Oh, the inspiration of college life. My college years were in Denmark where, besides studying, I also worked for an Indian oriental cuisine restaurant, but more importantly oriented environmentally. They were using an app that I considered very helpful with food waste management. And seeing that concept… That was my click.
Why was a food waste management app my college inspiration click?
Because food waste is the third polluter in the world.
Every year, we waste 1.3 billion tons of food, 40% coming from retail and HoReCa, meaning that 1 trillion USD is wasted yearly.
So one day I just went and took my phone and called Marius Pascu, now my fellow co-founder, and we decided to start building what we call today Savables.
You probably got the point of our mission but just to make it clear. Savables is helping food locals to transform surplus food into profit by selling it to our users through our mobile app.
As it was our first venture into entrepreneurship, we realized we didn't properly know how to actually start it.
We were very in love with the idea, and we were convinced that everybody will love the idea and that there was no way of people rejecting it. Sounds very familiar, right?
This is exactly what every startup founder thinks about his/her product when starting to build it, and we tend to forget the most important part - validation.
What that meant for me, when I came across the concept as a young entrepreneur, was that validation helps us not waste time, to better understand our product, and to decide whether to continue working on it or not.
I consider that the reason why we, startup founders, tend to avoid validation, in the beginning, is that we get in love too much with our ideas, and we are afraid to face a ‘no’ coming from our potential customers.
Yes, I know. It is not easy, but, it is exactly what saves us from unnecessary work.
What is worse than having no business, is having a bad business.
Initial idea rejection doesn’t mean necessarily that the idea is bad. It can mean that we have the opportunity to reframe our idea in order to create a better product for the world.
‘So when would be the best time to validate your idea?’
‘Right after you’ve welcomed it to nest in your mind.’
In our case, we received the advice of validating the idea from our mentors from Innovation Labs - the first accelerator that we participated in. They were the ones to tell us that we definitely need to validate our idea to see if the Romanian market is interested in it. It wasn’t enough for this business model to have worked nicely someplace else. It needed to work where we were at the time.
So here we were, started to walk around the city and ask restaurant owners if they like our idea and if they would like to use such an app. We were joyful about all the yes-es that came across when asking around.
That’s when we considered we validated our idea.
All the positive answers didn’t happen because our idea is brilliant, it simply happened because again we tried to validate our idea in the wrong way.
When you present your idea to new people, they will tend to say that it is a good idea just to not affect your feelings, but from saying ‘yes, that’s a cool idea’ up to actually implementing it is a looong long way to go.
Inevitably learning that we had definitely missed the right approach to validation, and we had to try again to validate the idea in a smarter manner - measurable at least.
Maybe the ‘right’ ways don’t apply to every case, but the wrong ways do need to be considered as such.
If it can’t be measured; if can’t be mutually agreed on, or if it’s only at a discussion level - validation is incomplete.
In the midst of ‘how do we actually get on the right track with validation?!’ we came up with the idea of creating a Facebook group where restaurants can sell surplus food at lower prices to Facebook users.
So here we were again walking in the city, only this time we agreed with 3 restaurants to start posting their surplus food offers.
We shared the Facebook group among other targeted Facebook groups from Timisoara and that is how, in the first couple of days since we launched the group, we gathered 1000 members around the idea.
Two weeks later even many more restaurants got interested in the idea. They joined our mission to reduce food waste, and they started to post offers on our group.
So far, because of our walk-around-the-city approach, we validated the idea without investing any money in advertising, sales, or anything else. That became reality just because we shook hands with a few restaurants.
Frankly, we started small but honestly and authentically. And through that, so far we saved more than 11000 meals and 30,000 euros, food and money that otherwise would’ve ended up in the trash.
Thanks to that decision, we made our startup well known in the local market, we had interviews on national news, and it helped us understand our customer's behaviors, and the needs of our partners, with all that information now we are building on our mobile app that will be ready to be used starting this upcoming month.
Without validating the idea in that way, we would have waited until we could've made the product, most probably a product that we would’ve needed to change later because it is not something that our audience would like to use. All in all, we would’ve gone through a lot of ‘what if’s spending time and money we should’ve invested in something else.
To wrap it up,
Rareș Mară is a daring young entrepreneur. Keen on making the most out of every challenge and experience. As the startup founder of Savables, he believes in developing a product around the community, truly listening to the users’ wants, and developing products to fit their needs.
A great believer in working smart, not hard, he’s a big supporter of reinterpreting the entrepreneurial norm known as ‘24/7 working’. He considers entrepreneurship is a marathon, not a sprint race. ‘Just enjoy the ride’ he says.
We’re here to change the way people experience life. Your ‘future you’ will be proud of your ‘present you’s decisions.
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