Foodspotting Loses Amy Cao, But Gains 1 Million Downloads in Five Months

Three million downloads and counting.

Ms. Cao (Photo: Stupidly Simple Snacks)

Less than a year after Foodspotting cofounder Soraya Darabi stepped down from her day-to-day role, the company has lost another prominent representative of the brand. Last month, Amy Cao, head of community and social media at the food guide, opted out of the startup for the freelance life.

Ms. Cao, the consumate foodie behind sites like Amy Blogs Chow and Stupidly Simple Snacks, was very much a public face for the startup–so much so that the tipster who told us she left mistook Ms. Cao for one of the startup’s cofounders. Ms. Cao did not respond to a request for comment from Betabeat. But according to her LinkedIn profile, she is now freelance social media and community director for startups like Levo League and Consmr, which demo’d at last night’s New York Tech Meetup.

“Amy did an amazing job of getting our community off the ground and decided to go freelance to help other companies in their early stages do the same,” Foodspotting CEO and cofounder Alexa Andrzejewski told Betabeat by email. “Soraya and Amy will always be a part of the Foodspotting family and they both continue to represent us (in fact, Soraya recently spoke about Foodspotting at Le Web). But our community isn’t about any one person–it’s about people all over the world meeting up to celebrate great food and foodspotting–and Amy worked hard to ensure this. She brought on a dozen official ambassadors and helped many unofficial ones organize Foodspotting events all over the country. Because of this, our community has continued to thrive,” Ms. Andrzejewski added pointing to a sample of this year’s “Eatups.”

Foodspotting, which has raised a total of $3.75 million, has tried to distinguish itself in by focusing on specific menu items and recommendations. “Find and recommend dishes, not just restaurants,” is the site’s tagline. But in addition to other food-sharing apps like Forkly, Foodspotting has also had to find a way to attract users who’d be more inclined to just snap a pic of that BBQ brisket or artisanal popsicle on Instagram, Foursquare, or even Yelp.

Nonetheless, the startup has shown strong growth, Ms. Andrzejewski told Betabeat. Last month, Foodspotting crossed the 3 million download mark. That’s up from two million users in February of this year, when the company launched Foodspotting 3.  “But our greatest growth since the redesign has been around engagement. Engagement is what matters most to us, so we’re excited to see all of those numbers on the rise,” she added, offering the following stats:

  • It took us two years to get to our first 1 million photos (between launching the Foodspotting website in January 2010 and launching Foodspotting 3 in February 2012), but only five months to get to 2 million photos.
  • We’ve almost tripled the percent of active users taking other actions (want, try, love, commenting, etc.).
  • The number of sessions per user has risen every week since February as has the median session length, both of which are higher than ever. The total number of sessions per month has doubled since February as well, which has been around 1.5M.
  • Over a thousand tweets and over a thousand Facebook actions are shared each day.

As for the competition, Foodspotting has opted to go where the users are. “We just launched Foursquare a week ago and resurfaced our Instagram integration last week, which enables users to post to Foodspotting using Instagram by tagging their photos #foodspotting or #food,” said Ms. Andrzejewski.

Foodspotting synchs with other social media platforms as well. “Foodspotters continue to share thousands of photos on Twitter and Facebook each day and our Facebook Timeline integration, which includes activity beyond photos like dishes you Want, Try and Love, has been driving between 15-20M impressions on Facebook each month.”

Until last week, only a few users knew about the hidden Instagram feature.  “But seeing how many food photographers were distraught by Instagram’s outage last month, reminded us how important this integration could be,” she explained. “The more great content we have on Foodspotting, the better we can help people decide what to eat and where–so the more Instagram-powered Foodspotting becomes, the better!”

Foodspotting doesn’t use traditional advertising on its website or in its mobile apps, so integrating with other platforms doesn’t detract from its ability to monetize, said Ms. Andrzejewski.

“While we make some revenue from sponsored contests, our primary monetization plans aren’t about pageviews and taps, they’re about how many people we can actually drive to local businesses. We’re developing tools that will enable businesses to reach foodspotters and foodseekers regardless of how they’re participating in Foodspotting,” she added, pointing to Foursquare’s Connected Apps platform as a particular great channel to deliver information to Foodspotting users.

Ms. Andrzejewski said Foodspotting is looking for a different skill set when it comes to replacing Ms. Cao’s position. “As our community has continued to scale and the technical complexity of working with seven engineers to support five different platforms has increased, our needs have evolved,” she noted. “We’ve decided to bring on a senior community manager with experience scaling a community and building a support practice, and look forward to introducing the 12th member of our growing team soon.”
Foodspotting Loses Amy Cao, But Gains 1 Million Downloads in Five Months