Meet Startup @TW

Matchmaking where you know the conversation topic in advance

A Taiwanese meal matchmaking startup has extended its menu from random encounters in restaurants to events with preset discussion topics.

The startup EatMe's online service launched in May matches people randomly once a week at set times and places. It averages 50,000 matches per month and about two thirds of the users meet.

Last month EatMe released a social networking app called Eatgether. It lets people arrange meetings over vittles and potations but not randomly. Users instead enter a restaurant name, conversation topic and method of payment. Others using the app can request to join the event.

The new service is EatMe CEO Wu Yin-rui's response to dating apps. An algorithm that suggests potential matches is based on conversation topic preferences, which help break the ice at the first meeting.

Despite a lack of advertising, Wu told Business Next, 25,000 people have signed up for EatMe's services.

Top conversation topics are traveling (25.8 percent), food (17.7 percent) and films (16.5 percent). Among women, 40 percent wish to meet men, 6 percent hope to meet other women, and 53 percent are OK with either. Men prefer the company women (83 percent), 3 percent want to meet another man and 13 percent have no gender preference.

The platform also can be used to organize group meals and meet new business contacts.

EatMe was established in the southern Taiwan city Tainan in 2009. Initially, it issued US$15 cards that gave consumers discounts at restaurants in Tainan.

Eatgether is currently available on Android with an iOS version due. Wu hopes to earn money by offering premium services for paying customers and a B2B profit-sharing framework with payment services.

Wu aims to merge the random matching service and Eatgether into the same app before the end of the year.

EatMe has signed agreements with 2,000 restaurants in Taiwan. Its discount model had appealed to business owners first because the startup's brought a steady stream of customers.

EatMe also charges no fees until the restaurant profits from the service. And it shares data with the restaurants to help them understand customers and tailor their businesses accordingly.

In 2013, EatMe released its first app, which suggested discounted restaurants to users, based on locations and consumer habits.

The following year EatMe landed US$3m in funding from the Taiwan-based United Daily News group.

Also that year it launched the "EatMe Restaurateur Academy," an online venue for established restaurateurs to share experience with budding entrepreneurs.

The academy also connects new restaurants with food producers and helps find funds to set up shop.

This academy "is the final piece in a complete restaurant ecosystem that benefits consumers, businesses and entrepreneurs," Wu said. "It's the basis for future development."