After 2 Decades in the Navy, Officer Sets Sail on an Entrepreneurial Journey

February 2, 2012

11:30 am

Chito Peppler served for 20 years in the U.S. Navy, but lately he has traded his uniform for the casual dress of the entrepreneur.

“After serving in the military, I wanted to start my own business. I knew how to take orders – now I wanted to be able to make them,” says Peppler.

Peppler’s startup, RUNIN Out, is a beta web app that recommends restaurants and dishes in DC.  The app learns your preferences based on your favorite dishes and ingredients and can even factor in your mood.

“Looking for a romantic spot to propose to your GF? Going out with a bunch of colleagues but don’t want to have to shout to be heard? RUNIN Out makes these distinctions,” explains the startup, which is based in DC.

How that works isn’t exactly clear, but these distinctions are made based on studying reviews with algorithms and some human intelligence. Peppler sees RUNIN Out as a complement to Yelp, but it could certainly be runin’ in to competition from apps like Chicago-based Food Genius. I wish it were a bit easier to choose whether to search restaurants or dishes on RUNIN Out, and it wasn’t obvious that my food preferences were factoring into the recommendations (but, admittedly, I had just signed up).

Born out of an MBA class two years ago at George Washington University, RUNIN Out has faced its share of setbacks. In summer 2011, Peppler took a 6-week road trip to Silicon Valley and Canada to test out the idea, spending sleepless nights in his car to save money. He stopped by an incubator, but they sent him packing because he didn’t have a cofounder at the time. (Now, Peppler works with financial advisor Stephanie Chak.)

But what did he learn in the Navy? “Determination, perseverance, and drive,” says Peppler. “Every time we’ve been rejected, we’ve come back stronger.”

RUNIN Out will be showcased at our February 16 Tech Cocktail DC mixer, where you can hear more of their story.

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Kira M. Newman is a Tech Cocktail writer interested in the harsh reality of entrepreneurship, work-life balance, and psychology. She is the founder of The Year of Happy and has been traveling around the world interviewing entrepreneurs in Asia, Europe, and North America since 2011. Follow her @kiramnewman or contact kira@tech.co.

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