10 Hot (and Cold) Food Delivery Startups with Berkeley Roots
The food delivery space is heating up, with new companies launching almost daily to deliver fresh, healthy food directly to customers’ doors. The sector has received incredible media attention as venture capital continues to pour in and tech giants including Square, Groupon, and Uber edge their way into the market.
UC Berkeley grads are contributing to the growth of the food delivery sector from all sides, with Berkeley degree holders sitting at the helm of many of the most important companies in the space.
From delivery logistics platforms like Caviar and DoorDash, to mobile restaurants including SpoonRocket, Munchery, and Sprig, to social enterprises including Feeding Forward and Revolution Foods, Cal-founded food delivery companies are revolutionizing the way we source and consume our meals.
Here’s an A to Z list of the most buzz-worthy food delivery companies founded or led by Berkeley grads:
Byte Foods: The youngest startup on our list, Byte Foods is putting fresh, healthy food choices in corporate office spaces. Founded Megan Mokri MBA ’15, Byte Foods provides on-demand foods and beverages for workers at top companies including CBS Interactive, Annie’s, 2K Games, and many more. Through the use of internet-connected smart refrigerators, Byte Foods monitors the availability and freshness of high quality means, snacks, and drinks. From Blue Bottle iced coffee to Urban Remedy salads and juices, employees can access nutritious food just steps from their desks and employers gain a flexible (and oftentimes free) way to fuel their teams.
Caviar: Caviar co-founders and UC Berkeley fraternity brothers Richard Din ’08, Andy Zhang ’09, Jason Wang ’09, and Shawn Tsao ’11, joined forces in January 2011 to found MunchOnMe, a daily deals site for food acquired by CollegeBudget in May 2012. It was only a matter of weeks before the team started working on Caviar, a platform for ordering delivery from restaurants that wouldn’t otherwise deliver. To differentiate itself from big players like GrubHub and Eat24, which also offer online ordering with quick turnaround times, Caviar curates its inventory, contracting only with restaurants boasting four or more stars on Yelp that wouldn’t otherwise offer delivery. Having generated investment from investors including Andreessen Horowitz, the company was acquired by Square in 2014 in a deal estimated at $90 million, and now operates in 15 markets across the United States.
DoorDash: Like Caviar, DoorDash uses advanced algorithms and on-demand systems to transform how we order and receive restaurant takeout. Led by founder and CEO Tony Xu ’07, DoorDash was born to address a costly challenge associated with delivery: predicting when orders will come in to effectively schedule driver shifts. With the potential to someday extend its services beyond the food-delivery sector, DoorDash enables customers place orders through their website or app, which uses machine-learning to assign drivers (“dashers”) to restaurants. The platform enables dashers to set their own schedules, allows restaurants to track drivers’ locations as orders are being prepared, and provides users with reliable estimates about when to expect their food. With over $47 million in funding, the Y Combinator-backed company has expanded into 16 metropolitan areas within two years, partnering with thousands of local merchants.
Copia: The only non-profit food delivery organization on our list, Copia (previously branded as Feeding Forward) connects local businesses with excess food to feed those in need. With seed funding from Berkeley’s Big Ideas competition, Komal Ahmad ’13 and Chloe Tsang ’14 launched what began as a DeCal class in which participants ferried excess food from kitchens to nearby shelters. As the network grew, Ahmad and Tsang leveraged the assistance of a Berkeley computer scientist, who built an online platform for matching food offers with local recipients and volunteer drivers. Today, Copia has grown into an online food recovery network that connects over 400 donor groups groups — including Cal Dining, Cal Catering, and numerous Bay Area restaurants — to over 100 nonprofit recipients.
GrubHub Seamless: Perhaps the best known food delivery company on our list, GrubHub Seamless is the nation’s largest online and mobile takeout food ordering and delivery service. In 2013, GrubHub merged with competitor Seamless, connecting diners to more than 35,000 restaurants in more than 900 cities — and bringing Seamless CEO Jonathan Zabusky MBA ’01 onto the GrubHub team. A pioneer in the online food delivery sector, Zabusky played a key role in developing the business model deployed by so many food delivery startups on this list. Zabusky joined Seamless in 2007, helping the company to shift from a business-to-business focus to a consumer-facing orientation. He facilitated Seamless’ acquisition of Menu Pages in 2011 as well as the 2013 merger with GrubHub. In April 2014, Zabusky executed the GrubHub Seamless IPO in April 2014 at a valuation just shy of $2 billion.
Munchery: Conrad Chu ’00 is CTO and co-founder of Munchery, which delivers chilled, chef-made meals directly to customers’ doors. The company recruits top chefs to prepare meals in-house, and offers customers a daily rotating menu of restaurant-quality lunches and dinners for the whole family. As CTO, Chu has implemented high-level data analytics to track gastronomical micro-trends in each of Munchery’s delivery regions (“In San Francisco, everybody loves kale, whereas in Seattle, there’s a real affinity for Italian food,” Chu told Entrepreneur). Munchery has raised over $117 million in venture backing from an impressive slate of investors including fellow Berkeley alumni Shervin Pishevar and Bobby Yazdani, as well as celebrities Jon Favreau, Jared Leto, Edward Norton, Chef Roy Choi, and former Starbucks president Howard Behar.
Revolution Foods: Founded by Kristin Richmond MBA ’06 and Kirsten Tobey MBA ’06 to transform the way America eats, Revolution Foods provides schools with access to healthy, affordable meals. Born at Berkeley-Haas with early funding from the school’s Global Social Venture Competition in 2007, Revolution Foods had humble roots — the founders hand-prepared about 300 meals a day out of a 500-square-foot kitchen in Oakland, packing and delivering the meals to three local charter schools. Today, the company delivers over one-million freshly prepared meals every week to K-12 schools and stores nationwide. With $100 million in annual revenue as of June 2014, the company has raised $30 million in venture backing without losing sight of its social mission — roughly 80% of the company’s school meals feed students from low-income households.
SpoonRocket: Anson Tsui ’09 and Steven Hsaio ’09 cooked up their idea for SpoonRocket as Berkeley undergraduates. What began as Late Night Option, an after hours food delivery service targeting Berkeley’s student population, transformed into SpoonRocket when the team shifted it’s focus to a slightly older, more health-conscious demographic. Founded in 2013, the company employs professional chefs to prepare a daily rotating menu of high-quality, low-cost meals available for on-demand delivery by a fleet of drivers circling the San Francisco Bay Area. With funding from Foundation Capital, General Catalyst, and Sherpa Ventures, the Y Combinator-backed company calls itself “the food button on your phone.”
Sprig: Gagan Biyani ’08 is CEO and Co-Founder of Sprig, which offers three daily meal choices prepared by Sprig’s in-house team of chefs, and delivered hot within about 15 minutes. Since its launch in November 2013, Sprig’s fleet of on-demand drivers (on the road before orders are placed to optimize efficiency) have delivered over half a million high-quality meals to customers in San Francisco, Palo Alto, and Chicago. The company has raised nearly $60 million in funding from top firms including Greylock Partners and Accel Partners, as well as restaurant industry celebrities including three-star Michelin chef Kyle Connaughton, Google’s first executive chef Charlie Ayers, and former White House chef Sam Kass.
And Snapily — not yet a full-fledged company — is an app connecting Oakland residents with healthy, affordable food. Users can shop online at local grocery stores, pay with food stamps or WIC voucher, and have the food delivered to a convenient pickup location. Built by four recent graduates of Berkeley’s School of Information with advice from Professor Steven Webber, Snapily won first prize in this year’s CITRIS Mobile App Challenge.