Meet the founder of Spoon Guru
Hi Markus it’s lovely to meet you and thank you for the interview. So, who is the man behind Spoon Guru?
I started my career in the music industry, working as European Managing Director at Crowdsurge, Managing Director at Warner Music International, and Senior International Producer at Peoplesound. I also have an MA in Composition and a BA in Commercial Music. While I’ll always be passionate about music, the 15 years I’ve spent working in the digital industry spurred a new passion, for understanding and developing new digital technologies that can empower people around the globe and positively impact their lives.
Could you give me a breakdown of what Spoon Guru is and how it works?
Spoon Guru is a London-based, innovative technology company helping people to find food products and recipes that suit their individual dietary requirements. The technology we have developed at Spoon Guru uses a unique combination of AI, machine learning and category expertise, to search hundreds of thousands of products and recipes, to deliver relevant food choices that exactly fit user’s food preferences. The technology is available to everyone in the UK, through our free to download consumer app – simply scan a barcode through the app and it’ll tell you whether that product is right for you. We also recently announced a game changing partnership with supermarket giant Tesco who have licensed our technology to power their entire online grocery offering. They realised they had to respond to rapidly increasing consumer demand for more accuracy, transparency and choice when it comes to making the right food choices.
The app caters to an ever increasing consumer market with a large percentage of the UK population affected by food intolerances - what kind of market research led to the discovery of such an open yet under-served niche?
There is a substantial amount of research on food allergies and intolerances in the UK, from the likes of the NHS, Food Standards Agency and British Nutrition Foundation, to name just a few! It’s certainly an issue that’s getting more attention, as the number of those affected by food intolerances grows. Allergy UK estimate that 45% of the country’s population are now affected by food intolerances, which is approximately 29 million people – a huge number of people to be struggling with an everyday task of grocery shopping.
The idea for Spoon Guru came about when my wife developed multiple food allergies and we really struggled to find foods that she could eat. That’s when I got together with my two co-founders Tim Allen and Simon Oregan who also recognised the problem from personal experience. Personally going through that process opened our eyes to the limit of the food industry’s product search capabilities. And here is the clincher, even if you have a food allergy you may also have additional food preferences on top. For example you may be on a low sugar diet, or vegan, or kosher. Spoon Guru supports anybody’s food preference. Users just tell us what they do or don’t like, and we find suitable products and recipes for their unique, individual needs.
How do you feel companies can benefit from the incorporation of startup technologies to meet complex consumer needs?
As a rule, large companies are very structured organisations. They have a number of processes and procedures in place that often require sign-off from multiple areas of the business, which hinders their ability to change. That’s where startups come in. Startups and innovation are synonymous. Essentially you have startups pushing the boundaries to create new technologies, while absorbing the risk, then established companies can uptake tried and tested products.
Previously you were employed by Warner Music Group where you were able to assist them in their transition into the digital age, what inspired you to leave a major company and start your own company?
At Warner Music we pioneered direct to consumer. We were the first major to enable artists to interact directly with a global audience and sell their music, tickets and merchandise directly to the fan - no need for the middleman. Fans could go directly to the artist website and buy anything they liked in one go. I was in charge of setting up the international division, which quickly became a multi-million dollar business. I’ve always been passionate about using technology to facilitate better outcomes for customers, and the pioneering work we did at Warner inspired me to bring this technology to new sectors.
What would you say is the biggest difference between working for a company and working as an entrepreneur?
You have more control, and not in the stereotypical way of being your own boss and setting your own hours, but more control on the business goals and end-product – ultimately it’s your project and you are responsible for turning your idea into a reality, and a success.
You’re clearly well versed in the digital world with years of experience and knowledge - using your expertise, what would be your future predictions for this ever-changing digital era we live in?
Consumer needs are getting increasingly complex, but that’s ok. We should celebrate the fact that everybody is unique. The future will be based on personalisation and convenience. As a consumer, it’s got to be easy, simple and effortless to get what I want, and it needs to be tailored to me. If you can’t deliver at this level, somebody else will and they’ll get my business.
Since your launch you have partnered with major supermarket Tesco, why Tesco above all there other supermarket competitors?
Tesco approached us early on, as they wanted to make sure their products would be compatible with our consumer app, which naturally lead to discussions about how our technology could benefit them further. Tesco’s online shopping site and shopping app is now powered by Spoon Guru, which allows them to offer a more tailored service to shoppers that have food intolerances or allergies - giving them a huge advantage in the market! Though that’s not to say that Tesco will be the only grocery retailer we work with – any food business can benefit from our technology, large and small, and our aim is to help as many people as possible.
If you had to give one tip for other aspiring tech companies what would it be?
The golden rule is that you need 2 out of 3 things to have a chance at success. A ripe market, a good product and a great team. If you get all 3 you are probably onto a winner.