A new website wants you to tell stories about food — recipes, memories, a mind-blowing meal — and share them on its social network.
Chicago-based Morsel uses digital storyboards to package your adventures and put them alongside those from the pros. (Stories on the site include Paul Kahan talking about where Big Star tortillas come from and Rick Bayless eating ribs with his farmer.)
The site’s co-founders, tech entrepreneur and CEO Kris Petersen and restaurant publicist Ellen Malloy, said they’ve got more than 1,000 sign-ups — along with an $800,000 round of seed-fund backing.
The seed fund includes money from GrubHub co-founder and CEO Matt Maloney, who will serve as chairman, and was led by Chicago Ventures with participation from Merrick Ventures and several Chicago and San Francisco-based angel investors. Merrick Ventures Chairman Michael W. Ferro Jr. is also chairman of the Sun-Times.
A free iOs app guides users through a content creation process and, in addition to sharing among the Morsel community, bundles the content for optimized distribution to the user’s social networks and, through a widget, on their website.
“Morsel gets to the heart of what makes every chef unique: the story of how his or her dishes come together,” Kahan said.
Malloy pointed out that “in restaurants, stories sell.”
“This is why servers are armed with information about the philosophies, ingredients and unique vision of each dish, drink and wine on the menu,” she said. “There is no reason that content should remain locked inside the four walls of the restaurant.”
Petersen said the company’s goal is to engage 30 to 40 percent of Chicago’s independent, “chef-driven” restaurants in the first quarter of next year, and to use that base to expand to New York and San Francisco.
As for making money, it’s not a primary focus at the moment, but Petersen said the goal will be to start testing options including:
- Sponsored content for major restaurants or brands.
- Hosting an advertiser’s create-your-best-dish contests on the website using a specific ingredient such as Kraft macaroni and cheese.
- Audience targeting so that a search shows the advertiser at the top of the list, like a paid Google search.
- E-commerce, much like interior design site Houzz does now, enabling users to click on a pot on a stove to buy it.
Indeed, Petersen said he considers Houzz his “North Star” guiding light since it closed a $165 million round of financing Oct. 1 and boasts a market value of more than $2 billion.
Making Morsel successful likewise will be based on having rich content and an audience with specific interests that can be monetized, he said.