In early 2011, Y Combinator -backed AnyLeaf opened its grocery deal aggregation service to to citizens of the San Francisco Bay Area. Our own Leena Rao (and TC alumnus Greg Kumparak) thought rather highly of it, but it’s been over a year since then and the team behind it has had a change of heart.
Today, the company formerly known as AnyLeaf will be officially relaunching with a new name and a new spin on its original mission. CEO and co-founder Jeff Hunter says the company — now called AnyList — still plans to improve the grocery shopping experience, this time with its thoughtful (and free) iOS-only grocery list app.
First things first: existing AnyLeaf aficionados don’t need to fret just yet. Hunter doesn’t plan on shuttering Bay Area-oriented grocery deals service for the time being, since it doesn’t require much effort to keep it running in its current form. That said, don’t expect much in the way of changes or new markets (AnyLeaf only works in the SF Bay Area) any more, since the AnyList team will be devoting all their time (and rightfully so) to the eponymous app.
So what of this app? There’s no shortage of grocery list apps in Apple’s mobile app store, but the AnyList team chose to focus on one particular aspect that other players hadn’t yet nailed. The real kicker of the AnyList app formula is its ability to share and update multiple shopping lists in near real-time. It requires a trivial bit of setup (selecting contacts to share lists with) and multiple iOS devices, but once all that’s done one touch is all it takes to cross a product off of everyone’s list simultaneously.
In case users aren’t exactly sure what they should be buying the first place, AnyList also sports a smart recipe system that culls ingredient lists from huge recipe depositories (think Allrecipes, Epicurious, and the like) to blogs (I’ve never heard of Indian Simmer, but it just got bookmarked). The sheer number of recipe sources is impressive, but equally so is how users can drill down by certain criteria — newness, popularity, main ingredient, etc. The whole package conceptually simple, nicely executed, and as a wannabe chef it’s the kind of thing I could see myself using for the long haul.
But why the shift in the first place? According to Hunter, the AnyList app was first created as a feature to supplement the AnyLeaf service because he and his roommate/co-founder/fellow Apple alum Jason Marr often bungled the buying process. Both of them (perhaps naturally) kept separate grocery lists, but since neither of them had any idea what was on the other’s lists, they were inevitably faced with multiples of products they both thought they needed. Eventually, after looking at (and being underwhelmed by) a handful of iOS grocery list apps, the pair cranked out a 1.0 release and submitted it Apple back in May.
Humble beginnings to be sure, but the app was quickly featured in the App Store, and now the service boasts over 60,000 users. From then, the team’s choice was clear.
“The traction we’ve been seeing with AnyList has been so overwhelming that it was clear that doing anything other than focusing completely on it would be foolish,” Hunter said.