A Q&A with Eat This Much founder and CEO Louis DeMenthon. The Los Angeles-based startup is an automatic meal planner that considers food tastes, nutrition goals, schedule and budget. It launched out of beta last month.
SUB: Please describe Eat This Much and your primary innovation.
DeMenthon: Eat This Much is an automatic meal planner that takes into account your nutrition goals, food tastes, allergies, budget, and available cooking times at every meal, helping you to reach your unique goals in terms of health and weight. Other meal planners exist, but you either have to add all of the foods one-by-one, or use a pre-made plan that isn’t customized at all. Eat This Much is the first automated meal planner that can select all of the foods for you based on any type of diet, while being completely interactive to make changes to suit your tastes. .
SUB: Who are your target markets and users?
DeMenthon: Our target market is anyone who wants to get their diet under control and simplify figure out what they need to eat to reach a goal. So far, most of our users are men and women who want to lose weight. However there’s a significant portion of men who want to bulk up with a weight gain meal plan. We are also seeing many users joining who need to change their diet based on conditions such as lactose intolerance.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition, and what differentiates Eat This Much from the competition?
DeMenthon: Our primary competition is calorie tracking websites like MyFitnessPal and LiveStrong, and more hands-on food tracking services like Weight Watchers. The advantage with Eat This Much is that it’s much easier to follow a new diet when you have a plan already created—and we do this in one click. We provide the additional automated services of a nutritionist, at a cost much closer to the basic calorie tracking sites. You tell us your age, height, body fat, and allergies, and we provide you with the amount of calories needed to reach your weight goal, while allowing you to customize the plan to suit you.
SUB: When was the company founded, and what were the first steps you took in establishing it?
DeMenthon: The company was established in May, 2013, and we just officially exited the beta period. I’ve been developing the site by myself for a little over a year. So, the first steps were just to get something off the ground, and make that something that I myself would want to use—which I do every day.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Eat This Much? Was there an ‘aha’ moment, or was the idea more gradual in developing?
DeMenthon: The site was inspired by my own desire to have a program tell me what I should eat at all times. I could go through the tedious process of making a few meal plans by hand, but then every time I wanted some variety, I would need to go through my plans and make edits by hand. The idea of having to do that every week terrified me, and I quickly set off to work on building something that would do all the thinking for me. Most people today are looking to change their diet for the better, but the biggest problem is finding out where to start. Eat This Much helps with that and guides you all along the way.
SUB: How did you come up with the name? What is the story or meaning behind it?
DeMenthon: The name is pretty straightforward—I’m answering the question “how much should I eat to reach my goal?”
One of my friends actually came up with it during a brainstorming session when I was looking for a new name for the first version of the diet generator www.swole.me. The original algorithm made very simple, random meals like a cup of plain yogurt with a tablespoon of olive oil. There were no recipes back then, but they did remind me of some of the meal plans I saw on bodybuilding forums, hence the ‘swole’ name. Once the algorithm was much further developed, I felt it would appeal to a wider audience and I reached out to everyone I knew to help me come up with something less body-building centric.
SUB: You launched to the public out of beta last month. Why was this the right time to launch?
DeMenthon: I felt the product was finally right to push as a full product. We still have some work to do and we have lofty ambitions, but based on the fantastic feedback I received from beta users, it is already really helping people lose or gain weight or adapt to a new diet—so I felt it was time to launch. As a society, we are more health conscious than ever and I felt Eat This Much had an important role to play in guiding users and helping them adapt to their new diet. We have 26,000 users now, of which 1,800 are paid subscribers, so the faith they have shown in Eat This Much inspires me to create the ultimate meal planner.
SUB: Have you raised outside funding to this point?
DeMenthon: Not yet. To support myself during the initial development phase, I worked part time in a computational biology lab at UCLA for about a year and spent all of my free time building the site. As soon as the revenues were enough to pay my rent, I quit and I haven’t looked back.
SUB: What have the most significant challenges been so far to building the company?
DeMenthon: There have been a lot of challenges in building the company, especially since I’ve been working alone for large chunks of the development. The biggest challenge comes from the fact that there’s nothing quite like it out there, so there’s nothing for me to imitate. Everything is completely new, from the interface to the algorithm that automatically plans leftovers. Fortunately, I have my brother—Eric DeMenthon, the creator of Padmapper.com—to advise me along the way. Amazingly, Eat This Much has grown organically and the user support along the way has really helped.
SUB: How do you generate revenue or plan to generate revenue?
DeMenthon: The site currently makes money through premium subscriptions. For free, you can make a single day’s meal plan that lets you customize the nutrition targets, cooking times, food tastes, and budget. For a subscription fee of $9 per month—or $7 per month with an annual commitment—the site will email you seven meal plans and a grocery list once a week, including automatic leftovers planning and family meal planning.
SUB: What are your goals for Eat This Much over the next year or so?
DeMenthon: Our highest priority right now is a mobile app, starting with iOS. Next up is automatic grocery delivery, which will go hand-in-hand with significant algorithm improvements and better nutrition and price data.
Eat This Much – www.eatthismuch.com