Ex-Shopwell Exec Positions Yummly for Top Foodie Spot with Versatile, Open API

by Dan Holden | March 20, 2013

brian witlin

Palo Alto start-up Yummly, one of the fastest growing sites in the foodie market, has managed two huge wins in recent weeks, and we’re not talking about winning cake recipes.

The first win took place earlier this year, when Shopwell CEO and co-founder Brian Witlin joined Yummly as the head of mobile and platform development. Witlin, who has started several other companies and often lectures at Stanford, said he left Shopwell after a “difference of opinion about where the company was going.” He’s known as a technically savvy leader with great respect for data but an even stronger desire for smart execution.

“I think Yummly will be a true leader in the food tech space, primarily because the technology is so sophisticated,” said Witlin. “My goal [with Shopwell] was to do something great and execute, rather than just rely on the technology, so when they decided to downsize I walked over to Yummly that day. What Yummly is doing dovetails very nicely with what I want to be doing, so I am very excited about it.”

Witlin recognized right away that the Yummly database and API enabled new and better ways to disassemble and reconstruct minute details in powerful ways. That’s important in the online recipe market, where consumers are looking at food from every conceivable angle as it makes its way from the market display to the kitchen table.

Today, Yummly is announcing that it is launching the Yummly API,  an open API  (application programming interface) that allows third-party developers to access to all of its data – including over 1 million recipes and all the nutrition information, ingredients, diet, allergy, taste and technique parameters in the Yummly database. The combination of the new, open API and the goldmine of data behind will allow developers to create applications that allow consumers to find exactly what they are looking for, based on their own preferences.

“Our vision is to expand access to our API to provide a wide array of on-the-go formats for food and recipe lovers of all kinds,” said Witlin. “By officially opening up the Yummly API platform, we arm the developer community with valuable data that can be unlocked, repurposed and scaled to answer specific queries revolving around ingredients and recipes.”

Using its unique algorithms, collaborative filtering and intelligent search engine to structure and analyze massive recipe data sets from across the open web, Yummly’s customized user data encompasses a vast and evolving database for semantic search and discovery.

The unveiling of the API coincides with an upsurge in interest in slicing and dicing recipe data for a variety of apps and sites, many targeted for use on mobile devices, kitchen computers and even TVs.

“We don’t need to shift our technology to adapt to the upsurge in mobile devices,” said Witlin. “Websites and mobile apps are all built on the same API that we are pushing to the public, and we’ve got entire teams working extensively to ensure not just the quality of the data but the underlying engine as well. We build the whole thing from the ground up.”

Witlin said the company has a variety of revenue generation mechanisms, including advertising, default app installations on specialty equipment such as under-the-counter kitchen TVs, and search customization for large partners.

“We’ve got a lot of pilot programs going on with big brands right now, and they’re going very well,” said Witlin. “Having developers use the API is an additional source of revenue, because food manufacturers are eager to push their data through the API, which opens the door to revenue sharing or click-through type arrangements,” he added.

Witlin said the company is “not relying on the open API to be the core of our business, but it will be more and more core as we push relevance and promotions through the API.”

“We’re very positive about it, and the website itself is just phenomenal, growing by leaps and bounds, especially over the holidays,” he added.

One source of that growth has been the use of Yummly data in savvy third-party applications, like Pushpins.

“An integral component of our coupon application is to create better ways for shoppers to plan and execute trips to the grocery store,” said Peter Michailidis, co-founder and CMO of Pushpins, a major Yummly partner. “Integrated with our existing platform, the Yummly API greatly enhances Pushpins’ mobile capabilities, offering users intuitive recipe and nutrition information on the go for a more seamless shopping experience.”

Yummly will offer API plans for both commercial and non-commercial use beginning on March 20, 2013. Developers can test the Yummly API  or learn more about it here.
Yummly is backed by Physic Ventures, Unilever Corporate Ventures, First Round Capital, Harrison Metal Capital, Intel Capital, and The Harvard Common Press.  Its founding angel investors and advisory board members include Jeff Jordan of Andreessen Horowitz, Bill Cobb, CEO of H&R Block, Justin LaFrance of StumbleUpon, and Marcia Hooper and Brad O’Neill of TechValidate.

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