Mealthy: An Appliance Company with the Beating Heart of a Software Organization
It’s not that often that a message from a stranger on LinkedIn leads to a positive experience. It’s even less often that experience is not only positive but lets you flex muscles you didn’t know you had. I had the opportunity to start at a startup, lead and grow a team and phase myself out as more talented and capable people came into the organization.
The Condensed Version
Going to hit some highlights from my time at Mealthy. There was a lot going on and we worked on a lot of different features in the 9 months I was there. I’ll have more information and images up soon.
Starting from Scratch
As the first contractor for Mealthy I was able to help the CEO define systems and processes to create a digital product-focused culture. I brought in the first contractors (who were all friends) to work on the engineering team and with the early editorial team we tackled a lot of the crazy early stage work - like branding (thanks J.D. Reeves for the amazing logo work and Ryan LaBouve for knowing him), defining voice and helping build a brand bible.
Designing from our Users Out
From the get-go we focused on the reading experience. We wanted to know how and why people used recipe sites the way they did and then iteratively build out from there. From the beginning our CEO was committed to focusing on the idea that (within the digital products) the user is our business and every other part of the business is secondary. This attitude kept us on a very specific trajectory to make digital products that lived in an ecosystem rather than as monolithic revenue drivers. This mandate led to really great performance numbers and a meteoric rise in analytics in the first six months.
Mealthy products are built around the joy of eating well and sharing it with others. Community features were very important to our CEO from the get-go. We wanted an experience where features like a personal recipe box and commenting were available as V1 features instead of nice-to-haves. We rolled our own services for these in React and came to find out that the engineering piece was significantly more challenging that we thought. We got the recipe box sorted right out of the gate but missed our initial deadline on commenting for V1. We quickly got it into our products right after V1 launch with no ongoing hiccups.
Leading and Growing a Team
I was the first one hired as a contractor at Mealthy and as our team grew, I found myself taking on more and more responsibility. We went from one engineer and me, to two engineers and two designers, then to three designers, a CTO and three other engineers. I was defining design and front-end coding processes, having 1:1’s with other designers to discuss issues and to define more granular processes. I was overseeing the day to day design details right up to the point that we had brought in other full-time designers to work directly with the CTO and our Business Intelligence Researcher.