Norwegians are not really known to be outgoing people. This might also be true for any other Northern European country. So sharing the meal with strangers sounds a bit like a crazy idea in this region. Metteliva Sofia Henningsen was not afraid of that, so she started her own startup with the aim to help people to become more open.
She explains: “My idea is called Eatincommon. This is a platform where people can meet and share the meal together. It works simply – you can host an event or join other people’s event,”. We interviewed her to find out more:
Where did the idea for Eatincommon come from?
It came from me sitting in my apartment in Copenhagen. The buildings are close to each other there. I used to look right into the apartment across the yard with the family that always had beautiful family dinners. I sat in my kitchen alone and I was eating alone and I thought that those dinners look so fun! So I thought that there must be other people in my building who wants the same thing as me – to meet up for the dinner. So I decided to create an app where people could communicate within a building. But what if there are people two streets away? Then my app has limitations for meeting them. The answer was the Eatincommon website, which I then created.
What previous experience did you have before you built your startup?
I had no experience at all in building websites. I started to get advice and found out that I should build wireframes. So I started with that. Afterwards everything I have found out being an entrepreneur is coincidence. Somehow I found everything I needed. For example, I said to myself that I need a developer or I need to speak with the designer. And they found me!
That’s good, but everybody needs some money for living as well as time to work on such a project…
I was lucky, because I moved to Norway with my boyfriend. So I didn’t have many expenses. I applied for funding at Innovation Norway and I got that! I was very naive. I was unaware of actual costs and how many hours it actually takes to build something. I somehow imagined that I can do this project with zero or at least low budget. But you can’t… The most expensive part of the project was backend development due to the website’s interactivity and due to the fact that I wanted to build it from the scratch.
What’s the business model behind the idea?
We receive 15% of every dinner. The host is setting the price. It is possible to have dinner for free and we earn nothing, but we encourage people to set the price and they do most of the time. And if they add extra 15%, then they don’t have to pay extra for using our system. We are doing quite well in terms of business, but we are doing extremely well when we are using the platform for different projects. For example, we were inviting 31 people to host the vegan dinner. We linked them afterwards with photographers and writers and called this project 31 days of veganuary. These events were all over the world – easy to relate and market for us. Ultimately we are putting all pictures and writings together in one big cookbook – the first social dining vegan cookbook. This project is promoting our business and helps us not to promote it in a traditional way. We have not published the book yet, but I believe that it is going to be great success for us. Also municipalities are now good opportunities to market our project. They request “open city” type of projects – it means that they want to build local communities around cities.
Can you describe hosts and guests a bit?
We have different segments and groups – people who want to meet new people, people who want to promote art or small businesses and people who are new in town. And then there are hyper social people who don’t want to miss anything as well as introvert people who can get a monthly stimulation this way. We do everything we can to have a variety during the dinner so it could turn out to be a fun social experience. We encourage hosts to have a plan for the dinner. We plan to add an option in the future that you as a guest can start the dinner. You can post that you want to be a guest and ask the question who wants to host you.
How often do you participate in dinners?
Rarely. And I have also been hosting a few dinners at the very beginning. I want this project to work without me.
Do you have plans for expansion in other countries?
Yes. Some of our competitors have tried to take over all the world at once and we have seen that it was not successful. We are still focusing on building the solid base in Northern Europe. Scandinavia is good for our concept – its dark, its cold and its rainy here; people have finances, time and nice homes. We have had events in New York and in Africa as well. We are communicating with some people in Australia and New Zealand, which are also potential target markets for us.