Food via Fooala

A local tech start-up with an idea born "Down Under" is a boon to hungry 'Burghers.



When Carnegie Mellon student David E. Chen was studying abroad in Sydney, Australia, in 2008, he was frustrated by how difficult it was to find restaurant menus online to order meals for pick-up. Several restaurants had websites with menus, but it was time-intensive to go from site to site. "The problem wasn't that there weren't enough restaurant sites," Chen says. "There just wasn't one site that had menus from a lot of restaurants that would also let me order take-out."

An idea was born, and that idea is now realized as yet another Pittsburgh-based tech start-up.

Fooala (a combination of "food" and "koala") is not designed as a Web destination for consumers. Rather, the Fooala team partners with restaurants and websites to work behind the scenes on the site. Visitors can peruse the menu and click to order items for pick-up. One stop, no hunting. Check it out in action at pittsburghmagazine.com/restaurants.

After he returned from Sydney to CMU to continue his studies in information systems and human-computer interaction, Chen sought the help of the university's Project Olympus, which assists students with their entrepreneurial endeavors. Chen and his co-founders, Zachary Cancio and Todd Eichel (students from Duke and CMU, respectively) were then accepted to South Side-based AlphaLab, a program of Innovation Works, one of the most active seed-stage investment groups in the United States. This organization invests in technology companies that, according to the website, have the "greatest likelihood for regional economic impact."

AlphaLab offers a single 20-week program for up to six companies at a time, providing each with office space, funding and the opportunity to work with advisers and fellow entrepreneurs. The range of start-up companies includes those in newer technologies, Web, entertainment and mobile spaces, says Mike Woycheck, an AlphaLab technology analyst.

The entrepreneurs come from a variety backgrounds, Woycheck says, from university students to those who have reached seniority in their careers. "Being together in one space at this early stage of each company's development allows the AlphaLab participants to exchange knowledge, problem solve and feed off the energy and passion they all share," Woycheck says.

The program includes meetings with the AlphaLab team and other advisers who provide guidance on business development. Woycheck says the process is inspiring to watch. "We see individuals with exciting ideas and a dream to make their business happen. They just need the assistance to make it a reality. Watching that evolution is amazing."

Chen says the AlphaLab experience, as well as having the ability to check in with advisers, was "tremendously helpful." As Chen goes on to say, "AlphaLab had the experience and the higher level perspective that, being so close to Fooala, we couldn't have. They helped us make so many connections in Pittsburgh-we don't know what we would have done without them."

With talks beginning with college publications and sites in other locations and smartphone apps in development, the Fooala future looks bright, Chen says. "We had an idea for a service that would be beneficial to all the parties: from the restaurants, to the publication's website to the consumer. It's happening, and it's exciting." 


For more information on Fooala, visit fooala.com.

Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Which 33 establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

Executive chefs often are given much of the credit for their restaurants’ success, but that praise would be hard to bestow if each did not lead an outstanding kitchen brigade.
The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

From ferns to forsythia, there are ample growth opportunities for creating a gorgeous, low-maintenance garden this year in your own backyard.
PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

In this case, as in most others, it's better to give than take.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Pittsburgh Magazine Wins 7 Golden Quill Awards

Pittsburgh Magazine Wins 7 Golden Quill Awards

Sponsored by the Press Club of Western Pennsylvania, the contest recognizes excellence in magazine, newspaper, broadcast and online journalism.
Got Tickets? Pittsburgh's Best, Biggest Food Event Is Weeks Away

Got Tickets? Pittsburgh's Best, Biggest Food Event Is Weeks Away

Join us on June 8 at Heinz Field for the 26th annual Best Restaurants Party.
Bow Wow: Pittsburgh Gets Props for Dog Parks

Bow Wow: Pittsburgh Gets Props for Dog Parks

The city earned a No. 1 ranking for giving our four-legged friends plenty of room to roam.
Idlewild Park Opening with New Ride

Idlewild Park Opening with New Ride

The park begins its 138th season this weekend.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Pittsburgh's Best Restaurants 2015

Which 33 establishments did our independent Restaurant Review Panel include among its top picks this year? Find them here.
The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

The Right Recipe: Spy Inside 5 Killer Kitchens

Executive chefs often are given much of the credit for their restaurants’ success, but that praise would be hard to bestow if each did not lead an outstanding kitchen brigade.
The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

The Beginner's Garden: How to Easily Create a Summer Eden

From ferns to forsythia, there are ample growth opportunities for creating a gorgeous, low-maintenance garden this year in your own backyard.
PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

PittGirl Believes She is Totally Right about the Pittsburgh Left

In this case, as in most others, it's better to give than take.
On Par with Arnie, She is America's 'Queen of Golf'

On Par with Arnie, She is America's 'Queen of Golf'

The world of golf may have been slow to embrace women, but Sewickley amateur Carol Semple Thompson always has found her way into the club.
Last in the Water But First at the Finish Line

Last in the Water But First at the Finish Line

Penn State Behrend swimmer Mia Pietropola’s deafness may give her competitors an advantage at the starting blocks. She beats them anyway.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module