Video interviewee: Mr. Dixon Chan, Co-Founder & CEO
First launched in Singapore in 2012, and expanding to Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia since early 2016, Burpple is your ‘foodie friend’ – providing an app and website that helps consumers discover hot tips and hidden gems, whether it’s suggestions for a romantic meal out or the latest hawker sensation. With more than 3 million reviews shared by users, and over 5 million users in 2016, the company started by Dixon Chan and his two co-founders has potential applications in any city area with a varied and vibrant food culture.
Solving the problem of choice
Dixon had an opportunity to find out about the role of apps in the food market while studying overseas at Stanford, University of California in the USA. When trying to use existing apps to locate restaurants, he found that they weren’t very helpful in helping you decide what to eat. The Burpple solution is to harness the wisdom of the crowd; “We’re providing a platform for anyone to share information on the meals they enjoyed.
This platform provides the necessary structure to enable other users to discover things they might like to eat, and find what they’re looking for. The app can be searched by categories or by neighbourhoods; there is also a range of themed guides, as well as Burpple’s crowdsourced ‘Hot 100’ places to go. As well as interacting with consumers, the company also regards the restaurants, bars and hawkers that are featured as its customers.
Managing Burpple’s IP
Dixon has been keen to get things right from the beginning, and to improve IP working practices as budgets allow. “I know that many start-ups have a tendency to do things first and apologise for them later, but I think it’s important for entrepreneurs to know about IP from the start.”
The company’s distinctive name, which is trade marked in Singapore, combines references to the appreciative sound a good meal often produces (!) with an acknowledgement that it’s the people – or crowd – that make the service what it is. The spoon and fork logo has been more difficult to protect in the same way to date, simply because the emblems on it are so widely used; “we have been in discussions on protecting that for quite a while!”
The most important asset for Burpple, however, is its content. Under the company’s terms of business, users can upload reviews they like (within reason) provided that it complies with the platform’s terms.
“Initially, we modelled our practices on similar networks like Instagram, but as we grew, we took our own legal advice to create terms tailored to our particular needs to best protect our community of users and merchants."
Being such a great repository of information does make the site exposed to possible copying. Other websites sometimes try to ‘lift’ images and even sentences from Burpple and re-use them on their own sites. “Often our attention will be drawn to this behaviour by the person who uploaded the content. Food photographers know their rights!
Image theft matters to Burpple. not only because it affects the uniqueness of its own content, but it is acting as a custodian of text and pictures for users, which makes this a trust issue. “We now have a three-step process for dealing with infringement, starting with a friendly warning and progressively hardening. The offending websites are usually quite responsive once they know we take it seriously.”
Burpple’s expansion has raised Series A funding from venture capital companies and individual private investors . Now that it has built scale, it is moving to monetise the platform, though not in a way that expects the user to pay.
The company’s latest revisions to its platform includes the launch of the Burpple for Business services, that is aimed to help restaurants scale their hospitality online and reach more customers. The first phase of the service helps merchants tell their stories online, offering the chef’s perspective of the restaurant to customers. The service also includes hosting of promotions, where restaurants can provide the Burpple community with exclusive offers. There are also forthcoming partnerships with larger brands, mainly to package ‘collections’ that help users identify good places to eat.
Commercial partnerships are at the core of two other planned features that will enable users to make reservations with featured locations directly from the app, and also to order food for delivery that takes their fancy, where available. In both cases, third parties will provide the ‘back end’ services, based on a revenue sharing model.
Dixon is confident for the future: expansion into Kuala Lumpur is aimed at tapping into the emerging lifestyle market in Malaysia’s capital, and initial traction has been encouraging. “I believe this model can be replicated in many food capitals of the world, provided that there is plenty of variety and the right culture."
"Burpple is like the ‘foodie friend’ that people want, and our mission is to help people enjoy their lives by finding the perfect places to eat."