Josh Abady ’16 recommends that everyone try more weird things. While many of his fellow students became lawyers or doctors after graduation, Abady decided to pursue teaching, chess tutoring, and professional poker. The former East Asian studies major admits it was unorthodox, but he followed his passions (and used the supportive Johns Hopkins network) to land in his current role as entrepreneur and CEO of a successful cooking app.
“Flexibility is sort of all I’ve ever known,” Abady says. “It’s just wired into me.”
His current project is called Manna Cooking, an app and business he created with his sister, Rachel Abady, and his childhood friend, Guy Greenstein. The app lets users add or search for recipes, customize them according to food allergies or dietary needs, and create a grocery list that fills an Amazon Fresh order, all from their phones. It can be a useful tool for all levels of cooks and anyone who wants to make meal planning easier.
As Manna’s CEO, Abady never knows what the week will hold. He checks off miniscule tasks every day, but also has weeks where the team blows through goal posts that once seemed impossible. He’s a lifelong gamer who has always enjoyed competition; whether in chess, Super Smash Bros., or professional poker. The pace of entrepreneurial work feeds that desire for challenge. Like in gaming, execution is more important than ideas in the startup world.
“I think a lot of [working in] startups is being really careful about how you spend your time,” he says. “In your first year or two, people pull you in a lot of random directions.”
Abady and his two co-founders launched the first version of the app in 2020, despite funding issues related to the pandemic, and launched the full version in late 2021. He led the business side of the company: dealing with lawyers, accounting, fundraising, and “schmoozing.” The app currently has more than 10,000 downloads and was recently rated #1 on Product Hunt, a prominent site for curating top new products and apps.
A Hopkins Venture
Abady says that in some ways, the success of Manna Cooking was a Johns Hopkins venture. Ian Han ’14 owns the agency that conducted much of the design and user experience work on the app. One of Abady’s best friends from Hopkins, Mario Nelson ’13, has been on the Manna Cooking advisory board from the beginning. When Abady was at JHU, there were fewer opportunities to get started as an entrepreneur. He says he’s proud to see how much progress JHU has made in the area, now that HopHacks and FastForwardU are frequently part of an undergraduate’s experience, and of how many JHU alumni collaborate on startups.
“Hopkins really helped me so much with Manna specifically, and always in ways that I didn’t expect,” he says. “No matter who I spoke to when it came to [the app], they were always willing to take the call. It’s been a really powerful network.”