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Do not be afraid to ask questions and hear opinions

BonAPI capturing macro- and micro-nutritional information to find suitable alternatives

Please introduce yourself and the startup BonAPI to our readers!

We are two mid-twenty-year olds working on building our own company. While preparing meals for larger groups of friends we found it difficult to easily find ideal replacements to certain ingredients that would allow for the meal to be enjoyed by all (including those with dietary and allergen needs) – this was the inspiration for BonAPI.

BonAPI offers alternatives to searched ingredients, taking into consideration the composition (macro- and micro-nutrients), structure and flavour profiles of the ingredient in question, and adapts these alternatives dynamically to suit any dietary and allergen requirements that the replacement needs to adhere to. We have also identified other parameters that will be introduced, such as price, accessibility and the environmental cost of ingredients.

As we have been developing BonAPI further, we have continuously found new areas of application. Our objectives now lie in integrating the technology in ways it can have the most impact, validate and curate the product to demand and further develop the technology itself.

With a data-driven approach, BonAPI is easily scalable and built to immediately include new ingredients through adding their composition and other data. The digital nature of BonAPI allows it to be seamlessly integrated with other digital solutions in food related sectors.

Why did you decide to start a company?

The value of independence in working for oneself and the joy of creating something new with the aim to add value to society was a primary driver for starting our own business. Once we had our idea of BonAPI, we wanted to explore it further and we felt it was the right time to take the risk, get started and learn along the way.

What is the vision behind BonAPI?

BonAPI’s goal is to provide solutions to the unsuitability or scarcity of certain ingredients through offering viable alternatives. Such limitations are the result of a growing trend towards vegetarian and vegan diets; increasing levels of food allergies and intolerances; decreased ingredient accessibility as a result of disrupted supply chains as well as the environmental cost brought on by globalisation and the scale and methods of food production.

From the idea to the start what were the biggest challenges so far and how did you finance yourself?

Coming from a finance background with no coding experience, we were both daunted by the prospect of starting a data-driven, software-based company. A key decision, and the largest challenge we have had to face, was then dedicating a few months of our time to learning web development, and once confident enough, building the first version of BonAPI ourselves. This approach not only taught us a new skill we have come to enjoy but has also allowed us to keep our development costs low and to maintain full ownership of BonAPI.

Now coding, both front- and back-end, is both an integral and gratifying part of our work.

Who is the target group of BonAPI?

Our initial target group is digital recipe providers, whose recipes we can help make dynamic by adapting the ingredients to suit any dietary or allergy requirements and preferences of their users. Not only can BonAPI offer suitable alternatives to undesired ingredients, we can also offer the digital recipe providers composition data to create nutritional profiles of their recipes as well as communicate the changes therein when ingredients are replaced.

Moving on from this, we see potential for the BonAPI technology in other food related businesses such as food wholesale, food formulation companies and catering services. 

How does BonAPI work? Where are the advantages? What distinguishes you from other providers?

BonAPI uses multiple data points of each ingredient capturing their macro- and micro-nutritional (minerals and vitamins) information and flavour and structure profiles to find suitable alternatives. These alternatives can be tailored to suit various requirements, for example dietary and allergen constraints set by the user.

API customers also directly benefit from any updates to the database in terms of new ingredients or data-points as the additions are immediately integrated in the algorithm and thereby available to them.

Current solutions to finding alternatives to an ingredient lie in finding a page with a limited list of ingredient types and potential substitutes. While informative, these lack the dynamic nature, scalability and integrability of BonAPI’s solution.

How has your company changed with Corona?

As an internet-based business that was in the final stages of preparing for reaching out to customers and a market entrance when Corona hit Europe, we were not too directly affected. Previously, we had worked together remotely on multiple occasions already, so we were able to adapt well to the new working conditions introduced by self-isolation.

How did you adjust to it and what changes did you make?

As an internet-based service, operationally we were largely unaffected. Beyond having to work remotely for a while during the strictest isolation periods and conducting some activities surrounding the founding of the company digitally, we were fortunately largely unaffected.

Where do you see the chance in the crisis?

With supply chains being disrupted through this crisis, as well as some panic buying behaviour, some foods and ingredients became no longer available. With many people returning to cooking their own food, BonAPIs solution can allow these homecooks to continue preparing their favourite meals even with certain ingredient shortages.

BonAPI, where does the way go? Where do you see yourself in five years?

With the initial focus lying in the digital recipe space, we will look to fully cater to all the peripheral services that digital recipes may require with respect to ingredient information. Once we are well established here, we will continue our roadmap to enter into catering, food wholesale and food formulation areas. 

Hopefully, in five years from now, the BonAPI technology will have played a part in formulating many of the prepared foods you eat, will be enabling more efficient allocation of our food supplies and of course be assisting you in your personal cooking endeavours.

At the end: Which 3 tips would you give to future founders?

Spend time nurturing your network, when starting in an established company it is reasonably easy to get in contact and form connections with coworkers and industry partners. When starting your own business, you will most likely spend a significant portion of your time away from society developing your product. However, when it comes to later spreading awareness and launching your product, your personal connections can be vital and save you a lot of frustration in cold emailing and calling 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and hear opinions – other entrepreneurs, potential investors, friends, family and others can all offer valuable advice. Not everyone may like your idea, but they can always be a source of useful feedback and offer perspectives on what you’re working on from different angles – this is sometimes hard to see yourself when so deeply involved.

Be a jack of all trades! Have at least some knowledge in all areas of expertise that need to be present to start your business. If you need to build an algorithm, learn the basics of coding – at most it will allow you to build at least a prototype, at worst you can understand your contracted development team and participate in the process. Legal, accounting, paying taxes, figuring out corporate structures – be open to figuring out at least a basic understanding of these areas before consulting experts so you are clear of what it is you need to know and don’t rack up unnecessarily high fees early on – they can be expensive.

More information you will find here

Thank you Moritz Pill and Fabian Apel for the Interview

Statements of the author and the interviewee do not necessarily represent the editors and the publisher opinion again.

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