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The co-founders of Gojee say they landed $1.2 million in funding by Kapor Capital in September because Mitch Kapor understood where they’re headed for the next 10 years.Mike LaValle and Tian He created Gojee, which curates food and drink recipes from around the world, with a vision of an entirely new online experience. It’s a food site you’ve never seen before and that’s what sold Kapor on the idea.
Users type in what ingredients they’d like to work with, or select photos of dishes or drinks featured on the site, which link to external blogs with the recipes. There’s no actual content on the site.
Gojee created partnerships with 200 recipe writers from around the world, and have partnered with the Manhattan-based grocer D’Agostino’s to figure out what ingredients users have based on their shopping loyalty cards.
A former officer in the infantry, CEO LaValle says he noticed the web changing last year when he was working on a rewards program for a grocery store and wanted to design a platform that enabled users to search much faster and in a more relevant experience. So he brought on his colleague from Morgan Stanley, Tian He, as co-founder.
“Big parts of the Internet should run like this, where it should be delightful, it should be emotional, it should be fast, it should be intuitive,” LaValle told us. “Over the next five to 10 years, companies like ours is going to be the catalyst for that kind of innovation.”“Google’s [search formula] is going to evolve soon. It’s not efficient for the web. But tablets and web — all that stuff — are going to converge at some point. The ability to flip through results is an interesting search dynamic. You can go through those 20 results very quickly. You see a lot of information that you can’t see in a normal web experience.”
LaValle says the architecture of the current web is inefficent because there’s too much useless information, yet most companies and search sites adopt this design.
“Everybody thinks that pushing the most information possible gives users more information so it’s a better method. But our platform is that if we reduce aggressively the amount of information you’re provided, but make it much more relevant, you can help people make a decision much faster. That’s how we build the food dynamic.”
The Cartoon Strategy
No one’s going to argue that Gojee’s innovative: they’re nominated — along with Pinterest — for Crunchies Best Design Award — their iPhone and iPad app launches next month, but, perhaps, their most creative endeavour is their attempt to tie in emotions with their vision of what the future web will look like. They plan on doing this through the launch of a new vertical: cartoons. The concept is a little complex: According to LaValle and his director of design Adam Meisel, Gojee wanted to create a sense of adventure and risk-taking on their site so users will feel as if they’re actually embarking on a new adventure, a delicious one in this particular case.
“Not many tech companies are merging emotion, human development, thoughts and storylines into the experience. It happens in different ways. Siri on the iPhone is a technical example where it talks to you, it has a human voice. It’s the beginning of a wave of artifical intelligence,” LaValle says. “Right now, it’s all about getting results to you as quickly as possible. There’s no focus on creating a human connection.”
“We want to prepare you for what’s coming. It’s a different type of web site, so we want people to be in an adventurous mode, in an explorative mode. You know there’s other [cartoon] scenes, you know there’s other characters. You don’t know exactly what’s triggered it, but you know it’s there. The experience is very unique, it’s very sensual, it’s very elegant, there’s apprehension, you don’t neccessarily feel comfortable. You feel like you’re on an adventure, you’re discovering things, you’re nervous.”
For their new vertical, LaValle and Meisel told us they watched nearly 30 Disney movies and discoverd adventure is usually always introduced with some level of apprehension accompanied through a journey.”It came from wanting to create an emotion. A lot of that isn’t happening on the web, it’s happening in entertainment, on television,” Meisel says. ” Look at Disney, Family Guy, these cartoons create a response from people. We wanted to find a lot of different ways to delight people. You can be delighted by the actual content or you can be delighted by the experience. You can be delighted by the funny things happening.”
The concept is so in-depth that we wonder whether LaValle and Meisel originally created Gojee just so they could have a platform to introduce their real passion to the world: writing stories with cartoon characters.
Its “Anti-Community” Strategy
Gojee is so secretive, they wouldn’t even tell us why they were being so secretive. Since launching in July 2011, the company has 300,000 members signed up and told us they’ve done no advertising, marketing or SEO.
They’re sticking strictly to the old fashioned “word-of-mouth” method. In contrast to what most companies are doing right now, Gojee wants to create a private experience, sort of the “anti-community.”
“People describe Twitter and Facebook as a very noisy and it’s kind of rare now to go on any site and have it be your own quiet, personal experience,” Meisel says.
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