Oct. 13, 2022

How to help restaurants reduce food waste by selling surplus through the Foodobox mobile app

How to help restaurants reduce food waste by selling surplus through the Foodobox mobile app

What do you do when you have a surplus of food? Do you just throw it out or is there a sustainable solution? Well today we’re chatting with Jane Dimitrova, a fascinating entrepreneur from Bulgaria who is helping tackle that problem by developing the first mobile app in Bulgaria to tackle food waste - Foodobox. Jane has a fascinating background having worked in Italy and Argentina, and also interned at P&G. According to her, people in Bulgaria are often quite skeptical about innovations and major changes. Hear how she’s confronting these obstacles and trying to get her startup off the ground. 



-   1:14 – where did you grow up and how has that shaped your view of the world?

-   3:26 – what was your early career path like?

-   5:10 – is Buenos Aires like the Paris of South America

-   6:10 – how were you robbed?

-   7:27 – what were some responsibilities you had at Food to Go?

-   9:50 – when did you have an aha moment that you can launch a company in Bulgaria?

-   11:52 – what do customer like about Foodobox when they discover it?

-   13:00 – does the customer have an idea of what they’re receiving?

-   13:55 – who was the first investor in Foodobox and what was that experience like?

-   15:15 – has it been hard to grow a ‘sustainability like’ business in Bulgaria?

-   16:31 – what trends are you seeing in the food industry that will continue to gain traction?

-   17:35 – what’s next for you personally?

-   18:35 – is there a book or podcast that has impacted the way you run your business?

Make sure to stick around for the Innovators Can Laugh segment! You won’t want to miss Jane’s hilarious answers!

Do you wish to connect with our special guest?

Visit Jane’s website: https://foodobox.com/

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Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Innovators Can Laugh in your favorite podcast player.

Connect with Eric:

Visit his website: https://innovatorscanlaugh.com

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Past Guests:


Past guests on Innovators Can Laugh include Yannik Veys, Ovi Negrean, Arnaud Belinga, Csaba Zajdó, Dagobert Renouf, Andrei Zinkevich, Viktorija Cijunskyte, Lukas Kaminskis, Pija Indriunaite, Monika Paule, PhD, Vytautas Zabulis, Leon van der Laan, Ieva Vaitkevičiūtė.


Additional episodes you might enjoy:

#55 Yannik Veys - From creating the Uber for service professionals to growing Hypefury


Tune in to every conversation about exciting European Startups and Innovators on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and Amazon! Leave a rating and review so we can keep making amazing interviews!

Listening on a desktop & can’t see the links? Just search for Innovators Can Laugh in your favorite podcast player.

Connect with Eric:
Visit his website: https://innovatorscanlaugh.com

For the Innovators Can Laugh newslett...


Hey, ICL fans, what do you do when you have a surplus of food? Do you just throw it out or is there a sustainable solution? Well, today we're chatting with Jane Dimitrova, an interesting and young entrepreneur from Bulgaria, who is helping tackle that problem by developing the first mobile app in Bulgaria to tackle food waste.

Although Jane is young. She is fascinating and her background includes having worked in Italy and Argentina and also intern at Proctor and Gamble according to her. People in Bulgaria are often quite skeptical about innovations in major changes, so let's hear how she's confronting these obstacles and trying to get her startup off the ground.

Let's dive in. Hey, you're listening to Innovators Can Laugh, The Fun Startup Podcast. I'm your host Eric Notcher on ico. We, I. An innovative entrepreneur in the European tech startup scene every week. My goal is to have my guests share their wisdom or having the little fun in the process. Now, let's dive in.

Jane Dimitrova. Doro . Good morning Eric. Thank you for having me here. Yeah, my pleasure to have you on the show. First question for you. I always like to start in the beginning and ask my guests, where did you grow up and how has that shaped your view of the world? Thanks for the question. Well, I grew up in Sofia and I was going to high school close to my home.

The high school was not a private one, but it was a very limited one in terms of number of students, and we were like 50 children in total. So I was there from kindergarten until my 18th anniversary when I graduated. So I think that saved my future in, in a way that I was very much relying on the people around me because I didn't really have access to other people , because the high school was very far away from the city center.

So, yeah, I, I have really nice friendships that I am still keeping in touch with since high school years. Yeah, that's, that's so nice. I went to a small high school too, and there was maybe a hundred kids in my class, and that's very small, especially for schools in the States. But to hear somebody say that they had a class of 50 students, I understand what you mean.

You, you, you grow these friendships, you get to know these people over time, and so you're still connected with many of these people. Yeah, somehow we are still in touch. Of course not with all of the 50 people, but my best friends are still my best friends from high school, and we went abroad after we graduated high school with some of them.

It was an Italian school, so most of the children went to continue their study, Italy, so did I, and some of them lived together. I decided to try a new path and got separated from them. I wanted to live with Italians, so. To emerge in the Italian way of living. So that helped me a lot as well, because I got out of the comfort zone I was living in for around 10 years and it was a useful exercise.

Yeah. Okay. Well, let's talk a little bit about that. So after high school, I, I noticed that you did some interesting internships in Italy and even Argentina. So what was your early career path like? Can you tell us more about that, Jane? Yeah, Well, I chose to study business and economics first of all, because in my family, my father is Aner and I really admire his way of working, living, and everything.

He's having his own project, so that inspired me somehow. My first internship was in Bologna in a future food institute in a company where we were organizing events on a sustainable topic where many startups were invited. So I was in touch with a lot of founders, a lot of young people who had their own project.

Some of them were already developed, some of them were early stage, and I really liked this first internship I was having. Unfortunately it was unpaid and they didn't offer me a job after I finished it. But anyways, during the internship I met the company where I started my first job, it was another startup fighting food waste.

It's called to, to go. And after they didn't offer me a job, I applied for the other company where they accepted me and it was very, And with regards to Argentina, I spent there around six months during the third year of the bachelor degree. The idea there was to get out of the comfort zone to study another language.

I managed to learn Spanish for less than six months, which was amazing. And the main idea was to travel. Of course, Latin America is amazing. I've never been to one oci, but they say that it's like the Paris of South America. Do you agree? Is it really nice? It is like the pearl of South America. I, I really like the city, but it's two-sided because on the first week I arrived, we got throughout.

Then I was so scared during the host day, but this is a very normal thing there. People were like, Oh you're like, you only got dropped . So I learned Thursday, this whole thing. Yeah. Where did it happen and how did it happen? Where, Where at? We were having a nice dinner, like 10 people of the new group friends have grew up there.

And on the way back I was going back home a whole thing because. To, to little distance to get an Uber or taxi. And we were all going like the 10 people together, and they just drove the, they were with the motorcycle, they call them moura. It's like motor test or something like this. And they just rob you and they get on the motorcycle and they run away.

Okay. But there was 10 of you. Did they have a weapon or something? How did they do? Yeah, yeah, they just jump off the motorcycle. Yeah, they had a weapon. Unfortunately they didn't use it, but we were afraid enough to just give us, to just give them the phones and the wallets and they just had like one minute to take whatever they could take.

And they wrote like four of us. And the others didn't even realize we were getting robbed because they were on the back of the line. . Yeah. Now it's funny, but, oh my God. Then I scared . Yeah. And, and bolo and bologna. Did you have any unfortunate experiences like that in Italy? No, never. I was living in a very good place in Italy, in Bolan, even though there are some places you should try to avoid living in or going alone in the night, but in Italy it was more quiet, more quell.

In Latin America, this is like day in, I get robbed because people there are living with a very low standard of payment. It was a bad time. Very high inflation. The money were losing, no PE was losing kids value every day, and I understand it was very difficult at that time four years ago. Right. Okay. Okay, so back in below.

Now you're working for Too Good to go. Right. What were some of the responsibilities you were, you were doing at this job? Yeah. I started, I was the fifth employee when they entered Italy. To go to Go is like a worldwide leader in the apps fighting food waste. They started like seven years ago in Denmark and they were just entering Italy.

I was very impressed by their previous success and I immediately, My main responsibility was to be handling the inbound, the outbound and inbound sales calls, and basically I was traveling in the beginning, I was traveling every month. I was going to a new city living there for one month. I managed to live in Sicily and it was amazing.

I was traveling to many, many different cities in the south of. Mako hit, and so it stopped being that racing. My job turned to handling inbound calls and it was like a little bit of a co center at some point, and I stopped enjoying it so much because I really loved traveling and talking to people and hanging out, but staying at home all day on the phone is not my thing.

Yeah. When you were traveling to these different cities, what were you doing? Basically we were going back a group of four or five people from the team and we were preparing the city to be launched. We were assisting the first partnerships with different supermarket, the different restaurants, and so basically we were onboarding the first stores who could join the app, and then there was the price release and the official lounge of the city.

Maybe in one month after we gather some significant number of for business partners. Okay, and, and how does the business work? I mean, for the stores to participate, is there any transaction monetary transaction involved, or are they simply just donating the food? No, it was not a donation. Basically the idea was that the end user can simply see where around them there is a food circles and you as an end user can choose a store that you like or that want to try.

You go there and pay a discounted price, you get the food at at one third of the price, for example, you still pay, but you pay soli that it's like just covering the expenses for the production of the food. Okay. Okay. So when did you have like an AHA movement that, hey, I can create something similar in in Bulgaria?

Was there a specific moment that you had an idea that came to you? Came to you during this time? Well, actually from the day I applied to this company, I really loved the concept and the idea. Of course, I didn't know that two years later I was about to found it on my own. My original idea was to, to make like a franchise.

So once I asked the CEO of the company, if it's possible, like the camera franchise license. Or anything related to opening this in Bulgaria. Mm-hmm. . And they said, Well, unfortunately Bulgaria is not our target market. It's a too little of a market. And I completely understand it because they target the United States and much bigger countries.

They recently loved Canada, and we are talking about size at least, or 50 times bigger than the little bulgar. And actually the aha moment was the covid pandemic. When I got back home, I, I was planning to stay in Bulgaria for maybe two, three weeks until everything is over, you know? But it turned out it wasn't over in two, three weeks.

And basically I was living back in, so, and staying on the phone all day doing this kind of boring job. And then I was like, Okay, maybe I can try doing this on my own because my background is in business and economics. Then my master's was in startup creation. I was still learning, I was still graduating online and my master's degree was on food box.

The, the teases, I wrote the final graduat. So slowly I was starting to build step by step the, the starting of food box. And, and then I met Lene, who is now the city of the company. So he's the other significant part of the project. Without him, it's not possible to carrot. Okay. Now what do restaurants and customers like about Food Box when they discover it?

Well, the restaurants, I like the idea that they have basically zero weight because a lot of bakeries, a lot of pastry shops, they end up the day with a lot of waste. You know, they have the, in order to catch the attention of the customers who are passing on the street, everything is filled with cakes, with the cross hands, and basically they can just sell this surplus foot at a discounted price and they can not lose money from the production of the foot.

And the idea is that then client will get a surprise box because it's not possible to predict exactly what is going to be left and sold. So then client, first of all is saving money and then is getting a nice surprise box with almost everything that is possible to find in the store. And you are saving some food.

You are helping the planet. So it's pretty. Okay, so the, the customer doesn't actually see what they're getting When they place an order, it's, it's an entirely a surprise, or do they have some idea of what they're receiv. Well, they have some basic idea. There is like a picture of the magic box that is usually prepared.

There is a two three line description, but in general, you know, when you go to bakery, you know there will be a cross sign, but you don't know if it's like chocolate fan or eight one. Yeah. Okay. So it's a very general idea. Okay. And do customers place an order one at a time or can they do some sort of a subscription or how does that work?

Well, you need to book the same day of the pickup. You basically go to the app, see where are the offers, which are the stores, and you book a surprise box. Then you need to go and pick it up during the pickup window. They have set preset, so you need to book on the same day. Okay. Okay. Who was the first investor of food box?

If there has been a first investor in, what was that experience? Yeah, we, fortunately, we closed our first investment round two months ago. It was struggle, to be honest, because we were planning to close it much earlier, but it turned out it's a long process. The first investor is Bulgarian. They're early stage busy and they invest sense of money from 25 K to 100, 150 K.

We managed to get 50 K Euro old. The negotiations were so long it took us. Six months from the moment we, we shaked our hands and we got the commitment to the moment we actually got the money in the bank account. During this time, we were so desperate. We weren't getting the money. We were like, special.

What is happening? Maybe their license or something is Stephanie. So we started searching for other alternative and we gathered a group of nine, which is a pretty big group of angels, and we secured another 160 K Euros. So we just got the money from the VC and now we are getting the money from the angels.

So in total it's like 210 K Euro. All right. Congratulations. Okay. Thank you. So has it been hard to grow a sustainable business with the cause in Bulgaria, Jane? Well, I think it's not that easy compared to a very conventional business that is actually making money, because for us it's, the revenue is a very, very little, The March we're making is like in Euro.

It's gonna be like, 50 cents to one Euro reach box we are selling. And here we have a big investment of initial money, like for the app development, for the salaries and everything. And we are really putting the calls on the first place and then the money will come eventually, maybe in one year when we reach a very, very high volume of sales then.

We'll be able to start speaking about break even point and, you know, basic stuff. . Yeah. And also the idea is pretty new for Bulgaria and the first five, six months, everybody was so suspicious of that. Then clients were . They were thinking that in the box they'll find some leftovers that are un unedible, you know?

And yeah, the vulgarian mentality, I think that's the. Yeah. . Okay. Yeah. Which, what trends are you seeing in the food industry that you think will continue to gain traction over the next few years? Well, I, I am visiting a lot of food events. Should start up the events and I see there are a lot of alternatives to the meat.

For example, the Beyond, Beyond Burger and some other alternatives to the animal protein. This is something I really see growing in the future. Another thing is productions from the wastage. For example, you know, some cups and plates are produced from leftover coffee or some wastage product. There is also food from the leftover of the brewery.

When the brewery get the beer, there is some that is leftover and they produce some crackers out of this. So I, I see alternatives of, of the normal, regular foods that are produced from basically wastage. Okay. What's next for, for Jane for you person? Well, now that we finally got the investment, I, things are getting serious because there are other people involved in the project.

It's not only me and, mm-hmm . So we really need to do our best in order to meet the expectations, the, the preset KPIs. We really need to work hard on this. The next thing is to expand outside of Bulgaria. So, as I was saying today we are in book, we are starting operations here. We are just participated in a accelerator program and yesterday was demo day.

So I, I am looking forward to grow this business outside of Bulgaria. It's a really challenging thing to do and then maybe become the market leader in Eastern Europe. Who knows? Okay. Okay. Is there a book or an article or podcast that has really impacted how you think and run your startup, your business?

Yeah, there is actually, it's a Bulgarian one. It's translated to the super cool one for with Tri Nano. It's a very inspiring one. I remember listening to the episodes back in Italy. I used to live very far away from the office and every day I was walking one hour on food to go to work, and then one hour on food to get back home.

And I was listening to many episodes, basically, very successful entrepreneurs go there and share their stories, how they started from zero, and they, they're one of the best, most successful people in Bulgaria. So I really, really enjoy how inspiring it is. Okay. All right. Now for some fun questions. First question is, does corn belong on pizza?

Corn on pizza. Well, corn is acceptable, but Annas no for sure. No . Yeah. If you ask Italian, they'll probably kill you after

Okay. Second question for you. What is a favorite TV show that you can watch again and again? Whoa. TV shows. I am so, I'm so bad with TV shows. I basically never watched tv. I remember back in the years I really enjoyed Breaking Bad the the Drug, the Drug series, you know, where they produce some kind of drug.

It felt funny. And then How I Met Your Mother, but they're so old. . I'm not familiar with the neuro series really. Yeah, no, I like breaking bag too and I'm watching a better call saw currently, which is, think just as good as, I think it's just as good. Yeah. Cool. Yeah, it's really good. The writing and the, Or it's, it's just like an extension of the show.

It's fantastic. Last question for Youj. Last question for you. What is something that most people don't know about you? Something that they're not gonna see on your LinkedIn profile or anywhere else? Okay. I, I have a funny story here. It's a very short one. When I was 16, I was very sporty. I was running, I was playing tennis, and I, I was challenging myself, like whenever it was possible.

So I got accepted to sprint on high heels, so it was like a 50 meters sprint on high heel in Burgas at the sea side. And I arrived there and the minimum was like 13 centimeter. Which is a lot actually, and I accidentally won it and it was the fastest one money in my career because I won 1000 level for seven seconds.

Amazing. Did you, did you do any training for this? Like, did you No. No, not on her hands. . Yeah. Oh man. Did you look and see if there was any other events like in Romania or any other place nearby that you could, you could go and compete in? I was searching for others because I saw that maybe I have a hidden talent, but they canceled it.

Organized by the Cosmopolitan magazine and they, that was the last event on High Heel ever in their history. I don't know why. ? Yeah, . Okay. Love it. Love it. Jade, thank you so much for being on the Innovators can laugh for everyone listening, you know, this is Jade Domi throw off from Food Fu Box. I will put links and this show and Jane, pleasure having you on.

Thank you for having me here. Eric . Yeah. Yeah, it was a pleasure. And for everyone else, next week we'll have another Bulgarian startup founder on the show, Georgie Cadre, founder of Kelvin Health, which is an easy diagnostic application for vascular conditions that you can do at home with your mobile phone and the use of ai.

So log in next week to hear that. Thank you so much for being here and keep hustling out there and if you can help somebody, go ahead and help that person. All right. Have a great week. Cheers.

Thanks for listening to the show. If you enjoyed it, I'd really appreciate it if you could give us a review and star rating. Also, don't forget to sign it for the ICO newsletter@innovatorscollapse.com where you can get the bio and details of each guest. Thanks.