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Foodspotting Begins Looking for Business Models

Startup wants to be the virtual blackboard for daily specials

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Foodspotting.com CEO and co-founder Alexa Andrzejewski has said she's currently more interested in building an audience than making money—but the social food recommendation startup is beginning to experiment with business models.

Those experiments take a couple of different forms. One of them, a partnership with deals startup Scoutmob, shows up whenever you open Foodspotting's mobile app. The app presents a lineup of food recommendations in your neighborhood (Foodspotting users post pictures and reviews of different dishes), but the second spot is reserved for a deal from Scoutmob (say, 50 percent off on a hamburger at a nearby restaurant).

The initial response has been positive, Andrzejewski said, and Foodspotting could expand its deal offerings—mostly by working with partners like Scoutmob, rather than building its own program.

"Right now we haven't built up a lot of restaurant relationships ourselves," she said. "We've spent some time talking to restaurant owners, and they're just completely overwhelmed by every startup approaching them."

Foodspotting could also become a virtual blackboard for restaurants that want to share their daily specials with a broad audience, Andrzejewski said. The company has been talking to businesses about a program where they could push specials at targeted Foodspotting users. So, for example, if you're a fan of burritos, you might receive a notification whenever there's a restaurant in your neighborhood offering a related special.

National brands also appear to be interested in reaching Foodspotting's audience. Earlier this month, the company announced a promotion with Sony and Pretzel Crisps where Foodspotting users could win "golden tickets" for using the app, and those tickets could be redeemed for rewards from both companies.

If this is all tentative and experimental, it still suggests that Foodspotting may eventually be able to turn its user base (the company announced in August that its app has been downloaded more than 1 million times) into a real moneymaker.

As for building an audience, Andrzejewski said she plans to release a new version of the app early next year, one that could make Foodspotting more appealing to nonfoodies. It moves away from a search-based model, instead presenting a "Pandora-like" interface that recommends food based on your preferences.