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

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

The 412

Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Destined to be a Classic: Pittsburgh Penguins 'Christmas Vacation' Parody Video

Evegeni Malkin is priceless at the end.
This Weekend: Chris Jamison & the Steelers, Pens & Ugly Sweaters, Mayor Undercover

This Weekend: Chris Jamison & the Steelers, Pens & Ugly Sweaters, Mayor Undercover

Some cool things to watch out for this weekend in the ’Burgh.
#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

#Oops — Or, About that Headline . . .

Once in a while, no good deed goes unpunished.
Now Online: Two New Cameras to Keep an Eye on Pittsburgh’s Bald Eagles

Now Online: Two New Cameras to Keep an Eye on Pittsburgh’s Bald Eagles

A Murrysville security company has installed the new cameras, which provide sharper images of the Hays eagles.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Hot Reads

Review: Salt of the Earth

Review: Salt of the Earth

Brandon Fisher is the latest chef behind Salt of the Earth’s modern-American dishes.
2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

2014 Pittsburgher of the Year Award: The Fred Rogers Company

Sharing the DNA of the father of children’s television, the Fred Rogers Company reinvigorates a beloved legacy while creating new hit characters and content that help children to grow, giggle and learn.
Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Update: The McMutrie Sisters' Mission 5 Years After the Haiti Earthquake

Jamie and Ali McMutrie were PM's 2010 Pittsburghers of the Year after airlifting 54 youngsters to safety. Now, they have forged a relationship with a major global player to continue their work to prevent struggling Haitian families from surrendering children to orphanages.
PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

PittGirl's New Year's Resolutions for Pittsburghers

Four ways to make the city even better in 2015.
Penguins Profile: The Fearless Patric Hornqvist

Penguins Profile: The Fearless Patric Hornqvist

The Penguin winger fits in easily with the team, thanks to his infectious personality and his mad dedication to confounding opposing goaltenders.
Rev It Up: This South Side Pittsburgh Loft is Unique and Unusual

Rev It Up: This South Side Pittsburgh Loft is Unique and Unusual

This three-story home melds all of the comforts of home with the sleek look and efficiency of industrial design.
Edit ModuleShow Tags Edit Module

Edit ModuleShow Tags