FoodTree is Democratizing Information About Your Food

Have you ever wondered where food comes from?  Specifically have you ever looked at two seemingly identical food items, one organic and one locally produced, and wondered which is better for you?  Not which one is better but better for you, the individual?  That is the answer that the folks at Foodtree are trying to provide you.  Foodtree is a Vancouver based start-up with roots in Chicago that is trying to “democratize” information about food.  They want to tell you where was it produced, who produced it and where you can find what’s in season. Better yet, Foodtree wants us to tell each other these things.

The Foodtree app is currently covering Vancouver BC and Boulder CO with plans to expand across cities in North America.  Foodtree is expanding using a pretty cool approach — they have set up a voting system that lets their users have a voice.  You can go to their blog to see the current list of cities that are waiting to be unlocked.

I spoke with Derek Shanahan, Foodtree’s Chief Community Officer, and one of the founders (along with Anthony Nicalo) to get the scoop on what Foodtree is, where they have been and where they are going.

Derek and Anthony met in Chicago playing recreational soccer and started Foodtree in December 2009.  Anthony moved to Vancouver and soon after, the company was accepted into Bootup Labs, a Vancouver based accelerator. Foodtree has received angel funding and has grown to a team of eight people including the founders.  Derek said that Foodtree is a “For Benefit Company” so while they are planning to make money, the company also has a social purpose.   There are various monetization opportunities including search and discovery advertising or providing a white label versions of Foodtree for small or medium size companies; there is a current beta version of a farmer’s market loyalty program.  One other interesting note – they have embedded a soccer culture at the company, for example the team works in 90 minute sprints (although I didn’t ask him if they ever add on stoppage time).

Foodtree’s tag line is “Know more. Eat Better.” At the core, they are basically trying to provide a simple depository for information on food.  Their app allows people to have a lightweight, but powerful tool that helps them make more informed decisions about the food they are buying and ultimately eating.  I asked if much has changed since their original idea and Derek said that the foundation hasn’t shifted much from the start and their basic use case still holds true.  Foodtree wants you to be able to make a more informed decision about the two baskets of strawberries that are on the tables of farmers markets or stores.  With more information about the food, you will be better equipped to know which basket is right for YOU.

So if you want to know more about the food you are eating and want Foodtree to come to your city (Chicago has 15 votes while I am writing this) click on the link above and vote to help democratize the information about food in your city!


Randy Anderson

Randy is a (mid life) MBA student at Chicago Booth in the process of changing careers. Randy grew up a Cubs fan in the heart of Cardinal country – Springfield, IL. After four awesome years in the US Navy, Randy got his undergrad in Accounting from Northern Illinois. He is leveraging his MBA to move into a Marketing and Business development role at a smaller company (can you say start-up) after spending the last several years auditing (yuck!). Randy is interning at 5Degrees helping them launch their new mobile contact management system. Randy also wants to give back to his community – most recently he was co-president of the Associates Board at a Chicago not-for profit. When he isn’t interning, volunteering or going to class, Randy likes to hang out with his wife and three kids (and 4 dogs and 3 cats!) and cook the edible stuff he grows in his Hyde Park back yard. He really wants to get rid of his cable but Bears, Cubs, Blackhawks and to a lesser degree Bulls games have made that nearly impossible!

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Thanks for the mention and conversation Randy, and as a note since we talked, the app will go live in Toronto, Calgary, and Edmonton this week. We’re a few days away from opening up Denver and have a long list of cities in line right after that. If you’d like to try out the app in a city not live yet, just shoot me an email! derekATfoodtreeDOTcom

Randy Anderson

It was a pleasure Derek – Thanks for taking the time to talk. Congratulations on the 4 city expansion – Can’t wait to get coverage in Chicago! Keep us posted as you move forward – you guys are on to a pretty cool idea! Just as an example of how small the world is – my boss @Jebory tells me you two are friends from your days at Stanford – pretty cool!

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