Software Development

How to build an app in just 54 hours

NUMENU, a product of Startup Weekend DC, offers customized restaurant menus for people with dietary restrictions.

Ever wish this was easier to decipher?

(Photo by Flickr user halfrain, used under a Creative Commons license)

What can five complete strangers accomplish in the span of 54 hours? If we’re talking Startup Weekend DC, the answer is quite a lot.
The members of the team behind NUMENU, the winners of the Startup Weekend held just last month, were in finance and consulting and healthcare and software development. Now they’re also entrepreneurs, competing in the Global Startup Battle (GSB).
NUMENU is “a mobile app that will customize restaurant menus based on your profile where you can put any dietary restrictions,” cofounder Molly Winston told Technical.ly. “Then the home screen, similar to Yelp, would be a map showing restaurants in your location. The restaurants are marked green — so you know there would be a lot you can eat on that menu, yellow — not so much, and red — probably try to avoid that place.”
Click on a restaurant, and the app gives you their menu, customized so that items that fit your diet appear at the top.
For people living with dietary restrictions, an app like NUMENU hopes to make the process of going out to eat, from choosing a restaurant to deciding what to order, easy and stress-free. The NUMENU team says there are over 100 million people with dietary restrictions in the U.S. alone. “We’re definitely targeting the people who we call ‘super users,'” Winston said, “people who have a dietary restriction that is make-or-break for them.”

While the app itself is still very much a prototype (remember, just 54 hours), the NUMENU team managed to do an impressive amount of market research and user testing in the span of one weekend. In addition to research on dietary restrictions, the team hit the streets and claims to have surveyed 50 people, interviewed 20 and even talked with local restaurant owners and managers. Winston told Technical.ly that this process was “the No. 1 priority” in the short hours of Startup Weekend.
Talking with restaurants, especially, is important. While there are available databases that contain nutrient information for fast food and fast casual restaurants, there is less transparency at non-chain or fine dining establishments. If NUMENU were to expand, they would depend on partnerships with restaurants to get the most up-to-date information about menu item ingredients.
What’s ahead for NUMENU? Public votes will make up 50 percent of NUMENU’s overall GSB score. The other 50 percent comes from a panel of judges. While the public voting period has already closed, the team has been spending a lot of time in the past weeks trying to ramp up online support (you can see NUMENU’s GSB video pitch here). Meanwhile, they’ve also been working on continuing to build out the app. The team plans to ramp up user testing and the exploration of future partnerships once the GSB is over.
The team is also discussing revenue models — they’d like to keep the app free, Winston said, but perhaps with in-app purchases or monthly subscriptions for super users. They’re also exploring how the app might offer valuable information to restaurants, information they’d be willing to pay for too.
For five erstwhile strangers, though, it has already been quite a ride. “It’s crazy,” Winston said, “it seems like I’ve known these people forever now.”

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