Zokos is a new startup that aims to make it easier for people to connect in real life – over food- by reducing what they have identified as the “barriers to entertaining.” Last week, the Brooklyn-based startup launched their first tool, a platform designed to help hosts manage an event and share the costs with their guests.
How it works: party hosts set a goal for the number of guests they would like to invite and the amount of money they need to cover the costs of the event. Similar to Kickstarter, guests must pay to RSVP, but are not charged until the goal has been met. Zokos charges a 3 percent fee and $.30 per guest.
Zokos grew out of co-founders Christopher Kieran, Bradley Baer and Andrew Hapke’s experience as members of Veggie Dinners, a 300-person dinner club, while in graduate school at Yale.
“We had a lot of fun in Veggie Dinner at Yale,” said Hapke, co-founder and chief marketing officer. “We learned that with the right collaborative tools, people really start coming together and enjoying each other’s company more often.”
The co-founders learned the hard way that the Veggie Dinner model was too complicated to scale and built a platform that could facilitate human interaction through dinner parties, wine tastings, tailgating parties, cooking classes and more.
The dinner party market is a tough one. It will be certainly be interesting to see how Zokos fares in comparison to others like Housefed and Gusta, who have developed similar products. Gusta offers more functionality like analytics, but charges a 10% transaction fee. Housefed is no longer in operation.
Hapke: We see our site addressing what we call the “barriers to entertaining” one by one. The fact that it is expensive to entertain is just one of the barriers to entertaining. Other tools we will continue to develop are: tools to help you achieve an interesting mix of guests at your party, tools to help you be more certain about who is coming and who is not, and tools to help you decide what and how much to prepare for your party. A quote from the Food 52 discussion about our site yesterday puts the need perfectly:
“My daughter, who is one of the 52% of college graduates looking for work and underemployed at the same time, just called to tell me that now she can make her beef short ribs recipe for her friends. They have been demanding it, and the money thing was difficult. Now she knows how many people are coming and has the cash to buy the quality of products she knows is necessary. My daughter and her friends have quite sophisticated palates, and this is giving them room to really step out in the food world.”
AH: Realizing that our beloved veggie dinner model was difficult for people to understand and wouldn’t scale very well. It was hard to let go and make that change, but we did a lot of collective soul searching and figured out how to keep all the fundamentals of our original intent. We just want people to get together. We want real life social interactions to be better quality and more frequent. It turns out food is the world’s favorite reason to come together and we’re very happy to facilitate that.
AH: We heard over and over again that the same few people always end up hosting, either because they love to, they have the right space for it, or they are the best cook. Others don’t like hosting and always felt guilty for not reciprocating, but they’re great party guests and they love home cooked meals. With our model we can help make it easier for natural hosts to host more often and buy better stuff. The best part is that it is always cheaper than going out, and (in our opinions) more intimate and enjoyable to entertain at home.
AH: We have heard a few interesting statistics. For one the market for “at home social occasions” is 33 billion dollars annually and growing. Forty percent of consumers said they plan to entertain more often in the next year. Two thirds of millennials consider themselves casual cooking enthusiasts. They cook an average of nine elaborate or gourmet meals per year.
AH: Right now we take a small transaction fee when a host chooses to have guests share the costs of a party. The first group we are targeting is students and young professionals who love to socialize and love food.
AH: People are seriously flaky! We are working on that too, don’t worry!