A mobile app that identifies food ingredients and allergens has won Tampa Bay's fifth Startup Weekend. WaZINIT is designed to help consumers with allergies and specific preferences compare products directly from their smartphones.
President and St. Petersburg native Brian DiVito has lived with Crohn's disease for over half of his life. For 16 years, he navigated a cycle of flare-ups, hospital stays, abdominal surgery and recovery related to the condition.
Along the way, DiVito learned that he had about 30 food allergies. He developed a new diet that avoided trigger foods. Today, he experiences virtually no Crohn's-related issues.
"With 30 allergies, I kept thinking, 'There's got to be a better way','' DiVito explains. "I spend a ridiculous amount of time reading ingredient labels in the store.''
Multiple food allergies also kept DiVito from trying new things. "Once I found a food product that worked, I'd stick with it,'' he says. "Current solutions that are out there limit you, many times, to the eight FDA allergies. They also charge a super-high premium.''
The eight major food allergens
identified by the Food and Drug Administration include: milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, peanuts, wheat and soybeans.
"Our app will allow you to focus on many more specific ingredients: Do you want to eat this, or avoid it?'' says DiVito, who attended the University of South Florida, where he studied Architecture and Civil/Structural Engineering.
As a "hobbyist'' front-end developer, DiVito had been "kicking around'' the idea of an app that could help consumers search a large database for specific products or ingredients. Smartphone and tablet users will be able to scan products and identify ingredients from the app's directory.
Enter Startup Weekend Tampa Bay. The team included DiVito and his wife, Christina DiVito, along with Gregg Hilferding, Zach Kanzler, Todd Broyles, Adriane Jacobsen, Collete Lawson and Elizabeth Rugg. WaZINIT won.
"Our pitch for the judges was focused on how we could monetize the app -- but for me, the most important thing is to keep it free,'' DiVito explains. "Whatever their reasons, I want people to be able to use it and share it with family and friends for free.''
Now that Startup Weekend is over, the team is back down to a skeleton crew as they work to develop a beta version, market the app and source funding. They applied to the First WaVe Accelerator program
, and competed in the Global Startup Battle, which is sponsored by Coca-Cola. DiVito hopes to "attract the attention and support'' of manufacturers like the brand.
"Ultimately, the goal is to keep the mobile app free of charge for the user,'' Di Vito says.
WaZINIT will be released in 2014 for mobile devices.
Writer: Justine Benstead
Source: Brian DiVito, WaZINIT