Since 2007, Airbnb has opened up new opportunities for its hosts to meet new people and make money by renting out parts of their homes they weren’t using. In that same vein, a startup called EatWith wants to offer up a similar opportunity for its users to use their cooking skills as a way to make cash and engage in conversation with new people.
Founded in 2012 by Guy Michlin and Shemer Schwarz, EatWith provides a marketplace that connects diners and hosts, creating a unique social experience where guests get to know one another while also eating an authentic, home-cooked meal.
For hosts, there’s the appeal of opening up their homes to meeting new people, and hey, making a little extra money along the way by doing something that they love. And guests get to break bread with other open-minded visitors sharing stories and experiences.
The company pre-vets all hosts to ensure that they’re not only good cooks, but that they also are friendly and have the skills necessary to get along with and host strangers in their home. According to Michlin, there are three main “ingredients” it looks for in a host: the ability to host and communicate; ability to cook; and the ambiance of their home. Each host’s home and menu is reviewed before being added to the platform.
Of hosts that apply, only about 4 percent make it on, Michlin told me. And those who do get rated by guests to ensure that they continue to have a high-quality experience. While 360-degree feedback isn’t available yet, EatWith is also adding a feature to enable hosts to rate guests.
EatWith officially launched about 18 months ago as part of TechCrunch Disrupt’s Startup Battlefield, and since then has been steadily adding hosts in new markets. The company now has more than 500 hosts in 160 cities and 30 countries around the world, offering up meals to travelers who would like to try out local cuisine. They also cater to locals who would just like to meet new people.
The company currently has 18 employees, after moving its home base from Tel Aviv to San Francisco. It also has employees in some of its largest markets, like New York and Barcelona.
To help it grow into even more markets, EatWith has raised $8 million in funding led by Greylock Partners, with the firm’s marketplace expert Simon Rothman joining the company’s board. Rothman said he wanted to invest because EatWith is the type of startup that helps build connections between people.
“With technology and being so plugged in, there’s something about that but it feels like there’s something missing,” Rothman told me by phone. “When it comes to personal relationships, efficiency isn’t efficacy. We’re digitizing all our interactions, but that has virtualized our relationships.”
He called the dinner table the original social network, and said he feels like technology is finally coming full-circle to enable more personal contact between people. In doing diligence on the deal, Rothman said he went to a number of EatWith dinners in New York and Barcelona, and was impressed by the quality not just of the meal, but of the discussion between hosts and guests.
“It was an experience, not a meal,” he said.
With his help, EatWith hopes to bring the same sort of experience to a whole lot more guests.