Geoff Bartakovics, co-founder and CEO of Tasting Table, recently gave a talk at the Assembled Food conference, an event focused on the convergence of the food industry and the startup space. Tasting Table is a free daily email publication that delivers the best of food and drink culture to adventurous eaters across the country. Per a recent Los Angeles Times article, the five-year-old company has attracted 1.7 million subscribers for daily email editions that focus on five major metropolitan areas.
During his talk, Bartakovics focused on practical advice for entrepreneurs looking to start up in the food-tech space, but many of his "lessons learned" -- covering everything from motivating employees to productivity software -- could apply to a variety of businesses.
Here are the highlights:
Time and money spent on developing a strong brand is well spent, Bartakovics said. "If you are not a designer, be smart enough to know you're not a designer," he said to entrepreneurs who think they can do it all. Spending money on design doesn't necessarily mean breaking the bank, he said, noting that the company he worked with on Tasting Table's brand identity was an up-and-comer looking to have a strong portfolio client. "Look for a design firm that is similar in size and vision to your own company," he advised. "So when you are just starting out, look for a company that is just starting out as well."
More from About on branding.
Motivating Your Employees
It's not raises that keep employees motivated. "That money goes directly into their bank accounts and in a couple of weeks, they not longer associate that money with you," he said. It also doesn't come from snacks or other perks. "People's confidence that you can build a successful business is what keeps them coming in every day. Always make sure that people see you working hardest."
More on hiring employees from About.
Bartovokics strongly feels that "single sign on" applications -- like Google Apps -- are essential for getting everyone on staff on the same digital page. Google Apps is a platform that allows business owners to use and supply their employees with @theirdomainname.com email addresses along with access to all of the familiar Google services like mail, calendar and more. In addition to Google services, there is also an "app market" that can provide "single sign on" integration with a host of other services.
He also likes 47 Signals Highrise and Basecamp software. Highrise is a contact management software that he highlights as an alternative to Salesforce for organizing and managing leads. Basecamp is a project management software that helps distributed teams stay on track on complex tasks.
More on boosting productivity from About.
"Press is like cocaine -- it'll give you temporary swagger, but it's expensive, it's empty calories and you'll have a hangover later." It's better to build a business that has a high level of quality delivered consistently to customers, he reports, which may require patience in the beginning.
On Being Unique
"I don't lose sleep over worrying that google is applying 800 engineers to copying what we're doing with TastingTable," Bartakovics explained of his stance on a highly competitive tech space. Rather he and his team focus on the things that cannot easily be replicated by others such as a strong editorial voice, deep expertise and connections within the restaurant business in select cities, and a strong relationship with their subscriber base. While other more tech-focused startups are chasing the latest technological edge, he knows that his audience is responding to Tasting Table's deep niche expertise.
More on finding the right niche for your business.