With a little help from AngelList, Cucumbertown bakes a new recipe platform

By Nathaniel Mott , written on October 17, 2012

From The News Desk

Go ahead and put another notch in AngelList's bedpost. Cucumbertown has used the crowdfunding service, which we have covered pretty extensively, to raise seed funding and get its feet off the ground. The company is also the first startup to use AngelList's Docs, a feature that makes it easier to handle the paperwork that comes with closing a seed round.

Backed by 500 Startups' Paul Singh, AngelList's Naval Ravikant, FarmVille co-creator Sizhao Zao Yang, and a number of other US- and India-based angel investors, Cucumbertown is a "platform for food" that makes it easier for users to share and browse recipes. After a 500 user beta period, the service is launching to the public today.

Though people already share recipes through personal blogs and other websites, co-founder Cherian Thomas says that blogging platforms (and, specifically, WordPress) weren't designed with recipes in mind. Thomas, an ex-Zynga engineer, decided to try to build a better solution in his spare time and recruited three other people, including a Tumblr theme designer and a partner at Web development firm Information Architects, to make his dream service a reality.

The result is a potluck of imitation with a recipe-oriented bend. At its base level, Cucumbertown can be used to simply post and browse recipes, but users that want to dig a little deeper will find an almost GitHub-like system for tweaking other users recipes (called, punnily enough, "forking" the recipe) and a robust search system that makes it easy to find a recipe based on ingredient, cook time, difficulty, and more.

Even a culinary luddite like myself is able to find something with Cucumbertown's search. Say I want to cook some breakfast (this almost never happens, but let's play pretend) and I'm in a hurry. Through Cucumbertown's search, I can exclude all of the ingredients that I hate – chili, mustard, turmeric, and coriander, to name a few – and specify that I'm looking to make some breakfast. Then, since I'm in a hurry and my cooking skills basically amount to calling for take-out, I specify that I want something that takes less than 15 minutes to cook and is "easy" to make. I'll just hit search and presto! Recipes that fit my admittedly-ridiculous criteria appear.

Cucumbertown is ultimately about building a community around making food. In the same way that developers post their projects to GitHub or designers share their latest work on Dribbble, Cucumbertown is meant to be the place that people turn to when they need to cook or feel like sharing a particularly tasty recipe. It's the modern equivalent of the cookbook, developed asynchronously by the masses and tested on anyone willing to experiment with something new.

Since I'm not a chef (as we established above) or even really a "foodie," I didn't actually change any recipes and publish them to the site. I did go through the motions, however, and the system is simple enough – once a user hits "write a variation" on a recipe's page they're taken to an easily-editable form that makes inputting instructions, ingredients, and the other bits of metadata a snap.

It's too early in the company's life to determine whether or not this approach will work, but specialized networks like Cucumbertown have been attracting more and more attention as of late. The previously mentioned GitHub and Dribbble are just two examples – Geeklist and Fitocracy are also trying to prove that the generalized, "everyone you know in one place" concept of a social network isn't the best way to build a community.

If Facebook is the sledgehammer of social networks, Cucumbertown might be the ball peen hammer, Fitocracy could be the typical claw hammer, and the other services could be some...other hammer...with a specific function. (I write about tech, not carpentry.)