Guest Post: Cravosity LaunchPosted on • Posted in Articles, Teams
Malvi Hemani Kellogg ‘21, CEO & Founder of Cravosity, and former Resident startup incubated at The Garage at Northwestern, just launched the new food-tech app in Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington D.C. on Sunday, October 3rd. The day was celebrated with a sold-out launch party that had over 175+ local-foodies and influencers using the app that she started during the onset of the pandemic in 2020. Download it today in the Apple and Play stores – make your first plan and start connecting with friends today!
Article from Malvi Hemani:
At the start of the stay-at-home order in March 2020, I reflected on things I had taken for granted and was missing – both food and friends were high on the list. I honestly also found myself with a lot of time. I’d been toying with the idea of Cravosity for a few years, but decided there was no better way to spend quarantine than to try and build it.
As a food-lover and self-identifying planner, I was often the one planning dinners, brunches, and team lunches. While I was happy to do it, I also realized it wasn’t always seamless and took up more time than I would have liked. Group text threads with my friends would be unproductive, especially when manually trying to match the group’s availability and spending hours to find the right place that had a table and met everyone’s personal preferences. The frustration only compounds the larger the group.
After over 100 potential customer interviews, the responses were beyond my expectations. I heard everything from “I can never find a dish that isn’t pasta as a vegan,” to “After we find a time we can meet, several days have passed that there are never any good places available for our group,” to “It’s awkward expressing what you want. I’m often scared to tell my friends that I cannot spend $50 on brunch this weekend.” I was convinced that I wasn’t the only one who felt frustration when planning experiences.
My vision for Cravosity was to use technology to make the planning process more efficient and effective, ultimately leading to larger and more frequent group dining experiences. Cravosity serves as your personal dining concierge – we optimize across everyone’s schedules, cuisine preferences, and price constraints to curate and book three reservations for you to choose from. This reduces decision-fatigue and eliminates the time required to research and book restaurants. My goal was to save you time coordinating so that time could be spent on the thing we all love more: connecting (and maybe some more sleeping too).
As Spring quarter classes started, I was inspired to revitalize my computer science background during a class focused on developing minimum viable products. It was the perfect opportunity to build a prototype of Cravosity. I obsessively started coding a beta from my childhood bedroom during the stay-at-home order. Sometimes late at night, I’d be playing virtual Catan with friends while coding on my second monitor screen. In between trades, I’d ask for feedback on logo designs and the user experience.
Despite the excitement behind the idea, the thought of starting a company scared me. However, the immense support I received through both my Kellogg peers and The Garage community was the force I needed. I recruited a team of Kellogg peers – Drew Burkhard (Head of Product Strategy), Nikki Cope (Head of Business Development), Shashwat Sinha (Head of Product Design), and Angela Huang (Head of Marketing). Together, we ran a beta test for a few months that helped us refine a lot of our thinking.
Running a beta test in the heart of a pandemic posed it’s challenges, especially when the restaurant industry was essentially shut down. We first recruited ~35 people to participate in a user test, but they were unable to use the platform as they typically would have. In fact, we had to pivot a month in and build a new take-out module to test our hypotheses. However, the pandemic did reveal that there was strong, pent up demand for a solution like Cravosity as people were immensely craving connection and itching to go back out with friends.
We continued developing the v1 product as a Resident at The Garage where I met with other entrepreneurs weekly to share insights and had countless Office Hours with seasoned entrepreneurs who served as advisors. Mike Raab, The Garage’s associate director, in particular was an extreme supporter, always providing me with positive encouragement and setting up 30 minute calls with me whenever I needed to get feedback on ideas. We were so lucky that Mike also introduced us to Professor Xenakis, an ex-OpenTable executive, who helped guide us throughout our market validation.
Utilizing these resources for a few months, we built what Cravosity is today, building a demand of ~1800 people, completing mobile development, and growing our team to over seventeen people – a majority of which are Northwestern students! Together, we are all excited to bring Cravosity to the masses now, as well as bolster the re-opening restaurant industry through more large party reservations.
As I reflect back on building Cravosity, I was always worried about starting a company as a woman and sole entrepreneur, but it is now quite empowering to be one of the two women pitching in a room of twenty-five. I wish that I had started earlier and not been so scared to test my idea! There are so many ways that you can determine if your idea has momentum without spending lots of time or money. Honestly, there is never a perfect time so don’t be scared to just try; even if it fails, you will learn something. For anyone who has tried being an entrepreneur, the one thing you always need is a support group because startup therapy is real. I found that through The Garage and other communities including Stanford’s Galvanizer, 1871’s WISTEM, and The Startup Grind. Inspiration from other early-stage entrepreneurs gave me the confidence to take the risk. I hope my story inspires you to take a risk too.
We hope you enjoy Cravosity and join us on this journey to help everyone spend less time coordinating and more time connecting. Follow us at @cravosityusa on Instagram to stay informed and join our Craver Community!