Interview With Jake Aronskin

Describe your product or service:

“Social cooking app to create, share, and discover food with family and friends.”

Describe your company values and mission:

“Our mission is to provide the premier application for social cooking by empowering chefs from all backgrounds and skill sets with the tools to expand their cooking horizons.

Values:

Diversity: We believe in celebrating the unique backgrounds, skill sets, cultures, and every other characteristic that defines and differentiates us. We are a platform to share and praise the individuality of all chefs and their edible creations.

Unity: Built to unite the disaggregated communities of people sharing food on social platforms, Pepper brings together diverse minds through the common love of food, drink, and socializing into a single community. By uniting a diverse group, we bind the strength of community with a range of knowledge and experience, expanding our social circles and culinary horizons together.

Integrity: We are a platform of honesty and transparency, from the values we uphold to the food we share. We provide a platform where users can share honest pictures of their food choices and search an ever-growing community of options to replicate — options that reflect the true character of the food community, not of computer-generated creations.”

How are you funded? I.e. venture capital, angel investors, etc.

“Angel investors.”

How big is your team? Tell us a little about them (I.e. co-founders, freelancers, etc.)

“Jake Aronskind (CEO, co-founder Social Investing Startup Rapunzl (Former)), Matthew Schkolnick (COO, co-founder, Current M&A @ Deloitte), Spencer Rappaport (CFO, Equity Research @ MS), Lior Schinagel (Head of Product, Product @ Qwik, Former Original Content @ Netflix)”

Did you always want to start your own business? What made you want to become an entrepreneur?

“We grew up inspired by the founders of major tech companies and always wanted to stretch our own influence in society through a personal company. We always pitched ideas to each other as close friends throughout our upbringing; however, Pepper is the first one that we finally felt matched our lofty expectations and necessitated being made.”

How did you come up with your startup idea? How did you decide to actually act on the idea? What gave you confidence that you were on the right track?

“We picked this idea because we wanted to use a social cooking platform, but it didn't exist. We loved sharing meals with each other, but we had no place to efficiently do it outside of texting each other and posting on our socials. We loved similar vertical platforms for other niche activities in our lives (ex: Strava, Goodreads), so we created one for cooking.

We knew people needed a social cooking platform because millions of people post pictures of their food across many different platforms. We realized people loved sharing their food, but the disaggregated nature of the community told us that they didn't know where to do it.”

How did you come up with your company name? Did you have other names you considered?

“We juggled many different names (ChefIt, Cookbook, Wala), but ultimately decided on Pepper because we felt it was the only strong enough word to support the gravity of the revolutionary application we were building.”

What is the greatest challenge you faced in starting your business, and how did you overcome it?

“The greatest challenge was getting started. We put off the idea for nearly a year because we had no idea how to take the first step. But when the pandemic started, we realized the world needed a place to share food even more, and every day we waited to build it was another day someone else got closer to achieving our vision. 1+ year later, we are at the forefront of the social food movement because we took that first step!”

Who is your product or service made for? Who is your target market?

“Our target demographic is adults 18+ who cook 20+ times per month and use social media:

184 million = Americans 18+ & use social media

149 million = 81% of Americans cook 20+ times per month

15 million Americans = 10% of this group”

What's your marketing strategy?

“1. Influencer-based marketing
2. Paid digital advertising
3.Targeted outreach in existing “foodie” communities (e.g., Facebook groups)
4.College ambassador program
5. Incentive-based competitions”

How did you acquire your first 100 customers?

“We started with giving creators exclusive access. They helped us get 1,000+ users in the first two weeks.”

What are the key customer metrics / unit economics / KPIs you pay attention to to monitor the health of your business?

“MAU: 400 to 2.5K in first three weeks

Time spent on the platform per user: 3min to 5:19min in the first three weeks.”

What's your favorite entrepreneurial book and podcast?

“‘Shoe Dog’ [and] ‘How I Built This.’”

What is the biggest lesson you learned during your journey?

“It's important to stay mentally even-keeled. There will be highs, there will be lows, but it's important to keep your mindset tempered regardless of what's going on. The spectrum of emotions for a founder can be 100x greater than that of another job, so it's essential to stay grounded in every situation to make sure you're ready to keep pushing forward on the marathon that is a startup's journey.”

Who is your support system?

“My family (my dad specifically), my friends, and fellow founders.”

How do you stay motivated?

  • “Read founder stories (Shoe Dog, Steve Jobs, Hatching Twitter, Amazon Unbound, Elon Musk by Ashlee Vance)
  • Seeing user growth and talking to users inspires me to keep going with our initial success
  • Watching other companies succeed”

Did you have to develop any habits that helped lead you to success? If so, what are they?

“Task-based lifestyle: making sure I set daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly goals.”

What are you most proud of as an entrepreneur?

“I am most proud that as a first-time founder without mobile development knowledge, I helped lead an app to successfully launch on the app store with thousands of users in the first several weeks!”

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