Martin May

Co-founder of Forkly

After selling their location-based service Brightkite the Denver-duo Brady Becker (left) and Martin May (right) started working on their next venture named Forkly: a way to match your taste buds with the restaurants around you.

Although Forkly is still in semi-stealth mode Martin has accepted our invitation to give a sneak peek at what's coming and share some of his insights as an entrepreneur.

Please introduce yourself to our readers.

My name is Martin May, and I'm a co-founder of Forkly. Forkly is a pre-launch startup that makes it super-easy for people to capture their tastes while dining out, and get personalized restaurant and food recommendations, all on their mobile phones.

Prior to Forkly, I was a co-founder at Brightkite, an early location-based social network.

You and your business partner Brady Becker previously founded Brightkite together as well, which was sold in 2009. Was there a specific reason for selling at that time?

It's really a long story, but in a nutshell, we sold because we had a hard time raising money at that time due to the economy. Essentially, it came down to selling and being able to continue working on Brightkite, or shutting the company down.

In retrospect, we probably shouldn't have sold, but it seemed like the best option at the time. Lesson learned ;)

After selling Brightkite, how long did it take before you guys started working on Forkly and how did it start?

We stayed with Brightkite until summer 2010, and started working on Forkly shortly thereafter. Forkly is a direct result of us wanting a better way to find restaurants when we were travelling. We tried all the usual suspects (Yelp, Urbanspoon, etc.) and found that they didn't work for us most of the time, so we decided to take a stab at the problem ourselves.

Without breaching any top secret clearances, what can you share about Forkly? What is it and who is it for?

We recently blogged about our motivation behind Forkly and what we're trying to accomplish with it. Here's the gist of it:

"Whenever we found ourselves hungry, we were asking ourselves the same old question that millions of others dineaholics face every day: “where/what should we eat?”. Whether in our hometown or traveling, we were continually fatigued by how cumbersome the process of finding just the right place was. The Internet, crowdsourcing and modern smartphones were supposed to make all this easier, right?

Even with all the technical breakthroughs, and some promising attempts at solving this problem, we’re still stuck with sifting through endless reviews and ambiguous 5 star ratings. Critiques by strangers who like different food than we do led us to go to too many restaurants that might be good for others, but weren’t for us. Ultimately we would give up and revert to asking friends or the Twitterverse for recommendations. Tasty advice from friends is good for the atmosphere, but food tastes are rarely social. Keeping track of how our tastes match those of our Facebook friends didn’t seem like the right answer. Our conclusion: Discovering where to eat great food, right now, based on our tastes, is still really, really hard.

We’re building Forkly to make it ridiculously easy to match your taste buds with the food and restaurants around you. Forkly helps you to quickly capture your opinions about your dining experiences. We then use those opinions to offer personalized restaurant, food and drink recommendations, based on YOUR individual tastes. Forkly can help you discover a new dish around the corner, the best burger in town or your favorite cocktail bar in a new city. Hopefully, we have whet your appetite for more."

Dining is often a social experience with multiple people involved. Will Forkly be able to provide suggestions for groups of people as well?

Absolutely. We actually have some pretty cool stuff in the works for exactly that scenario, but I can't disclose the details just yet.

You seem to be passionate about services based around location. What sparks this interest?

I firmly believe that location is one of the key components of most interactions we have as human beings. As much as the Internet has helped in breaking down physical barriers, some things are probably going to require being at a certain location for quite some time to come.

Modern smartphones now make it super-easy to build services around location, and I think that we've barely begun to scratch the surface of what's possible. The things we can do today were really hard to accomplish just a few years ago.

I enjoy working in fields that have lots of room for innovation and can be applied to a broad set of problems, hence my interest in location-based services.

Talking about location. Are you guys planning on doing a worldwide rollout on launch or start with a specific area like a lot of other local services do?

We don't have a definitive answer on that yet, but we'd like to roll Forkly out worldwide if possible. That being said, we are doing tests in limited markets first to get a better feel for how the product performs in a semi-controlled environment.

In the age of the iPhone App Store, doing roll-outs that are targeted at a more granular level that countries is really, really hard, since you can't really stop people from downloading your app. Nobody likes to install an app only to be told that it doesn't work in their area, so we're trying to avoid that.

When someone uses Forkly for the first time and the application doesn't have any historical data to base its recommendations on, how does it know what to suggest?

When we don't know a user's tastes yet, we make suggestions that work for a broad audience, best bets if you will. Beyond that, we also give users the ability to teach us their tastes quickly and easily right after signup, so that we can establish a baseline to use for recommendations.

A lot of our readers are beginning or aspiring entrepreneurs. If there was one thing you wish you knew when starting out, what would it be?

Be persistent. Good things don't happen overnight, they usually take lots of hard work. It's easy to lose focus and question whether you're working on the right thing as you go on, but if you have a clear vision and are willing to keep at it, you will be successful in the end.

Also, take advantage of the many resources available to aspiring entrepreneurs out there. For example:

  • Apply to a startup accelerator (we did TechStars in 2007 with Brightkite)
  • Read Hacker News
  • Attend local technology meetups
  • Read entrepreneurship books such as David and Brad's 'Do More Faster'

Thanks Martin! Can't wait to try it out!

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