Vidhya is the founder and CEO of Zymmo, a marketplace for the foodie community. Being a foodie at heart and a product strategist by trade has given her the perfect platform to execute this vision - to change the way people experience food.
Her career spans over 20 years of being a technology executive in the financial services and retail industries. Before joining the startup ecosystem, she has held many leadership roles in technology at companies like Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan and Target.
Q: What's your background, and what are you working on?
I am a product strategist and technologist at heart and am deeply passionate about solving problems using technology. My educational background is a combination of engineering and business, and my career has continued to reflect that. I have more than two decades working in financial services tech and retail tech, leading large mandates, budgets and organizations. I founded Zymmo late 2019 and expanded my horizons of leveraging technology for impact. Zymmo is a marketplace and community that connects foodies with talented, freelancing local chefs.
Q: What motivated you to get started with Zymmo?
I am a firm believer in the view that diet plays a significant role in our well-being - you are what you eat. I also realized that many of us don't eat well, even though we have the means to do so. Many of us cut corners when it comes to diet, due to our busy schedules or just simply lack of choices to eat good food. As a working mother, I carried this guilt for several years, for myself and my family. I wanted to break the barrier and provide access to good, fulfilling food to all people. Access to chefs directly and to meals that can be customized, meet your specific needs, and the ability to hire private chefs are all possible via Zymmo.
Q: How have you attracted clients and grown Zymmo?
Being a young company, we just launched a few weeks ago in the app store. We are at the beginning of the journey to start building the customer base. We are currently raising our next round to be able to scale our two launch cities - Austin and DC.
Q: What's your business model, and how have you grown your revenue?
Our business model is similar to any marketplace, we take a small commission off of every transaction. We are not revenue-generating yet, but hoping to be in the upcoming months.
Q: What are your goals for the future?
Our primary objective remains - we want to become the go-to marketplace for all things food, and memorable food-related experiences. We are planning to launch nationally one day and globally after that. While the idea for Zymmo was conceived prior to Covid, our goals have now included empowering chefs and helping them get through this pandemic, given that the restaurant industry is hit very hard. We want Zymmo to be the platform where chefs get the additional revenue, access to foodies, the flexibility that they deserve, and showcase their skills. Foodies are always passionate about food, and now with the pandemic, there is general fatigue and ennui about eating at home all the time, not to mention the repetitive cooking we need to do. There is definitely a welcoming sentiment from the customers we have interfaced with so far for Zymmo and we are hoping to grow further to reach more customers.
Q: What are the biggest challenges you've faced and the obstacles you've overcome?
Our biggest challenge was fund-raising, especially as Covid hit us. We had raised a pre-seed (aka "friends and family") and had plans to go-live in beta in late summer 2020 (just 6 months after working on the product). However, our attempts to raise the next round (Seed) was hampered by the uncertainty introduced in the environment. Both for Zymmo as a product and as a company whether we were going to thrive and be viable. We were faced with a big decision, should we stay the course or stop? Should we pull the plug completely? We decided to stay the course, but with some modifications to the product. We removed all features from the roadmap that had to do with public events and gatherings. We focused mainly on ready to eat food that people can just buy from chefs. Recently we introduced private experiences, which is about hiring chefs for small events (it can be a romantic dinner for two or a family get-together). It turned out to be a good strategy because Covid turned into a global pandemic, and also we were able to save some capital to sustain through this period. We are now actively back to fund-raising for our Seed round.
Q: Have you found anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
We have a strong team that is resilient, and they keep Zymmo going. Covid while it has been overall a negative impact to humanity globally, we found has made the case stronger for Zymmo. Many restaurants have closed due to the pandemic, and chefs are out of work. Foodies are craving restaurant-quality meals at their homes. We don't want to necessarily capitalize on what's happening around us but want to be a positive force that helps people get through it. By demonstrating our value now, we are hoping to earn the loyalty of our customers and become a strong foodie community in the long run.
Q: What's your advice for female founders who are just starting out?
My advice to any founder is to have a long-term vision with short-term planning. To hire the best team very deliberately. If you are building tech, build small pieces and see how the customers respond. Spend many hours trying to understand what the customers want. Make tough decisions around scope, if you cannot prove a concept yet have the courage to say no to it. Stay attuned with what's happening in the world and community and be agile enough to respond quickly and fearlessly. Make every dollar go a long way, avoid building overhead from day one. For female founders, it is true that it is especially challenging to prove yourself or raise money, but there are many investors out there and the right one that believes in you and your idea will come along. Women can achieve anything they set out to.