Interview with Food Genius COO Eli Rosenberg – an Excelerate Company

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In this post Food Genius’ Eli Rosenberg gives his insight on applying to an accelerator, branding, fundraising, user insight, and more. Food Genius is a 2011 graduate of Excelerate Labs (now Techstars Chicago) – a top 3 ranked accelerator program.

How did you come up with the idea for your startup?

The current company is focused on a very different problem than we originally set out to solve – initially we began as a product to help consumers discover restaurants and explore foods, but the company has since transformed to provide unparalleled menu data to restaurateurs and CPG brands. So we came to this idea through many forks in the road, listening to mentors and advisers and having a better understanding of the industry we were focused on working with.

Advice on applying to an accelerator program?

I would say the best advice for applying to an accelerator is really to look at the caliber of mentors and advisors that are involved. The knowledge and advice you get from these individuals are probably the greatest aspect of working with an accelerator. For example, Troy Henikoff, CEO and Co-Founder of Excelerate Labs, was a huge support in helping us understand how to get investors in our early stages. Also I would say choose an accelerator with a reputation and a track record, don’t just apply willy nilly to any accelerators taking applications.Food Genius










What branding and marketing strategies worked for you? Any advice?

When thinking about branding, really know your audience and spend time on the design. We definitely have found that well thought out design is correlated to success with today’s consumers. It even earned us recognition in the running for an award at Core 77, an international industrial design publication, securing Food Genius as 2013 Professional Runner Up in the Food Design category.

What would you recommend to someone looking to start a company who wants to write a business plan?

Avoid it at all cost. Plans lock you down to something, as Jason Fried wrote in Rework – “Working without a plan may seem scary. But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier.” Instead, focus on building something you can put in front of customers and see what works.

Any advice on fundraising?

I’m not sure who to attribute this quote to, but one thing we heard from someone during Excelerate was “If you want money, ask for advice; if you want advice, ask for money.” Raise more money than you think you’ll need and be honest about where you are applying those resources. Be willing to talk to anyone, when you are fundraising you’re always pitching and you’ll be surprised who can introduce you to the right people.

Any problems faced or lessons learned?

One of our biggest challenges was how to price our product. We knew it offered more than the competition, but as a new player we knew we had to offer incentives to early adopters. Put real thought and enough time to think through all the pricing scenarios for your product.


Any recommended resources for companies looking to get their start?

We love Trello for task management, Campfire for team chat and Salesforce for Sales/CRM.

What were the best takeaways from your accelerator experience?

Focus, focus, focus. Really work hard to understand the problem you are solving and make sure everyone on your team is working every day in the right direction.

How did you go about getting user insight?

Track everything, every piece of data. It might not ever be useful, but at some point it might be, so you’re better off tracking and storing everything. Also, just ask. Customers are quick to let you know what they think.


A massive thank you to Eli for taking the time out of his busy schedule to put down some awesome answers to our questions. Be sure to check out Food Genius and to follow them on twitter!

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