MangoPlate announced today a series A funding round from Softbank Ventures Korea. As described on their Google Play download page, "MangoPlate is your go-to app for discovering the best restaurants in South Korea. Available in English and Korean, MangoPlate will help you resolve your daily problem of where to eat by connecting you with trustworthy people as well as the best restaurants in South Korea."
Ryan Lee, Executive Director at Softbank Ventures Korea explained, "When I lived in the US we used Yelp and Tabelog, which use ‘group intelligence technology’. It was really useful to use that type of info to help us chose restaurants. But in Korea there was no service for this. MangoPlate have been able to solve this problem, through a thorough understanding of the industry, and by employing advanced technology."
Food is big business in Korea and there are now a number of services catering for local and even international food lovers in Korea. Baedal Minjeok and Yogiyo are battling it out at the top of the food chain in a $500k per month advertising war. FoodFly has a fleet of mopeds for delivering high-end grub in the trendy Gangnam area. YNot-Takeout is catering for lovers of foreign food in the nation’s capital. And numerous pro-bloggers fill pages on Naver with restaurant reviews.
There are still plenty of issues to be addressed in the market however, and MangoPlate has developed a solution to resolve one of them.
Despite the abundance of restaurant recommendations available by searching on Naver (Korea’s dominant search portal), there are big questions about authenticity and reliability. It is well-known that restaurant power bloggers will take payment from restaurants in exchange for writing good reviews, which can often make or break a business.
Additionally, blogs are dispersed across the internet and gleaning key data points upon which to base a restaurant choice is a lot of work. MangoPlate has employed technology to simplify the review process, make recommendations more reliable and make searching much easier for end users. They have developed a powerful ‘recommendation algorithm’ which aggregates big data from users behavior and tastes, as well as their social networks.
The algorithm goes even further, allowing users to connect to the data points of other users with the same tastes, even if they are not friends, thereby building a validated profile of taste and preference. The team at MangoPlate, and their investors, are convinced that the company will be able to quickly scale their userbase.
MangoPlate CEO, Kim DaeWoong said, "With this investment we will conduct marketing initiatives to acquire more users. Also, using feedback we will continue to improve the service to create the best possible recommendation service for users in Korea. Currently there is no local market leader, so we will intend to fill that position."
More quick facts about MangoPlate:
- Naver developed Wingspoon as a restaurant recommendation service in Korea, but has now closed it due to a lack of user up-take
- MangoPlate has vowed not to support sponsored posts, to maintain the accuracy of recommendations
- Yelp, potentially MangoPlate’s biggest competitor has not yet arrived in Korea. Foursquare is used by Koreans, but it has not ‘taken off’
- Co-Founder Ryu left a stable job at Kakao to “create something new at mangoPlate”
- MangoPlate are a Sparklabs alum, graduating from the Seoul accelerator in summer 2013 (here’s their final pitch)