Business Rx: Mor.sl asks, When is it best to go after a bigger slice of the pie?

June 3, 2012
The entrepreneur

Mili Mittal was an MBA student at the University of California, Berkeley’s Haas School of Business when she came up with the idea for her venture. With little time each day to prepare and cook meals, Mittal was relying heavily on takeout for dinner. Realizing she wasn’t the only one, she create mor.sl, a District-based Web site designed to help busy professionals prepare healthy meals at home instead of always ordering out or eating frozen food.

The pitch

Mittal

Mor.sl is a Web application that learns users’ tastes, allergies and skill level and recommends recipes that will work for each unique individual. By personalizing and automating that mental algorithm that our

moms compute so well, we take care of planning so that young professionals can cook at home and improve their overall sense of health and wellness.

“We launched in early 2012 and are pleased with traction on our site so far. We have a pretty loyal user base, have been written up in TechCrunch and have received nothing but rave reviews from our users.

“The mor.sl recipe collection contains hand-curated recipes from our partner network of over 35 popular food bloggers. They are busy professionals who have figured out how to cook diverse, gourmet food in a time crunch, so they are a great source of recipes for our on-the-go users.

“Do you think it’s better to build a small, passionate user base and then scale it or, if traffic is coming in, to capitalize on that and grow your audience before you’ve perfected your product? Also, as a consumer Web app based in Washington, we are not in an ideal location for fundraising. Do you recommend we seek funding elsewhere? What are the key things investors look for in a consumer Web app?”

The advice

Harry Geller, entrepreneur in residence

“You business looks impressive at first glance. To answer your first question, I think it is better to make a few users love you than to have a mass market that is ambivalent toward what you are offering. I think if you can get your network of food bloggers to be really passionate about you, this could be a great way to start scaling mor.sl.

“If I were a potential investor, first I want to know your business and revenue models. Are you just a recipe Web site? What is the key difference that distinguishes you from other sites out there? You should be able to explain that in a sentence or two. Next, I want to know your market size, customer acquisition cost and the lifetime value of a customer? What is your mobility plan? This information has got to be compelling enough to show someone interested in mor.sl that they could get a good return on their investment.

“When you are looking for investors, make sure you are very realistic of what your monetary needs are. For example, if you are interested in raising $500,000, could you get by on only $250,000? Figure out what you really need to get by, and then go after it.”

The reaction

Mittal

“Thanks, Harry. This has been really helpful. I have one last question: What are your thoughts on looking for investors in D.C. versus Silicon Valley or New York City?”

Geller

“As far as location goes, Silicon Valley and New York City are obviously great places to be for Web applications. However, the Washington area is becoming a vibrant area for angel investments, which I think you could definitely look into for mor.sl. Having said that, consumer Web is riskier for D.C. investors, so if you don’t get anywhere quickly you should look elsewhere.”

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