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How to Stay Competitive in a Crowded Marketplace: An Interview with Valerie Coffman of Feastie

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When we first covered Feastie last September, we had decided that 2011 was the year of the recipe site.  Despite the very crowded market they are operating in, Feastie, a DC-based recipe search site that generates shopping lists based on what you want to cook, has continued to grow, evolve, and stay competitive.

Part of their success is based on the algorithm that co-founder and CEO Valerie Coffman developed to pull into the site as many recipes as possible.  “We are trying to create one place for people to discovery recipes from everywhere,” Coffman told me.  “Since Tech Cocktail last wrote about us, Feastie has quintupled the number of recipes on the site from 10,000 to 50,000, and we are adding new recipes every day. We also just went through a design refresh to amp up the food porn aspect .”

So don’t visit the site if you’re starving and food is not within reach.

Their other big news is a contest they are running for food bloggers.  As Coffman explained: “We’re gonna send a food blogger to a conference in May in DC called EatWrite Retreat.  We’re calling the contest a photo potluck – we’ll choose ten finalists – and the winner will be chosen by vote on Feastie.”

The contest sounds like fun – creativity, food, recipes, food porn – what’s not to like?  But one of the reasons they decided to run this contest came as a bit of surprise:

“We had a little bit of a controversy with food bloggers.  Because recipes are on somewhat questionable copyright grounds, it is easy to rip off someone else’s recipes.  Someone took a food blog that did not belong to them and turned it into an Kindle eBook.  Bloggers thought this is what we were going to do at Feastie for some reason, but we actually drive traffic to food bloggers’ sites – we don’t copy the recipe like some recipe sites, we link back to the original post on their site.

“We do show the recipe in a frame so we can add our interactive tools [like the shopping list generator] to the original recipe and show those 2 things side by side, but one of our goals is to build community within the food blogging community. We want to prove that we love food bloggers with this contest – and bring them together and promote what they are doing.”

Coffman also just built a widget for food bloggers that puts Feastie tools directly on their blog – so a user can click a button and build a shopping list directly from a recipe on that food blog.  “We are just starting to promote that.  It’s still in the testing phase, but we’re looking for feedback from food bloggers on what would make this a must-have. “

Feastie has a few thousand users and traffic is growing slowly but surely. Because they have their own blog on the site, they get a lot of traffic that way.  They have some funding, have won 2 business plan competitions, and just inked a deal with Fortify.vc.

Quitting one’s day job to fully focus on a startup is scary, but here’s some advice from Coffman if you are about ready to take the leap:

“I quit my job because I got over the fear of not having a steady paycheck – I do have savings – but I also realized that if you can program, you can get freelance work.  My advice to anyone who is thinking about leaving their job to start a startup or work for one, if you can program, do it and quit, and you can work enough freelance jobs to pay your bills and make it work.  I am a lot happier!”

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About the Author

Monika Jansen is a writer and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, newsletters, website content, and other materials. Follow her at: @monikacjansen

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