Foodspotting Co-Founder Soraya Darabi recently sat down with GIRLS WHO ROCK to discuss the qualities needed to run a startup, how social media platforms have changed the media industry, and which women in tech she thinks rock! Read on for much more….
During the work week , Soraya Darabi can be found at Foodspotting, a website and visual guide showcasing the most tantalizing and mouth watering dishes in the world (no really, check it out!). Ms. Darabi also divides her time at ABC News as a new media strategist. Prior to Foodspotting, she served as Product Lead at drop.io, a real-time online sharing and collaboration service recently acquired by Facebook. Additionally, she advises and works with non-profits such asGoods for Good.org and Robin Hood NYC and others on their social media strategy.
What is the inspiration behind Foodspotting?
So Foodspotting was conceived by my co-founder Alexa [Andrzejewski] when she was traveling to Japan with her husband Seth who also works with us. And she fell in love with some dishes like Okonomiyaki that she couldn’t find anywhere in the U.S. And she wanted to know–at first– how she could search for such dishes because there wasn’t a way to catalogue or chronicle
dishes in the world, at that point only restaurants. And at first the idea was to create a coffee table book or a catalog of the most unique dishes in the world. But through meeting our cofounder Ted Grubb, she was able to conceive of the Iphone application Foodspotting and together they built it. I joined in late 2009 as an advisor and in 2010 as a co-founder, we raised funding last August and are now a team of ten! It’s really exciting how fast everything has progressed.
From what you’ve seen, what qualities does a young techie need to have to start and maintain a successful tech startup or company?
It’s crucial to be ambitious, it’s crucial to feel confident in your idea, even when others aren’t as confident. A friend of mine who heads up a start up called skillshare, is advocating that all entrepreneurs read a book called, Start With Why by Simon Sinek. Sinek makes a compelling argument that you not supposed to think about what it is your building, you have to always think about why you’re building what it is that you are building. The “why” will help you understand your consumer needs and whether you’re actually creating something that’s of need and of value.
It’s also crucial to have a very strong team and to like each other. I rely on my co-workers as teammates now. You have to jell as a team when you’re first starting out because it is everything. And I’d also recommend, if you’re going to take on investment, find investors who believe in your mission and who are with you every step of the way.
You have achieved a great amount of success since your time at University, but what’s the best mistake you ever made? What was something that you thought was a bad idea at the time but helped your career in the long term?
Well I am really excited to read a book coming out by the academic Sara Lewis called RISE: The Power of Failure in Pursuit of Success. I suppose wanting to get ahead too quickly was a mistake I made in my earlier twenties. When you first start out and you think about all the things you’d like to accomplish in your career and that time frame feels really short when you’re first getting going. I just wanted to speed ahead as quickly as possible and only by slowing down did I think about pace, and what I was learning from each job, and how many more miles I had to go in each job. We can’t always accomplish everything we want to accomplish in a ridiculous tight time frame. But I think it is important for women especially to recognize that we have our whole lives to prove ourselves.
I think a lot of attention is given to young college-aged CEOs; it’s like look at her, she is thirty and owns her own company.
In entrepreneurism as well, if you look at VCs and how they so cherish and revel in young college age dropouts, genius entrepreneurs who are able to dedicate every hour of the day to coding and building a product. And you know what, that is very much the stereotype of the entrepreneur of 2000. But a decade later, there’s a different model that we women have to amend. And that’s the entrepreneur who understands exactly how to achieve what it is they’d like to achieve with a strong balance of life.
You began your career at the New York Times as a Manager of Digital Partnership and Social-Media Marketing. Currently, you have been a consultant and social media correspondent for ABC, how do you think the industry is changing in the way they communicate to the public about information?
It’s a revolution of change, it’s a daily morph in how people are receiving news and conveying it. In 2007, when I joined the New York Times to be the manager of social media, we were calling it buzzmarketing, and launching a facebook page seemed a nice to have, but not a need to have. And now Facebook released it’s Facebook guide for journalism and twitter released theirs as well.
Ultimately, traditional media will stick around in every form, in the same vein that radio hasn’t gone away, print newspapers aren’t going away, and television is not entirely going away because there are so many ways in which people crave to understand information. And there are vessels that will appeal to every demographic in every generation. It’s just a matter of finding the best way to meld all of these important mediums so that we’re not losing the importance of audio information. We’re not losing the impact reading Nick Kristof in the Sunday Times because long form journalism, investigative journalism needs to subsist in order for us to be a healthy society, to understand problems, and to really soak them in. To that effect, twitter is also necessity because we have become addicted to real time information.
In addition to Foodspotting, you work with several non-profits. What prompts you to do so? And In what ways can technology be used to promote a non-profit’s message and cause?
I think it’s really important first and foremost for non-profit organizations to become more web literate, there are great online platforms like Jumo, helping various organizations facilitate information online and to disseminate that information. There are so many non-profits just now tiptoeing into the world of new media, and unfortunately they don’t have first to market advantage, so they’re very much behind.
I think what non-profits need to do better is to understand the two worlds and how best to balance between them—how to best straddle old media, traditional media, and also elevating a new media platform, if nothing else to effectively reach a younger demographic of potential subscribers or potential donors.
In your tech Crunch Founder Stories Interview, you quoted Matt Damon, by stating that “99 percent of the world’s problems would be solved if we all had a thicker passport, how has traveling changed your worldview.
Traveling has been very important to me. I have been fortunate enough to have two parents who
valued travel above just about anything. My father lives internationally, he lives in Iran. My mother travels internationally for work. And just through traveling with my family alone, I have been able to see countries that your typical tourist doesn’t necessarily have access to. Some of the most impactful trips I have taken, have been to third-world nations like Malawi or rural parts of Ecuador, where you see how people live in conditions unlike anything you ever been exposed to. It’s only through travel like that, I feel as though your worldviews can be broadened and you can really start to feel empathy. It’s hard not to take for granted what we have here in the U.S., and only through travel can we really begin to feel like a world citizen.
Where was the last place that you visited?
That last trip I took was to Australia a month ago, but it was through work. It was an amazing trip in part because I had help from my Australian friends who put the trip itinerary together for me, and seeing the Blue mountains of Australia was truly breathtaking. I fell in love with the city of Melbourne, which reminds me a lot of Austin, Texas in some ways.
What are you the first in your family to do?
I am the first person in my family to be in a movie, I was an extra. Minneapolis became a city where films shot, because it was cheap to shoot. So I am the first person in my family to technically be in a film, and have a credit in the film.
Who are some GIRLS in tech or social media who you think rock?
Brooke Moreland and Ashley Granata of Fashism rock
Dina Kaplan of Blip.TV is amazing
Kathryn Minshew of The Daily Muse is an exceptional new talent
Alexis Tryon of Artsicle is a very cool woman in tech
Caterina Fake of Flickr has always been an inspiration to me
Randi Zuckerberg of Facebook is incredible and just yesterday she announced she is starting a social-media agency of her own. I know she will continue to do tremendous work in our industry with her new media company.
Filed under: Tech Thursday by stephanie