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Get to know a Toronto startup: Venio

Posted by Anna Starasts / November 6, 2012

toronto startup venioAnyone who has ever tried to kickstart a healthier lifestyle knows how hard it can be. In the era of information overload and constantly changing food fads, it can also be downright confusing. Launched in late October, Venio is a free iPhone app that wants to make healthy eating simple to understand, easy to plan for and absolutely delicious.

Its use is intuitive; Input your health goals and diet restrictions, and the app will source recipes, create your grocery list, provide nutrition information and track your progress towards any weight loss goals. Best of all, it does so stylishly, with a slick user interface and tons of beautiful imagery of mouth-watering and healthy recipes, such as Sunshine Citrus Salad and Heavenly Artichoke Risotto.

Venio's co-founders, Jon Carr-Harris and Nima Gardideh, landed the startup a coveted spot in the Extreme Startups accelerator program, designed to launch promising tech startups into the market with a solid foundation for success (and potentially up to $200,000 to help them on their way).

Here's some of what Marketing Strategist Karim El Rabiey had to say about Venio's adventure in the Toronto startup landscape so far.

What inspired your team to start Venio? I mean, the market for health apps and websites has a lot of competition.

There are lots of calorie counters out there, but we wanted to approach things differently. People should stop counting calories and instead start living healthier, more comfortable lives.

Everyone wants to be healthy. But it can become a struggle. There's plenty of information and tools out there, but it can be stressful to understand all of it. There's contradictory information, there's super scientific information that you need a degree to understand, and then there's straight-up false information. We synthesize this information, clarify it, then simplify and personalize it to the user.

Who do you see as the ideal Venio user?

We want to help anyone who is struggling to manage a healthy balance in their life. They should be motivated. We can't create that motivation; we can only create the context in which they can be motivated. If they want to take control of their health, we're here to help. One of these people is our first test user, in Brazil. She's already lost 5 lbs while using Venio--knowing that just makes us happy.

Any new features to look forward to in the future?

We've identified that even more dietary preferences, taste preferences and recipes are things that users want. We'll also be looking for a simple way to recommend healthy restaurants. We've spent quite a bit of time thinking about is how to amplify motivation as well. We want to find out what keeps users engaged and how to keep helping them on their path to health.

If the app is free, how do you make money?

As with other startups at our stage, our main focus is building a strong user-base first. But we've already begun planning for a few avenues for revenue, one of which is premium features that can be unlocked for a cost. The second is premium content. Professional chefs, cookbook authors, or even brands can provide recipes to be purchased within the app. Yet another is corporate wellness; HR departments can provide Venio for their employees to ensure that everyone is happy and healthy, thereby improving productivity.

What have been your biggest challenges to getting Venio ready for consumers?

Getting into the iTunes App Store was brutal. Long wait times during their review process can be deadly to a startup. We also had some challenges gathering the right amount, and more importantly, the right type of recipes. Not only do we need a large variety, we need enough recipes for people with dietary restrictions. To help with this we've been working with some amazing food bloggers.



Jeff O'Neil / November 6, 2012 at 03:51 pm
I downloaded the app last week and I'm really happy with it! As someone who's been trying to lose 15 lbs for the last 6 months, I've lacked a sustainable method for staying healthy, and i'm fed up with calorie counters and weight watchers. Venio is definitely something that's been we'll thought through and they are really open to feedback. Executing healthy meals is super easy with the grocery list and i'm a big fan of their variety of recipes. I just wish more companies would adopt this willingness to listen. One bit of feedback I would give, is for them to add more dietary restrictions because I have a dairy allergy!
tommy / November 6, 2012 at 04:26 pm
Why does every computer program these days need to describe itself as "beautiful?" And has any start-up ever made money with the much-vaunted "premium" service scheme? Seems like the only way to make app-money is advertising. Oh, and I've never seen a worthwhile "corporate wellness" initiative - has anyone?
obamaisstaying replying to a comment from Jeff O'Neil / November 6, 2012 at 11:34 pm
Sure, right, mr. Venio rep
jacko / November 7, 2012 at 12:18 pm
anything similar for android users?
Karim replying to a comment from obamaisstaying / November 7, 2012 at 03:35 pm
As a Venio rep - I have no idea who Jeff is...but I would LOVE to talk to him :)
Karim / November 7, 2012 at 03:42 pm
There isn't anything similar on Android right now, but we are building our own Android app. To be released soon.

Actually - only 4% of the apps on the AppStore use the free app with in-app purchase model. That 4% makes up 48% of the AppStore revenue. As for corporate wellness - hopefully we'll be worthwhile. There are plenty of traditional programmes, but we're trying to introduce tech into the scene. We'll let you know how it goes :)
Dave replying to a comment from Karim / November 7, 2012 at 10:59 pm
Looking forward to the Android app! Hope you make it beautiful (and we'll designed for the platform), too.

Best of luck!
Josh / November 8, 2012 at 12:39 am
Do people actually plan meals? I usually just grab from the grocery store on the way home to cook that night or go to Burger King or Subway. Do you really need to plan?
Cindy / November 8, 2012 at 08:54 am
Looking forward to an android version as well! When can we expect it?
jay / November 10, 2012 at 02:49 pm
Is the app just vegan and vegetarian or is there meat options as well?
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