HomeDine.in: From Couch Surfing To Food Surfing
You are in a foreign city, hungry, but you’re tired of eating at restaurants and hotels. What you really feel like is a good home-cooked meal with good company. Sagiv Ofek, 28, formerly in high-tech companies and currently the CEO of HomeDine.in, knows this situation all too well and believes he has found the perfect solution.
The internet venture he founded matches hungry diners with cooking enthusiasts wishing to host people in their homes, for a small fee and sometimes even for free. Signing into the website (currently via the user’s Facebook account) exposes the user to dozens of such meals happening worldwide on any given date.
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For instance, over the next few weeks, you could have a couscous and steak dinner at Shay’s place in Tel Aviv ($10), or start the new year at Ron’s from Poland, who plans to cook an eight-course meal for you and nine other guests for $19 each. Austrian Mark wants to cook a Mexican meal, and invites you to purchase the raw materials, cook with him and eat for free, or, you could come empty-handed and pay $5 for the meal.
You could also have a traditional Greek dinner at Manus’ from Greece ($15 for a multi-course mazette meal, including traditional cheeses, rosemary lamb chops and more), or go to Raphael’s from San Jose, California, who will make you (free) specialty vegan smoothies.
The home-cooking trend is on the rise
The idea resembles couch surfing, the worldwide sleepover trend, which is growing in popularity at a time where the economy is in the slumps and social networks are on the rise. In addition, TV culinary programs offer a strong push for the home-cooking trend, not to mention Instagram, which enables amateur cooks to upload countless photos of their handy work.
HomeDine.in, which launched its beta version last week, was founded by Ofek, who joined lawyer Kobi Meshi, media consultant Orit Segev and programmer Elad Cohen. The team, which also documented the process of founding the startup in a blog they published over the past few months, plans on presenting it later this month at the San Francisco AngelHack final, to expose it to the world and recruit new investors.
The business model, Ofek tells Calcalist, is not completely determined yet. “Payment for meals will be collected over PayPal or via credit card, and we will charge a minimal commission, perhaps with an additional one or two percent for operational expenses, no more. Our first priority is to realize this idea as best as we can.”
Eyeing the international scene
Ofek, who speaks of the venture in an almost-philanthropic way, says that: “It isn’t just about food, but about connecting people. For this reason, we are very supportive of free meals.”
Opening an event on the website is simple and easy, and after uploading some basic details regarding the meal, you are ready to be a host. “We do not screen hosts at all. The way we see it, anyone who dreams of having people over at their home could do it. Screening will happen naturally, since diners could rate the cooks that hosted them, so anyone who goes on the site could read what they thought of the meals.”
The website and the company’s Facebook page are both in English. “We are inaugurating our activities in several cities worldwide simultaneously, and basically, people from any country could sign up and host guests through us. But we are Israeli and proud of it, and I’m guessing that we will launch a Hebrew version in the future,” Ofek concludes.