How to encourage people to cook and finding others with the same goals as yours – Interview with the team of KptnCook

Some time ago, I met the team of KptnCook – the most down to earth and funny people I have ever met. Alex and Eva are Co-founders together with Polina Marchenko – who was in San Francisco during the interview and couldn’t be there personally. I was waiting for the launch in great excitement and when it finally happened I fell in love with their product. I am a huge fan of mobile applications so it is really a big pleasure to introduce KptnCook to all the readers.

Where does the idea of KptnCook come from? What does it mean for people who don’t know it yet?

Alex: The idea comes from an everyday problem we had ourselves. After a long day of work, you are standing in the queue of a supermarket, wondering what you are going to cook for dinner. And you have 2-3 options to choose from as usual: frying an egg or something else in the pan. So you are standing between the shelves, not knowing what to do with all the stuff in there. And then it occurs to you, that there is no service that helps you in this situation – a flash of inspiration.
Eva:  Alex and I met Polina at Start-Up Weekend Food Innovation in Berlin. She was actually the person who came up with the initial idea. After this event, we thought it would be really great to work on this together as a team.

When you went for the start-up weekend, had you had already your idea or did you want to be a part of project because you did not know each other?

Eva: Alex and me had known each other before and we had another idea at this time which was an iPad cook book app. During those 2 days, we worked on this while Polina had another team. We developed a little prototype for our cook book idea while most of the other teams worked on business plans and marketing strategies. So at the final presentation we were more or less the only ones with a nice little prototype instead of a huge Powerpoint presentation and we won the design award, which was cool.

Me: So does it mean that you managed to develop and programme your app over just one weekend?

Eva: Not completely of course – but we had a basic idea of it and the prototype showed the already designed and clickable screens.

Me: So if somebody wanted to start a company, would you recommend going for a start-up weekend?

Alex: Our experience was that start-up weekend is more focused on the business part of an idea. Which was good for us, because wer were a pure production team and were looking for business opportunities. At tech-group meet-ups, for example, you mainly find IOS and Android specialists who are focused on building products but don’t know how to market or sell them. When you have only 10 downloads after a product release, that’s depressing, no matter how great your product is. So both parts are very important and such events allow companies to bring together people with different backgrounds.
Eva: To be successful, it takes more than one side or point of view. Not just the developer or the designer or the business guy.

Me: You are a dream team and you have every specialist you need – Product Manager, Designer, Programmer…

KptnCook-Team

Eva: It was a perfect match. We felt that we were missing a part in our team and Polina was the missing piece.

Me: How many competitors do you currently have on the food market?

Eva: It depends. We are in the middle of a competition but nobody does exactly the same thing as we do. There are, of course, cook books, other recipe apps or you can have subscriptions for services that deliver ingredients to your home. But you need to pre-order them 2-4 days in advance. Our offer is really spontaneous. We want to encourage people to cook during the week. It does not take as much time as many people think. We are at the moment focused on supermarkets with organic products and we want to cover the entire 360° experience from the first recipe-inspiration to the shopping list to the support at home when people are cooking. There we provide our users with a step by step description enhanced with beautiful pictures. When you open the app you see a nice image of a dish you could prepare tonight and you can immediately see how much the ingredients would cost for  2 people and  how long it will take to cook. Every day we offer 3 recipes – not on Saturdays or Sundays but during the week. We are focused on busy people who don’t have much time and want to show them, that preparing a good dinner doesn’t have to be complicated.

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Me: Currently, your users need to go to the shop to buy ingredients?

Eva: Yes, but our initial idea was even more convenient. Our first concept included that people could already order through the app and pick up the packed ingredients from the supermarket on the same day. So they wouldn’t have to go through the shelves themselves or standing in line.
We spent some time trying to get to the supermarkets, explaining them the concept and trying to persuade them to test it with us. But decisions are made slowly in traditional businesses.
Alex: We are still negotiating. But because we wanted to create faster progress with our concept we decided to skip the order and pick-up idea so we could release the app independently.

Me: Why is the app called KptnCook?

It’s named after the explorer James Cook. We want to explore recipes together with our community! It also has a personal feeling and the food bloggers who work with us are our „Kptns“. They know how to cook great recipes and they have brilliant ideas.

Me: What are your plans for the next 12 months?

KptnCook: We want to integrate more supermarkets in the app. It is more convenient for our users to have more options where they can buy their ingredients from. We also want to do develop an android version of the app in order to reach more people but because it’s just the three of us at this point, our resources are limited. We are also looking for seed funding. And it would be great to convince a supermarket to test the order and pick-up idea with us to see if people would like it. In the future KptnCook shall be the #1 place to go, when you don’t know what to cook for dinner.

Me: In your start-up team, there are 2 girls and 1 guy  – does is it mean that food market is more feminine? What is your target group?

Eva: In the start-up world it is very special to have the team formed like that – 2 girls and a guy. On the other hand, it is all about cooking and food – cliché confirmed. Burt we have the feeling, that a lot of men are using our app,  because of the feedback we get.
Alex: We have for example received a feedback from a guy who said: „You know what, before [you appeared] I would buy steak in the supermarket, because I didn’t know what else to do. Now I have these nice new recipes and tutorials which encourage me to cook even vegetarian food and experiment more. I started to discover new things and I love it.” That is such a great feedback for us, because it shows that the app encourages people to cook more vegetarian dishes. We don’t want to teach people to eat less meat because it is unhealthy but rather to look at and taste food from a different perspective. Motivating them with beautiful pictures and creative recipes.

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Me: Understanding that cooking it is not a duty.
Eva: It is cool, it is fun, quick and it is not that difficult. You don’t have to be a magician.

Me: What is your story of transition from a UX Designer to becoming a co-founder?

Eva: I studied Graphic Design in Mainz/Germany. Than I started to work in agencies and I have always dealt with both, digital design and print, – two things that I really love. 4 years ago I decided to become a freelance designer to work more independently also on my own projects. I love the freedom of deciding what I want to do and under what conditions. I have always loved doing different things, creating something new and solving problems – it’s fun for me. In the start-up scene, I found likeminded people who are „hands on“ and share my vision. Last year, Alex and I went to San Francisco for a couple of weeks and got really excited about the start-up and tech scene there. When we came back, we attended a hackathon and the start-up weekend because we wanted to create things and bring our ideas to life. With todays’ technology it doesn’t matter where you are. Berlin it definitely a good place to do such things and we have discovered that the start-up scene here is really exciting, too. There are lots of great people with great ideas and it’s nice to be part of that.

Me: You have already go some experience with big companies such as MetaDesign or YOC. You have never thought of working in that kind of a company and a 9-5 style of work.

Alex: We have always done our work with real passion. The 9-5 thing has never really been ours. When you work for somebody else, it is much easier to say: Ok. Maybe it is better to stop now and continue tomorrow. I will go home and come back the next day.” But now it is totally our thing. Somebody has an idea in the evening, and we talk about this immediately and get excited. Things really happen spontaneously but it is OK. You never get bored. In the US, people also work on task basis instead of time basis. Which is better because when you get things done, you can go home – whether its after 4 pm or 8 hours of work. On the other side, you can’t work 16 hours on a single task, of course. Hopefully our team will grow and we will have more people to support us.

Me: There are not too many girls who are entrepreneurs in IT industry. How do you feel to work in a team where females are a majority?

Alex: It is really great. For me gender is not a question here. It is all a team work.

Me: Do you prefer to work with men or women? Which gender is more professional to work with?

Alex: There is no difference. I think it is important to have a mix of both. I don’t like working with men or women only. Everyone have their own opinion and it is always great to strike a balance within a team. For me, it is also important that people should come from different fields. You need designers, business developers, and product managers.

Me: Are you planning to cooperate with Chefs in the future? And how do you collect your food recipes?

KptnCook: We can’t imagine working with famous chefs right now and we are not really heading for big names, you can find on TV shows and cook books. We think great recipes don’t have to come from big names. We think recipes from foodbloggers, who are more down to earth and really passionate about what they do, are a great match for the idea of KptnCook and show the love for food. There are so many amazing food blogs out there and we like to share some of these great recipes with our community through collaborating with them.
Alex: We select recipes which are easy to cook, under 30 minutes, with common ingredients, but still with a twist or something special added to it. Than we cook them ourselves, take the pictures and write short and simple instructions everybody can follow.
Eva: With my design background I have some knowledge about photography. But there is no food stylist and no fake food. We cook the real stuff in our kitchen and take pictures of it. Perhaps it is not prefect or it doesn’t look exactly the same as in a cook book, but it is honest and the same how the food will look in people’s homes.

Me: What advice would you give to a woman who is not satisfied with her current job and would like to start a company of her own?

Talk to people. Do it. Tell somebody about how you feel and what you are thinking about. Find people with the same goals as yours. We were once in the same situation – tired of wondering what we should do. And we realised that if we do not start talking about it and making it, we would be forced to give up in a few weeks.  We decided to take the risk without thinking that we might regret this decision in 5 years, that perhaps we did not take the right step. We just did it. No matter what the people around said or thought. Because people tend to warn you that perhaps it is not such a good idea. If you feel that you really want to do it, even if it is a little frightening and  even though there are unriskier things to do. Your family may want to keep you safe. To have a safe job and environment but if you don’t feel happy inside in that environment, you should change it.

Thank you very much for your time. It was nice to having you here.

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