This is part of a series of blog posts on decisions we’ve made in the course of business, to provide some insight into our business and product development process. This post is about improving food transparency and the inception and creation of Nima. 

There are many ways to think about food transparency. We’ve observed new tools to help farmers connect with people, efforts to increase visibility in the supply chain, and yes, even various food sensors. When Shireen went to graduate school at MIT, her impetus was to do something with health, food, and technology. She wasn’t certain what shape that would take, or how it would go, but it was something for which she felt a passion.

Our team recently met with Danish academic researcher Davey Schauer, who is interested in the concept of fuzziness — the front end of the innovation spectrum. He asked us questions around the nature of innovation, fuzziness, how our team would define those, and what it meant within the context of our business. Whether it’s harnessing all the current and emergent technologies to develop something that hasn’t been seen before or solving a problem in an expected way, innovation for us is about that synthesis at that moment combined with creative problem solving. Fuzziness is actually a little…blurrier. We talked a lot about the continuation of fuzzy, and the idea that there are times when you have clarity and choose to go back to fuzzy.

How does this relate to the one decision? Shireen had this personal agenda around food, health, and technology. She was going to figure out a way to pull things together – adding in knowledge from graduate school and the peers she encountered. Shireen had been diagnosed in college with multiple food allergies – gluten, soy, dairy, and egg. It impacted her daily life. She was wary when eating at restaurants or events. While in graduate school she was at a wedding and the server offered her a risotto ball. She stared at it, uncertain if it were safe to eat. Asking all the normal questions: “Does this have gluten in it? Are you sure it’s really dairy free? Were eggs used as a binder?” didn’t alleviate the worry that she might get exposed to gluten when she was there to celebrate a friend’s major life event. She emerged from the fuzziness to get to the insight “What if I could just test this food? Right now? Right here?” That’s the impetus behind Nima – putting tools in people’s hands so they can trust their food.

So, the first and most important decision: the core of what Nima does.

The fuzziness to come: figuring out how to solve this problem.