If I could imagine the antithesis of a global snack food CEO, it would be Zipongo’s Jason Langheier. While his counterpart at the global snack food company spent his formative educational years leading marketing focus groups and participating in ethics classes, Jason instead set out to take on our health crisis through his education and his experiences as an entrepreneur, both with superlative results.
According to a recent interview, Jason says, “ I specifically chose Duke over Harvard HST, UCSF and Hopkins MD/PhD because the Dean of Students at the time was very supportive of my also getting credit for part of my year of medical school at Cambridge University as an undergrad, and undertaking entrepreneurial endeavors amidst medical training, following my work developing a pediatric obesity clinic at Boston Medical Center. I was also inspired by the vision of Ralph Snyderman and Sandy Williams regarding Personalized Medicine, and the entrepreneurial spirit of DukeMed. An entrepreneurial spirit colored my entire experience.” Finally, as a Doris Duke clinical research fellow at UCSF, Jason focused on clinical research/epidemiology, particularly as it related to pediatric obesity, environmental/geolocation tools and predictive analytics.
But don’t let a strong academic background cloud what is a very capable product company under Jason’s leadership. Starting with Zipongo’s website, keeping a clean, rigid grid structure helps impose a sense of orderliness upon what could be a chaotic mess of indigestible visual elements. It’s practical yet engaging. The playfulness of the Zipongo logo and modest accompanying imagery at the very top of the home page contrasts with the crass, cartoon-style designs so frequently featured by other food companies intent on appealing to kids’ emotions. One thing is for sure; there is no place at Zipongo for high-margin, low-nutrition branded products - and no sugary homepage takeovers of Olympic medalists sporting Frosted Flakes boxes. About product development Jason says, “I think it's less about being "high tech", and more about bringing an 'automation' (where possible), 'end user' and 'measurement/experimentalist' mentality to everything you build that is in fact important in any new undertaking.”
Judging by his vision about health, food and e-commerce, Jason may be tapping into the folly of choice consumers face when shopping for food in grocery stores. According to the Food Marketing Institute, a typical grocery store carries 38,718 SKUs. (That exceeds the total inventory of words a typical person possesses of the English language.) People have an inexact sense of value but are acutely sensitive to contrasts. Overwhelmed by infinite choice in today's grocery stores and the seemingly endless price wars, it seems people opt to contrast price while ignoring contents and are incorrectly satiated when price trumps all else.
The daily deal, rewards and meal plan elements of the product illustrate how shopping for food may be improved by combining price and value – with value pertaining to nutrition rather than price per pound/oz without compromising on flavor (ie. relevant recipes). Convenience comes into play when specific menus or food items are surfaced with the price, location and retail outlet for purchase. I can foresee Amazon delivering these ingredients to any address within 2 hours. There is definitely a lot going on in the food/recipe/purchase space. Evernote’s Food app has proven up viral adoption on its rapidly growing note taking and personal storage platform in recent months.
But what’s more interesting about Zipongo is the possibility of a whole other layer of information derived from personal health values introduced into the food buying equation. This is where the concept of the quantified self comes into play. Other emerging startups in the health space are using this concept to accomplish all sorts of health outcomes from various angles.
Zipongo recently graduated from Rock Health, the seed accelerator for startups focused on the health space, and completed additional early-stage capital raising from a variety of know names including Founder Collective, Larry Berger, Peter Dolan and Guitar Hero and Blue Goji co-founder Kai Huang. Total funding to date is reported at $1m.
by Simons Chase - LBS.CO