Fooji started as a bit of a joke, explains Erik Zamudio of the company he cofounded with Gregg Morton in Cincinnati while helping Morton build a separate startup. “In the office we would always run into issues deciding what we wanted to eat for lunch.” They thought, wouldn’t it be cool to tweet out a food emoji and have that food magically delivered to them? So they built a chatbot that enabled users to share an emoji that represented a preferred cuisine type, say, a burger, as well as an algorithm that would search GrubHub for the best of that cuisine. “And then we would send that food to you within an hour. Kind of like food roulette. You never knew exactly what you were going to get.”
Big brands soon took note, viewing it as a unique way to engage with fans by delivering products to their doors nearly instantaneously, bridging the gap between digital and physical experiences. And that’s what it has become. “Reinvention is breaking something down and completely revisiting what it meant originally,” Zamudio said. With Fooji, he’s reinventing paid media, letting brand fans get a physical product within an hour.
Verizon was Fooji’s first client in 2015; the company, with 27 employees and total funding of $4.7 million, now counts Disney, Amazon, Adidas, Unilever and Netflix among its roster and total revenue is more than $20 million.