How It All Started
Pizza should never be put to waste. The idea for DamoGO emerged during a late night group study session in the dorm rooms of Korea University. Muhammad Farras, noticing another student moving to throw out nearly a full pie of remaining slices, leaped out of his chair to stop him.
Instead, they marched through the hallways calling out anyone who wanted a slice for 1000 won ($1). The slices sold out in 10 minutes.
Farras began formulating a food waste solution pitch for an upcoming startup competition. He needed help, and the right connection came through a friend who was interning at the Seoul Global Startup Center for an international restaurant franchise consulting company run by Lin Hwang.
Lin, with over thirteen years of experience in the global food industry, from manufacturing to distribution, knew without hesitation that this idea was needed in Seoul.
Together, Lin and Farras, founded DamoGO in October 2017 and has since then created an app that lets restaurant, bar, bakery and food store owners upload their ‘last call’ food and drink items. Consumers can see these postings in real time, purchase the listed item on the app, and pick it up before store closing.
Over 80,000 restaurants in Seoul, combined with Koreans who hold the highest smartphone ownership in the world, is what makes DamoGO (translated from Korean as “eat it all”) a sought after service by restaurants around the city.
Not only do restauranteurs list for free on the DamoGO app and gain additional revenue and marketing exposure, they can also lower the cost they have to pay the city for food waste that goes to landfills. The cost for food trash is hefty, calculated by weight, with small restaurants paying nearly 800,000 won ($800) a month. It’s a win-win-win solution for businesses, consumers, and the city.
Given the great benefits to business owners, DamoGO set a pricing policy that guarantees posted food is sold at less than 50% of its initial price.
Luring food establishments to join was easy, and DamoGO quickly grew its business user base, which will be including Michelin rated restaurants.
Their biggest challenge was sorting through the complicated Korean online payment system. They wanted to make the payment system as “painless” as possible, especially for foreigners who aren’t connected to Korean systems and unaccustomed to the multi-step security measures to make a purchase.
They consulted with other e-commerce apps targeting foreigners in Korea, including the food delivery service, Shuttle. After countless trial runs, DamoGO was able to set up a seamless one-step payment system for its consumers.
Another hurdle they hope to overcome is the general image projected to Korean consumers. DamoGO wants to be embraced by the Korean population, not only for food cost savings, but for its impact on the environment.
As an American native hailing from Northern New Jersey, Lin sees less public individual environmental advocacy in Korea than the States, particularly in showcasing their support to “save the planet.”
“So far, the positive response we’ve gotten here is related to getting a good deal, but we want people know they’re making a difference by ‘rescuing’ wasted food that would otherwise end up in landfills and releasing greenhouse gases.”
DamoGO hopes to help solve the problem of increasing landfills in South Korea, and with government incentive programs directed at businesses and individuals to pay for their food waste, it may be the added solution necessary to lessen the load.
They see this problem not only in South Korea, but at an alarming rate in Indonesia, which was documented by the Economist Intelligence Unit as the second largest producer of food waste in the world, after Saudi Arabia.
Lin and Farras chose to plant their next DamoGO seeds there, as Farras is an Indonesian native. They’ve already made connections in Jakarta, beginning a collaboration with the government’s “Jakarta Smart City” program.
DamoGO plans to raise another round of seed funding to “help us grow aggressively in Korea, as well as develop an initial small team in Indonesia.”
“Food waste is a dumb problem that’s too often ignored. We’re paying attention, and bringing solutions that people can’t ignore.”
Local businesses and users can find the DamoGO app on Google Play and the App Store.