Ex-Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff and teen daughter cook up a new food-focused social media startup

Recon Food co-founders Spencer Rascoff and his daughter, Sophia, in their kitchen with a fresh batch of chocolate chip cookies. (Cory Sherwood Photography)

Sophia Rascoff and her dad, Zillow co-founder and former CEO Spencer Rascoff, like to take on new dishes in the family kitchen, even though the 16-year-old says they have no extensive cooking experience and they’re not amazing chefs.

“We simply have fun and do our best,” Sophia said.

But when it comes to a new social media app the two have created together, the necessary ingredients are there — Spencer Rascoff has years of startup experience, Sophia had a vision, and the venture is very much a serious endeavor.

The Rascoffs launched Recon Food out of beta on Tuesday, a free social app intended to bring people together around a shared love of food.

Plenty of people use well established platforms such as Instagram to post images of what they’re cooking at home or what they’re eating at a restaurant. Recon is a place for both, where food lovers can share what they like to eat and review places to do just that. It’s also Sophia’s way to draw people away from the negativity and politics that can overwhelm users of mainstream social media and instead connect with friends over shared interests.

Rascoff, co-founder of such startups as Hotwire, Zillow, dot.LA and Pacaso, gets the chance to create something new with his daughter. He said six months of development has been a fantastic experience so far, and that Sophia is the perfect co-founder for Recon because she lives and breathes social media, she loves to cook and she’s a software engineer.

“I’ve always believed in bringing people with different points of view to the table when tackling big problems, but I don’t think I fully realized how valuable age diversity could be on a founding team,” Rascoff said. “As a teenager, she sees the world and social media through a different lens. That, combined with her entrepreneurial spirit and drive, has made her a great partner and co-founder.”

Living in the same Los Angeles house also helps with 24×7 collaboration.

Recon Food app screen grabs. (App Store Images)

Sophia said she has always admired her dad’s work ethic but “never had the opportunity to peer behind the curtain completely to see how everything happens.” She added that while it’s fun to work together, Recon Food is “very much real” and both she and her father want it to be a success story just like his previous companies.

PREVIOUSLY: Q&A with former Zillow CEO Spencer Rascoff on his new SPAC that just raised $350M

Recon Food offers users two tracks on their profile — their kitchen, as a place for images of all the food they make, and their restaurant reviews, for photos of food they ate out. The app employs some computer vision tech to search a user’s camera roll for all food-centric photos taken in the past and automatically upload them to the app. Users can pick and choose which photos they’d like to show on their private account to their connections, or to the public. Restaurant photos can be rated, reviewed and geotagged to the restaurant location.

Rascoff said that during pandemic quarantine, his family spent a lot of time together and Sophia offered insight during that period about how exhausting and divisive social media had become.

A Spencer Rascoff pizza picture on Recon Food. (Recon Food screen grab)

“At the same time, we were cooking a lot as a family, stuck at home experimenting with new types of food, recipes and getting takeout from restaurants we’d never tried before,” Rascoff said. “It was a food adventure we wanted to share with friends but we didn’t want to bombard everyone with our posts and updates.”

Creating a vertical social media app around food took the pressure off deciding where and how often to share food photos, and provides a destination for those craving community.

“On Recon Food you can post 100% of your food with less pressure of perfection,” Sophia said. “It doesn’t need to look pretty or have the best presentation. In fact, some of the most fun posts are food fails — like my dad’s first try at wood fired pizza.”

Rascoff, who left his Zillow Group CEO job in January 2019, is certainly still busy in business dealings that are happening away from the home kitchen. His SPAC, operating under the name Supernova Partners Acquisition Company, led a deal to acquire real estate company Offerpad in March. But Rascaoff said at this stage of his career he’s focused more on mentoring and coaching, and not on running a company day to day.

He called the partnership with his daughter a perfect fit.

“My key piece of advice to all founders is to try to solve a problem that they experience personally,” he said. “I’m excited now to have launched Recon Food publicly and let the world see what we’ve been cooking up.”

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Startups Apps Recon food Social media Spencer rascoff