Foodsponder uses location automation technology to help users find food trucksBusiness Profiles — By Melanie McIntyre on May 2, 2012 at 8:00 am
After spending an hour driving around Columbus one evening looking for a particular food truck, Ryan McManus was annoyed and inspired.
As anyone who frequents them knows, food trucks can be hard to find. And oftentimes once you do find them, they aren’t where they said they’d be in a tweet sent several hours earlier.
“There is a need for real-time location updating,” McManus says. “For food trucks or for anything else, the tools that post your location are not built for business use. South by Southwest this year had several buzz-worthy apps that showed people near you with similar interests. Location broadcasting for normal folks is a little Big Brother. I don’t think those apps are ready for mainstream users. There is. however, some great use cases for location automation that would help businesses be more productive.”
To learn more about what McManus and his co-founders, Blair Gordon, Jeremy Thomas and Brandon Fordosi, have in store for Foodsponder users, keep reading.
The Metropreneur: When did you start developing Foodsponder?
Ryan McManus: We have been working on the concept for a few months in parallel with the building of an Italian food truck. We had the idea to build an app to help food truck entrepreneurs actively update their location, but before we got too deep into things we needed to, one, make sure it didn’t already exist, and, two, was there a need?
We researched what was available for food truck apps, checked if there was similar apps already available, and determined our niche. We saw a huge opportunity in developing tools for the food truck owners. There are several good apps that are made to help customers find food trucks. We will never have millions of app downloads, but content broadcasted to the popular networks from Foodsponder will reach millions of followers and fans. There are well over 6,000 food trucks, and growing, in the U.S.
[M]: Has the beta version of Foodsponder launched?
RM: Foodsponder has not launched the beta program yet. We are actively signing up food trucks as we complete the app development. We are planning for a mid-summer launch to a beta user group that is going to be centralized in Columbus. We are still working on the application, meeting with food truck owners, and getting input on what they want from a social media management app.
[M]: The first six months are free for Foodsponder users in Columbus. How much will it cost to use Foodsponder beyond those six months?
RM: We have not settled on a price, but we want it to be extremely reasonable, knowing that food truck owners have limited marketing budgets. Keeping it under $10 per month means food truck owners can increase their customer engagement and pay for it with just two customers per month. The app will always be free to download and some features will be free to use.
[M]: Foodsponder lets food truck owners constantly update their locations on the social networks they prefer. How?
RM: Location Automation. If you have been to one of the popular food trucks in Columbus, you know the pace that these people work to turn out great food: quickly. There is no time for tweeting and updating your location.
In some cities that restrict where and for how long food trucks can operate in one location, sometimes you just gotta go and you can’t easily update your location. Foodsponder takes care of this automatically. We will initially interface with the most popular social networks, like Twitter, Facebook, and Foursquare. After the beta program, we will have an API to feed location data to food truck finder apps, like Hungerly and Eat St. It is meant to act as a broadcasting tool.
[M]: What are you doing professionally at the moment, besides developing Foodsponder?
RM: I am working with a friend and partner building an Italian food truck on the side. Piccola Strada will open this July. That is what led me to the Food Fort. The food truck community here is growing and really strong. That is what makes it such a great place to test the app before we roll out nationally.
My full time job is in business development for a great company that makes automation equipment and document management software. We all have other responsibilities, so we have been spending our nights and weekends working on Foodsponder. I guess you could say we are bootstrapping it.
[M]: Is there anything else you think we should know?
RM: If you own a food truck, go to Foodsponder.com and sign up to be part of our beta group. If you are hungry, go download one of the food truck finder apps and go on an adventure. There is some great food being made on the streets of Columbus, and we want to make it easier for everyone to know where they can be found. For updates and news on Foodsponder, we will be posting to Twitter at @foodsponder.
Melanie McIntyre served as editorial director of The Metropreneur from its launch in August 2010 to May 2013. She is also a featured writer for Columbus Underground and writes about fashion, style and pop culture on her blog, Thoroughly Modern Melly. Melanie is an Ohio State University graduate, lives in the Short North, and enjoys reading and running.
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