How I Started an
App to Track Your Food
Hi! Who are you and what business did you start?
Hey! I’m Saurav, and I am a 16-year-old student attending Bellarmine College Preparatory high school in San Jose. My business, Simply Snack was designed to redesign the experience of logging food on mobile apps. Where normally, you would have to fill out information about calories or serving sizes, which most of the time are unnecessary, with Simply Snack you just take a picture.
Using Simply Snack will help you capture memorable food, whether that be from a vacation, a new recipe you learnt, or a special restaurant you really liked. Additionally, studies prove that by simply logging your food, you can live a much healthier lifestyle because you are being mindful about what you eat. Simply Snack is the perfect tool to fulfil your eating goals.
What is your personal story and how did you come up with the idea?
So being a student, I do a lot of activities outside of software development. At school, I participate in Speech and Debate, lead the Investment Club, and help run an advocacy organization called Empowering Youth Action. Outside of school, I really enjoy programming, watching the Mandalorian on repeat, and photography.
A lot of the time while travelling, I eat a lot of good and memorable food, and I have always wanted an app that helped me save memorable recipes, exotic foods, and more. Additionally, during my quarantine, I tried to eat healthily, and one way I did that was by logging everything I ate. I used MyFitnessPal as my food tracker, but because it was so complicated, I gave up on using it after around a week. Eventually, I decided I wanted to make an app that solves these problems – an easy and fast food tracker. I started developing Simply Snack in order to solve this problem.
What challenges did you face when creating your product/service?
Being a 16 year old developer, I had little to no budget when it came to developing apps. I spent the $100 to get the App Store Connect account, and that itself was a big purchase. However, it was most definitely justified by the educational journey it enabled me to embark on. Due to these financial problems, I had to learn all about how to market, design, and program my app from scratch. However, I was able to overcome these issues with the limitless resources on the internet.
For competition, there were only a few apps that were similar to mine, and mine was unique in its design and simple functionality. In order to market this, I am entirely focused on conveying the ease of using Simply Snack, and explaining why it is better than similar apps. Overall, there were a lot of hurdles for me to cross, and although I am still trying to beat the competition, I know I have a winning product on my hands.
Who is your target market?
My target market is two types of individuals. One, anyone who is looking to lose weight or live a healthier lifestyle. Kaiser Permanente cites a 2 times increase in weight loss just by using a food diary. Just by taking a picture of each meal, you are forced to be mindful about what you eat, allowing you to fix your eating habits much more effectively.
My second target market is any type of foodie, cook, or people who like to travel. If you ever cook from a new recipe, enjoy a new snack, or eat an entirely new cuisine in another country, tracking your food makes all of this more memorable and not only tracks food, but also memories.
How do you market your business and which approaches have been the most successful?
My biggest method of marketing was launching on Product Hunt. I launched earlier this year, and I reached the #5 spot by the end of the day, earning the Top 5 badge. This attracted several users and gave me an award to further market the app.
Since you launched, what has worked in not only attracting but retaining customers?
One method of retaining and attracting customers is the uniqueness and ease of use for my product. Since all you have to do to use the app is take a picture of your food, Simply Snack is far easier than complicated calorie counters like MyFitnessPal. Because of this, it is a lot easier to stick to using the product. Seeing as Simply Snack’s design is far more intuitive than alternatives, my users find it hard to switch to other food diaries, especially with the results in eating habits that they are seeing.
What kind of culture exists in your company, and how did you establish it?
The culture in my company is largely individual at the moment. My partner and I at times do work next to each other on design updates, but most of the time since I handle the programming, graphics, and marketing aspect, the culture in my company is something I want to improve upon in the coming years.
What software, services or tools do you use within your business?
I use Figma to design all the pages of Simply Snack, and I use XCode and SwiftUI to turn that into code, as well as to program the various functions in the app. I use Firebase as the backend database, and I use its authentication to tie in Mailchimp in order to add users to a mailing list. Finally, I use Adobe Illustrator and Photoshop for graphics, and Rotato for renders and mockups.
What are the most important lessons have you learned on your business journey?
The most important lesson I learned is to not dwell too much on the details. I often spend way too long fixing every detail that I notice, but that causes long delays and missed opportunities to build my user base and get feedback from them.
I launched Simply Snack on reddit first, and asked for feedback for it. I got lots of valuable feature requests that I added to the app, and made the users that asked for them happy!
What is your favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
Certainly the positive atmosphere. When I launched my first app – Lapis News – I was met with a lot of meaningful advice from more experienced Makers that has shaped my journey with Simply Snack. When I launched Simply Snack, I received a ton of positive comments and reviews about that app. I often go back to the comments on my Product Hunt launch, and I am very grateful for the developers who have guided me to the point that I am at today.
Being an entrepreneur seems extremely toxic and competitive on face level, but diving into these communities, you are introduced to a welcoming and helpful atmosphere.
What is your LEAST favourite aspect of being an entrepreneur?
My least favorite part of being an entrepreneur is definitely the investment required to be successful. By investment, I don’t mean time or effort, but financially a lot of the time smaller developers can’t afford to spend thousands on marketing our product, and are not making enough to justify that.
With the new hierarchy of software, it is difficult to climb up that ladder without venture capital or a killer team. Especially when your competitors are above you on that revenue, it is difficult to convey the uniqueness of your product in order to grow it past that point.
Overall I love everything about being an entrepreneur, and for me it isn’t about the revenue or numbers, but I still think that this is a big problem for most developers.
What books, podcasts or other resources have inspired and influenced your business journey?
YouTube has helped tremendously for me to learn how to develop apps, specifically youtubers like CodeWithChris and ArchetApp have taught me how to program in Swift and SwiftUI. Tutorials in using Illustrator, Rotato, HTML, and other important skills have also helped me polish the product to the best of my ability.
For the design, I learned from the design of Instagram and other apps that I enjoy using. My partner has also helped me design Simply Snack in Figma. I haven’t read too many programming books, but the pragmatic programmer has helped overall keep good coding practices.
Where do you see your business 2-3 years from now?
I see my business 2-3 years from now being far bigger and surpassing the competition I am having trouble with right now. I also hope to have introduced a premium option in the app and am collecting sizable revenue from that. Finally, I see more employees at my business as I hire interns and teams to manage different aspects of Simply Snack.