An Interview with Pete Wong of Yummi: The World's First Foodie Blockchain

With services like Yelp, you don't always know if the reviews are credible, but blockchain solves that for foodies

Leah Zitter
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Last I spoke to Pete Wong of Yummi, he had arrived at the outline of his white paper and determined exactly how he wanted to spit out his USP. He’d been working on his ICO for a while and spent months evaluating different white papers to decide how to form his own.

“It would be,” he told me, “the first decentralized interactive food diary, where users can remember and share their food experiences.”

Wong, a University of California, Irvine alumni, came to food from Shanghai where he worked as Expert in Residence (EiR) at UCI Applied Innovation, led business units for Deloitte, eBay, Dell, WPP, and Google, and founded three startups. In his 18 years in Asia, Wong noticed common pain points among foodies, where popular social platforms (think of Instagram and Facebook) gave foodies the facilities to record food memories, but not the ability to recall them. Foodies, for instance, complained that Instagram and Facebook largely serve as “food for your eyes,” but make it difficult for foodies to locate favorite “foodprints” when they most need them. Yelp helps users discover new restaurants, but does little to prioritize food recommendations and is notorious for its skewed ratings.

Wong established website Yummi in June, 2016, as a sort of Yelp for food, with the option to geo-tag and sort by date the dishes closest to you, find new restaurants, or even identify new menu items from local favorites. Each “food print” can be categorized by cuisine to easily find later on. For those concerned about their nutrition, a calendar view shows users an overview of their food diary. Put another way, Yummi is a montage of unforgettable memories of gastronomical hotel menus in the Seine, a forest picnic in back-woods Virginia, or your own stovetop invention that you want to record forever and share with your friends and other users. It’s a memory of the bride’s wedding, the mourner’s funeral, and the traveler’s first time in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

Wong’s ultimate goal is for Yummi to do for the foodie ecosystem what LinkedIn does for the business/networking world. The world, he told oddly-named Spoon University two years ago, needs an app like Yummi to help connect us through food.

“My research tells me that there are over two billion smartphone users and statistics say 35 percent take photos of food – equating to 735 million users! That’s a lot of people and a lot of food photos. But, surprisingly, less than five percent of all food photos get posted online. The main motivation for sharing these is largely to get ‘likes’. The remaining 95 percent either sits on your phone, taking up phone space, or gets deleted.”

Almost immediately, Yummi got picked up and passed along by evangelical followers.

Kristie Hang, a food blogger and TV host said: “I love using the Yummi app as a food journal to keep track of places I have eaten.” She added, “The app design is so easy to use. All the features are extremely helpful for anyone who loves to eat.”

By January, 2018, Yummi attracted 15,327 followers and that’s when Wong decided to transition to the blockchain.

To begin with, the scalibility of the blockchain is unlimited. This means that you can incorporate an infinite amount of material on it - far more than you can on the centralized cloud system and, certainly, far more than on your mobile. That’s a huge help for foodies because, even if they don’t realize it, when they take food photos, they simultaneously delete valuable content. (Their phone albums, cloud backup apps, or the current social apps have only a limited memory).

Second, the security of the blockchain locks your data forever, which is just right for individuals like the new bride or the new mother who may want to tuck away memories of their wedding and newborn celebrations as a legacy. Best of all, blockchain helps you share certain aspects of data and conceal others. Not everyone wants to share their most intimate food memories, so blockchain helps such users toggle post visibility to private mode.

There’s another reason why Yummi needs the blockchain. For foodies, services like Instagram, Yelp and Facebook serve to delight, because users share and rate photographs. On the flip side, it’s hard to know which photographs and reviews are credible, and which are contrived. Yelp, for instance, is notorious for distortion.

Blockchain validates with hacker-proof cryptographic stamps that include verifications like timestamps and gps. Its data-sharing features verify accuracy. Wong cited Technojobs’ director Anthony Sherick who points to the blockchain as the ultimate guarantee that documents like “foodprints” remain untouched: “As [the documents are locked] on the blockchain, the information is secure and cannot be altered. There is no single point where the system can fail or be compromised.”

Yummi appeals precisely because food occupies the talk and imagination of virtually most humans in our universe. It’s one of our few unifiers. While some services appeal to bookworms, or geeks, or potato-lovers, Yummi speaks to the universal appeal for food, and, by doing so, also attracts managers of the hospitality, restaurant and tourism industries, who use the service to promote their businesses, assess their performances, and scout recipes to attract and retain clients.

Here’s how blockchain Yummi would work

Foodie curators who contribute posts would be compensated with Yummi tokens, called Yum, for their “memories” or recipes. Contributors can choose to toggle between “private” and “public” accounts, to decide whether they want to reveal or conceal their posts. Contributors who publicize their posts would be awarded even more “Yum” tokens. Posts are geotagged and timestamped for accuracy.

Better still, Wong has begun persuading his huge global network of food professionals and influencers in the hospitality industry (that includes accomodations like hotels and motels, restaurants and bars, inlcuding nightclubs, and tour operators) to accept the Yum digital currency as part of the payment for a meal. Contacts include the Orange County Restaurant Association, an organization representing more than 700 restaurants, and the annual Orange County Restaurant Week, that rallies thousands of foodies to try new restaurants and cuisines. Yum is the token to a physical meal in the offline world. So say, you’ve earned 1,000 Yums from sharing your 1,000 favorite food memories - well, you may be able to enjoy your next Kentucky grilled chicken, extra crispy tenders, hot wings and popcorn nuggets for free.

And Wong’s USP? “Well, Yummi will be the first decentralized service to help you record, share and explore food experiences on one secure platform.”

In fact, it’s the ultimate food journal ever.

To learn more about Yummi, visit https://www.yummi.me/ or stop by its Facebook page.