Meet MUNCH, the new kid on the app store. MUNCH is a food discovery app that helps users look for restaurants based on their food preferences, providing quality dining options for users to enjoy a hearty meal.
Before you brush it off as just another food discovery app, know that MUNCH has found a way to set itself apart from its competitors.
Co-founders Mr Earnest Lim and Mr Loh Fu Xing met when they were in the National Service. Mr Loh, the mastermind behind the technology the app runs on, told Mr Lim about his technology and asked him what he would do with it.
Together, the pair began “‘scoping out various features and business models” over the following months.
We spoke with one of the co-founders of MUNCH, Earnest, to find out more.
Enhancing The Dining Experience
With other existing food discovery apps in the market, one might wonder why the founders of Munch felt that there was a need for another one. According to Earnest, the options the current market offers are limited.
“There are existing food discovery apps but the utility is very basic, you can only filter some things and read on up on what strangers have said about the place.”
The youthful co-founder elaborated that the current food discovery experience is “a very individual and siloed experience”, one that he finds contrary to “what having a meal together represents.” Earnest explained how MUNCH was able to focus on the dining experience, and not just focus solely on gathering data. This was made possible by their use of a proprietary algorithm.
Quality and Convenience
If you’ve ever fretted over where to eat with your friends, we feel you. With friends working and studying all over Singapore, dinner plans are even harder to coordinate. The founders behind MUNCH recognise that the struggle is real— and for this reason, EatBetween was created.
“Simply finding a common location to eat and what’s good there was a hassle before EatBetween came along.”
EatBetween allows users to input a number of locations. The app then generates dining recommendations based on those perimeters. Earnest cites their algorithm as one reason why the founders were able to direct their resources to better use.
“We were able to come up with a feature like EatBetween because we did not have to invest resources to think about how to get data and content on the platform.”
Artificial Intelligence, Authentic Recommendations
MUNCH also capitalises on artificial intelligence (AI) to make the app more user-friendly. Earnest thinks of AI as a tool that, “where applied correctly, can unlock amazing benefits.”
As the use of AI automates the data generation process, it allows the founders to focus on improving the user experience.
“Our system is able to aggregate data points to derive meta-data and rich media about restaurants. The best analogy would be – if Munch were a restaurant, we’ve figured out how to automate our kitchen, this frees up resources to create an amazing frontend experience. “
To provide real and reliable recommendations, MUNCH partners with local Instagrammers and bloggers to feature their content on the food discovery platform. The process is made simple and hassle-free. With a click of a button, their content is tagged to the corresponding restaurant.
Hurdles and Hardships
As both founders are currently still students of Singapore Management University, it came as no surprise when Earnest cited their academic commitments as “the most pertinent obstacle” they are currently facing.
In order to dedicate time to developing Munch, the founders have applied for a Leave of Absence from school.
The team’s concerns do not end there. Another problem the team faced was a user-related issue. Initially, the founders had positioned the app as a “super-cool AI-enabled food discovery app”— they later discovered that this brand positioning did not resonate with users.
“After talking to strangers and users alike, we found what core problems our potential users had and set out to solve them. Currently, our main focus is to ensure our users retain before spending more on user acquisition.”
“In other words, we don’t want to fill a leaky bucket.”
Age did not stand in the way of their goals. According to Earnest, the tech startup scene has experienced enough young entrepreneurs to be open-minded when it coming across young entrepreneurs.
Thanks to their expertise and knowledge, the Munch founders are able to communicate effectively with investors.
On moving forward, Earnest comments that the team is keenly aware of the market conditions that they are up against.
“The overall food ecosystem is highly competitive and we are aware that we need to create even more value for users in a sea of food apps.”
Apart from findings ways to value-add to the user experience, the Munch team is focusing on finding and expanding its niche to remain sustainable.
Food For Thought
The wise 24-year-old is not swayed by the media’s fancy, and often fallacious portrayal of young entrepreneurs. Despite Munch’s success, the Munch co-founder has his feet planted firmly on the ground. As a young entrepreneur and student, Earnest believes it is crucial for young entrepreneurs to be firm and sure of their decision to venture into entrepreneurship.
“There is a huge media bias currently showing young entrepreneurs in expensive cars and flying first class. The reality is far harsher and brutal.”
Apart from advising young entrepreneurs to stay grounded, Earnest also believes in continuous learning and finds it essential to pursuing entrepreneurship.
“If one is sure that entrepreneurship is in their blood, to constantly improve by learning is the most important part of being a young entrepreneur.”
Lastly, Earnest stresses that humility is an essential quality to possess.
“Having the humility to know you’re not that smart will get you a lot further. Avoid the Dunning-Kruger effect at all costs!”