How one small business went from start-up to partnering with Tesco

Co-founder and CEO of Spoon Guru Markus Stripf discusses his journey from start-up to partnering with a retail giant in less than three years.

Spoon Guru is a London-based technology company that is helping consumers to find food products and recipes, based on their individual dietary requirements, from allergy-specific to lifestyle diets. Developed by British entrepreneurs Markus Stripf, Tim Allen and Simon Oregan, and a team of technologists and nutritionists, the Spoon Guru platform uses a combination of AI, machine learning and category expertise, to search hundreds of thousands of products and recipes, to deliver relevant food choices that exactly fit consumers’ food preferences.

In May 2017 Spoon Guru announced a partnership with Tesco, a constituent of the FTSE 100 index and the UK’s grocery market leader. Co-founder and CEO, Markus Stripf shares his experience of going from start-up to partnering with a retail giant, in less than three years.

Show your strengths

Within a year following the successful launch of our consumer app, we knew that the unique search technology we had developed would be of use to big corporations – it was just a matter of demonstrating the strength and extent of its power. We were fortunate that Tesco engaged with us early on, as they wanted to ensure that their food products could be found on the app, which gave us the opportunity to show them the full capabilities of our software.

As Tesco were aware that their customers wanted more accuracy, transparency and choice when it came to finding food, they were quick to recognise how Spoon Guru could be of huge benefit. By incorporating our technology into the Tesco website and shopping app they are able to respond to consumers’ increasingly complex needs, giving Tesco a huge advantage in the market.

The nuts and bolts

Our technology is based on a sophisticated AI platform and our USP lies in the fact that we combine big data processing capabilities with nutritional and medical domain expertise. In other words, the hard part was to build the data crunching engine that can churn through tens of millions of data rows and product statements. Processing Tesco’s product catalogue was then relatively simple, as we could run their dataset through the same engine.

Be the game changer

Tried, tested and proven solutions are attractive to large companies, as their ability to transform is often likened to that of an oil tanker at high sea. There are a number of reasons for this: institutional inertia and siloed organisational structures undermine a company’s ability to easily adjust or to embrace change, which opens doors for young, agile start-ups.

Transformation is what start-ups do best – it’s why we exist. Spoon Guru is an example of how the new generation of SMEs can push innovation forward and provide great services to large corporations, which have a clear need and desire for a more flexible and dynamic approach to business.

Charging through the open door

There are undeniable advantages to collaborating with big businesses. Tesco is the world’s second biggest supermarket; to be seen to be partnering with them is a phenomenal calling card for us and testament to the quality of our solution. The partnership has put us on the global map as leaders in consumer search optimisation, and has allowed us to charge forward into new territories.

The global eGrocery market alone will be worth $150 billion by 2025, with significant growth in all regions. We are now expanding across Europe and are in advanced talks with retailers in Australia and the US. Our app will launch in the US before the year is out, and we are opening an office to accelerate our expansion plans in America.

Any food business can benefit from new technology, and in our case we are ramping up to ensure that we can respond to the increasing demand.

Advice for other ambitious start-ups

My advice is simple. If you have an idea that could benefit others and be of use for a decent number of people, just go for it. Taking that leap can be nerve-wracking at times, and you need to be prepared to work crazy hours without any certainty of success, but it’s an incredible ride!

That’s not to say that you should run headfirst into it. Make sure you understand the market you’re trying to break into (or revolutionise), build the best possible team to support you, and ensure that the product you’ve created actually solves a problem, and offers something new. If all of that falls into place, you’ll have the time of your life. Once you commit to a good course, the universe will bend over to support you.

Further reading on partnerships

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel

Ben Lobel was the editor of from 2010 to 2018. He specialises in writing for start-up and scale-up companies in the areas of finance, marketing and HR.

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