toronto startup venio

Get to know a Toronto startup: Venio

Anyone 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.

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