Asian food delivery startup Chowbus raises $4M

Greycroft Partners and FJ Labs have led the round, with participation from Hyde Park Angels and Fika Ventures.

When one food delivery startup fails, another gets funded.

Chowbus, an Asian food ordering platform headquartered in Chicago, has brought in a $4 million “seed” funding led by Greycroft Partners and FJ Labs, with participation from Hyde Park Angels and Fika Ventures. The startup, aware of the challenges that plague startups in this space, says offering exclusive access to restaurants and eliminating service fees sets it apart from big-name competitors like Uber Eats, Grubhub, DoorDash and Postmates.

The Chowbus platform focuses on meals rather than restaurants. While scrolling through the mobile app, a user is connected to various independent restaurants depending on what particular dish they’re seeking. Chowbus says only a small portion of the restaurants on its platform, 15 percent, are also available on Grubhub and Uber Eats. 

The app is currently available in Chicago, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Champaign, Ill. and Lansing, Mich. With the new investment, which brings Chowbus’ total raised to just over $5 million, the startup will launch in up to 20 additional markets. Eventually, Chowbus says it will expand into other cuisines, too, beginning with Mexican and Italian. 

Chowbus was founded in 2016 by chief executive officer Linxin Wen and chief technology officer Suyu Zhang.

“When I first came to the U.S. five years ago, I found most restaurants I really liked [weren’t] on Grubhub nor other major delivery platforms and the delivery fees were quite high,” Wen told TechCrunch. “So I thought, maybe I can build a platform to support these restaurants,”

TechCrunch chatted with Wen and Zhang on Tuesday, the day after Munchery announced it was shutting down its prepared meal delivery business. Naturally, I asked the founders what made them think Chowbus can survive in an already crowded market, dominated by the likes of Uber.

“The central kitchen model doesn’t work; the cost is too high,” Zhang said, referring to Munchery’s business model, which prepared food for its meal service in-house rather than sourcing through local restaurants.

“We don’t own the kitchen or the chef, we just take advantage of the resources and help restaurants make more money,” Wen added. “The food delivery space is really huge and growing so quick.”

Arianna Huffington’s Thrive Global is teaming up with Zenefits

Thrive has partnered with Zenefits to expand the reach of its wellness content.

Many are familiar with Arianna Huffington’s personal journey from media mogul to outspoken sleep advocate.

In April 2007 she collapsed, broke her collarbone and woke up in a pool of blood, a well-publicized accident she attributes to sleep deprivation and exhaustion. In the years that followed, she shifted her focus to wellness, authoring two books on the topic: Thrive and The Sleep Revolutionand later founded a wellness media company called Thrive Global.

Thrive, which bills itself as a “behavior change” startup, helps businesses help their employees develop healthy relationships with technology and manage stress and burnout — issues with which Huffington is personally familiar. The company has raised nearly $43 million in venture capital funding to date, at a $121.5 million valuation as of May.

Today, Thrive is announcing a new partnership with Zenefits, the provider of software that helps small- and medium-sized business (SMBs) manage human resources, though is still often known for a series of regulatory and compliance issues that led to the exit of its founding chief executive, Parker Conrad.

The partnership will make available to employees of the 11,000 businesses that use Zenefits human resources software Thrive content, tips and tools within the Zenefits platform, and managers will be able to use the Thrive app to track and measure employee well-being.

“People are sleep deprived; people are eating the wrong food,” Huffington told TechCrunch. “It’s very basic things we can change through behavior that affect the bottom line of a company.”

“When you give employees science-based micro steps — that’s how change happens,” she added. “You need little nudges to help you change your behavior.”

Thrive educational content focuses on sleep, humans’ relationship with technology, goal setting and other issues that pertain to physical and mental health.

Huffington and Jay Fulcher, Zenefits CEO, told TechCrunch this arrangement was a year in the making.

Zenefits tapped Fulcher, the former CEO of Ooyala and Agile Software, as CEO last year. He was the third CEO in the span of 12 months after Conrad was ousted and Craft Ventures’ David Sacks stepped down after a brief stint as interim CEO. 

“{Stress] is the tipping point for things like retention, which obviously costs businesses billions and billions every year,” Fulcher said. “We have a very sophisticated and broad tech platform and to be able to put all of Thrive’s content on our platform, we think that is a really good proposition and one that customers are excited about.”

Thrive has historically worked with large enterprises, inking deals with Accenture, J.P. Morgan and others since Huffington launched the company in 2016. A partnership with Zenefits marks its first foray into SMBs. 

Thrive is backed by Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff, Sean Parker, Lerer Hippeau, Greycroft Partners and others. Zenefits, founded in 2013, is backed by Andreessen Horowitz, Fidelity, TPG and others. Both companies are backed by IVP.

Another food delivery startup, Foodsby, rakes in venture capital funding

Venture capitalists are still hungry for food delivery startups. Foodsby, the provider of a lunch delivery service based out of Minneapolis, has raised a $13.5 million Series B led by Piper Jaffray Merchant Banking. Greycroft Partners, Corazon Capital and Rally Ventures also participated. With the new capital, Foodsby plans to expand to 15 to 25 […]

Venture capitalists are still hungry for food delivery startups.

Foodsby, the provider of a lunch delivery service based out of Minneapolis, has raised a $13.5 million Series B led by Piper Jaffray Merchant Banking. Greycroft Partners, Corazon Capital and Rally Ventures also participated. With the new capital, Foodsby plans to expand to 15 to 25 new markets. The round brings Foodsby’s total raised to $21 million.

“We have established a successful model for new market entry with a tried and true combination of talent and technology,” Foodsby founder and CEO Ben Cattoor said in a statement. “We look forward to building on our early successes and learnings to deliver continued growth for our investors and our team.”

Founded in 2012, the company connects employees in office buildings in 15 cities with local restaurants. How it works: A hungry worker uses Foodsby to pre-order a meal from a restaurant in its network, Foodsby aggregates all the orders it receives, sends the orders to the restaurants and the restaurants then make all the deliveries at once, streamlining what can be a logistically complicated process. 

That strategy, the company says, sets Foodsby apart from competitors. Because Foodsby only works with businesses and has restaurants make the deliveries rather than its own fleet of delivery agents, the overall costs of the operation are lower. It’s free to join the Foodsby network as both a company that wants to provide the service to its employees and as a restaurant. Deliveries cost $1.99 per person. 

While continued VC support may give the company a vote of confidence, the food delivery space is crowded and competitive. Foodsby is not unlike Peach, a Seattle-based office lunch delivery service that shed one-third of its staff in March. Peach had also landed VC support, raising about $11 million from Madrona and others. Munchery, another similar meal delivery service, also looks to be in hot water, laying off 30 percent of its workforce in May and ceasing operations in Los Angeles, Seattle and New York.

Food delivery startups are hit or miss, but VCs continue to flock to investment rounds in hopes of betting on the next Uber of food delivery — though Uber itself is really the Uber of food delivery, its food delivery service is reportedly the most profitable arm of the ride-hailing giant. And Uber, much like Amazon, is not a company you want to be going head-to-head with.