Refrigerators are very good at keeping food fresh and cold, but they do not provide much information about the products stored inside.
Enter Chefling Inc., a company that has developed a mobile app that monitors, organizes and keeps track of grocery needs. The app has the potential to fit into the emerging trend of smart kitchens, particularly as manufacturers of household appliances — such as Samsung — seek to integrate smart technology into their products.
Already, many American homes contain at least one smart appliance. Like the Chefling app, these devices sometimes interface with voice-activated assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa, and have the potential to save consumers from encountering expiring food and to inform brands on which products consumers are bringing home from the grocery store.
In short, the era of the truly smart refrigerator is coming to fruition, and apps like Chefling might be providing the technology that makes smart appliances even more useful.
The App and Its Commercial Appeal
By scanning their receipts from grocers like Kroger or superstores like Walmart into the app, consumers can keep track of the products in their refrigerator. While grocery receipts can be cryptic, as point-of-sale (POS) systems can abbreviate item names, the Chefling software is particularly adept at decoding this information and adding it to a consumer’s digital pantry.
When consumers do use a product, they can communicate with the app directly or through voice — through Amazon Alexa or Google Home — to update their pantry inventory. Armed with information, the app is able to deliver notifications at 9:00 P.M. each night about what products are expiring so consumers can consider repurchasing. It can also suggest recipes based on the ingredients in a consumer’s fridge.
Through this data collection, Chefling is able to learn consumer habits and put this information to work. “We realized that we had a good amount of users to actually put together a bunch of machine learning algorithms,” Co-Founder Amar Krishna told PYMNTS.com.
The company’s technology has some potential lucrative commercial applications: Chefling could provide major consumer product companies with data on what exactly is in consumers’ refrigerators.
The company could also partner with smart appliance makers, as the app could be integrated into smart refrigerators. In all, Chefling is “not just a shopping list app,” Krishna said, adding that what he wants to do, is enable a smart kitchen.
While Amazon or another player could develop a similar app, Krishna said that competition would simply validate his idea. And, besides, he has a head start.
VC Funding and Growth
With the potential for monetization, Sunnyvale, California-based Chefling raised $1 million in Series A funding in January from XVVC, LLC. The company also previously raised $200,000 in a 2016 seed round, but information on investors for that round was not available on Crunchbase.
Fueled by a cash infusion, Krishna said the money would help fuel product development, particularly in technical areas. “The money will go more on research and development because it’s all AI and machine learning, so that needs more research,” he said.
Krishna also plans to expand Chefling’s workforce. The company, which has operations in Silicon Valley and India, currently has seven employees. It plans to hire 12 to 14 people across technical and marketing domains. On its website, the company lists open positions for a software development engineer, an NLP engineer and a social media content editor.
In addition to technical and social media hires, Krishna plans to bring a culinary-trained chef on board to curate recipes for the company. While he could put a million recipes on his platform without human curation, he said he wants to tailor content to the tastes of his users. For his content to be valuable, it must be spot-on and “user-centric,” he said.
Beyond research and development and content, Krishna said he would like to put some resources toward marketing. The company grew the app to 100,000 users without spending any money on marketing, but he thinks the company can gain more traction by getting the word out about the product over the next few months.
“We feel that our product is visible but is not visible enough,” Krishna said. “We want to create that visibility for users so that they can actually see what we can do.”
With the proper promotion, Krishna is optimistic that he can dramatically grow his user base. “We got 100,000 in one year,” Krishna said. “I think we can do 1 million with the proper marketing.”