Tastemade’s content to a television near you. But Kydd and company remain firmly committed to the digital space. “This is a unique moment in the media business where technology plays a critical role, and we have a bold vision to build a truly global food network for digital platforms,” Kydd says. “We have developed a vibrant, global community of tastemakers around the world that helps us build the brand each day. And that is very exciting.”