Hungry but not sure what to eat? Try FeedShare, an easy-to-use app that allows users to find and share free leftover food at Northeastern.
It’s the brainchild of YoYo Fu, DMSB’17, who designed it with the nation’s food waste problem in mind. “I wanted to find a way to connect students who want free food with leftovers that would otherwise be thrown away,” he explains. “There’s so much waste that can easily be saved.”
More than 3,000 students, faculty, and staff have downloaded FeedShare since Fu released the app in December 2015. Its most frequent users are members of students groups, like Scout, IDEA, and the Entrepreneurs Club, who help tackle food waste by posting photos of meeting leftovers as well as the particular location of remaining soda, sandwiches, and other goodies.
A few sample entries: “Mad pizzas, lobby of Behrakis.” “Free coffee, WVG lobby.” “Free vegan cookies, CSC basement.”
FeedShare is currently available to students, faculty, and staff with Google accounts linked to their Northeastern email addresses, but Fu is working to expand access to the entire university community by compiling contact information for those who are presently unable to access the platform.
Users receive a time stamped notification when a new post is uploaded and typically devour the leftovers within 10 minutes, he said. Over the past 16 months, he estimates that they have saved more than 1,900 pounds of food.
“My friends and I use the app to hunt down snacks all the time,” one user said in reviewing the app in the Google Play store. Another joked, “I no longer have to pay for food. Instead I can spend all my money on Hearthstone packs and manga.”
‘I really want to become a developer’
Fu coded FeedShare himself, taking free online classes through Lynda and Udacity to hone his development skills. He’s now working with IDEA, which helped him to create a business model for the app, and his long-term goal is to expand its reach to college campuses nationwide.
Before he spent countless hours fine-tuning FeedShare, he sought third-party validation from 100 initial users. It’s a strategy he learned in class, he says, and an overarching philosophy of faculty in the D’Amore-McKim School of Business. “The biggest problem with startups is that there are a lot of unknowns,” says Fu, a third-year business major with a concentration in entrepreneurship. “You want to make as many of those unknowns known before building something that no one will want.”
His co-op experience as a strategy analyst at Mobiquity, the mobile engagement provider for the Fortune 500, further reinforced his need to solicit user feedback. When one user suggested he add timestamps to each post, he took the advice to heart, implementing the crucial feature in a new version of the app released just five days after the initial comment.
“Companies often think that they know what they want, but in reality they don’t understand what users like and need,” says Fu, whose role at Mobiquity frequently afforded him the opportunity to chat with clients and their customers. “It reminded me that I needed to go out and talk to users.”
It’s small wonder that Fu’s foray into the startup life has shaped his career path. As he puts it, “I really want to become a developer.”