From time to time, W8H likes to step outside the restaurant and examine cool new companies that are changing the way we eat. The latest company at the intersection of tech and food is Cookly. W8H Recently caught up with its co-founder and CEO Benjamin Ozsanay and learned all about how he’s connecting people to cultural culinary experiences all around the world.
Can you tell us a little about yourself and your role with Cookly?
Hey, my name is Ben. I’m 27 years old and I currently live in Bangkok. As the co-founder & CEO of Cookly I focus on marketing and product development. My role is to establish Cookly as a brand, provide an outstanding user experience, look out for market trends and work on the overall strategy. However, in the early stages of a startup you are also in charge of incorporating your business, finding a work space, hiring employees, creating a bank account, building a web site, raising funds and taking out the trash. So I rather call myself the Chief Everything Officer.
What brings you to Bangkok?
As always, things happen unexpectedly. I used to live in Germany, France, England, Spain, Australia and I travelled the world for a year. Once you’ve started travelling there is no way back. My last destination before moving to Bangkok was Berlin – probably one of my favorite cities in the world. I worked in a mobile ad-tech startup and got inspired by the dynamic environment. Hungry for freedom and ready to unleash my entrepreneurial spirit, I simply decided to quit my job and book a flight to Bangkok. I started working on my own app and joined a friend in Bangkok. The initial plan was to become a digital nomad – work remotely while travelling the world. But again, things usually happen unexpectedly, right?
First of all, can you explain the concept of Cookly to our readers?
Cookly is a marketplace that helps people discover culinary activities anywhere in the world.
Whether you are travelling or at home, Cookly lets you explore the most flavorful cuisines all over the world.
We want people to dive into a cultural adventure and try out a new fun activity with friends, a few steps away from home or on their next exotic destination.
Cookly connects you with local professional chefs and established cooking schools who will make sure you enjoy a unique culinary experience.
How did the idea emerge? Where did the inspiration come from?
The idea came up when my co-founder Etienne (who I met in Thailand) and I were looking for a cooking class here in Bangkok. Inspired by the culinary tastes and smells of South East Asia, the idea of Cookly was born. Both of us grew up in an environment where food always played a big role in our lives. I’d consider myself as a proper foodie, who loves to cook and try new local dishes while travelling.
You founded your company from Bangkok, Thailand, why is that? What’s the business scene like there?
Doing business is never easy, but I would say if you made it in Bangkok you can make it anywhere 😉 The challenges here are pretty big, starting from the language barrier. However, Bangkok’s startup scene is emerging drastically! It’s the perfect hub in Asia, surrounded by interesting financial markets such as Singapore and Hong Kong. Besides that, no other place has such a distinctive culture and the beaches here are just mind blowing 😉
There seems to be a connection between cooking, discovery and travel. Can you discuss how these things are intertwined?
Absolutely! Cooking, traveling and discovering have a complimentary relationship to each other! Food is a bridge between a country and its culture. Here is a nice quote from the International Culinary Tourism Association:
“Because eating involves all five of the human senses, we’ll remember a meal much longer than we will a visit to a museum.”
Typically these sorts of business concepts conquer one region at a time. Where will you begin? What’s your growth strategy?
We start off in South East Asia, which is globally known as a culinary hotspot! Our strategy is to expand at a fast pace in other markets, including Australia, Europe and the Americas. We’ll not only be present in exotic tourist destinations, but also in local metropolitan markets, where we want to establish a new cultural and fun activity. We’ll also extend our product line by offering a variety of culinary activities such as wine tastings, food tours, mixology classes and more.
Now some more fun questions about food and dining:
What’s your favorite Thai dish?
Som Tum – Thai traditional papaya salad. Can’t get enough!
What’s your favorite cuisine?
Given my roots, I’m obviously a big fan of the cuisine from the South West of France. I also enjoy Italian, Lebanese, Indian and of course Thai food!
Can you cook? If so, what are your specialties?
Yes, I love to cook! Pretty much anything that is available where I currently live. I really like seafood and there are quite a few dishes I like to cook such as mussels, scallops, clams, squid or prawns….
If you were stranded on an island and could only eat five foods, what would they be?
Mango, goat cheese, salmon, coconut, fraisier (French strawberry cake)
Anything else you would like to share about yourself?
Back in 2011 I randomly talked to a guy in a hostel in San Francisco who said:
“You know, life is about being free, doing what you want, being productive and… paying taxes.” Ever since that day, I have this quote stuck in my head (apart from the last bit). Today I think I’m getting closer each day to reaching this status.