My Investment in Hungryroot: A Tasty Lesson in Products vs. Services

Brooklyn Bridge Ventures recently joined Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Crosslink Capital, and KarpReilly in Hungryroot's $2mm seed round.  The NYC based company makes ready-to-cook meals comprised of 100% organic, fresh-cut vegetable noodles paired with all-natural chef-designed sauces, toppings and optional pre-roasted proteins--and they're delicious.  The food has become a staple of my diet, which wasn't the case after trying various food delivery services out on the market. 

I took this pic and then I ate the food.  Mmm....zucchini pesto.

I took this pic and then I ate the food.  Mmm....zucchini pesto.

Services like Blue Apron and Plated don't sell you food.  They sell a service.  What you're paying for is for someone to help you cook--to do the recipe ideation, the shopping, the prep and the delivery close to when you're ready to cook a meal.  At the end of it, you're doing the cooking.

That works well if you cook on a regular and consistent basis, but that wasn't something I needed help with.  I'm half Italian and when I cook, I don't need any help.  I'm a great shopper and I can make a meal out of anything when I have the time.  These weren't services that I needed, nor did they fit into my busy, unpredictable lifestyle.  

What I need, and what I believe a lot of people need, is a product they can have available to them anytime and make in an instant when they don't have the time to cook, or just don't want to.  

Newfound appreciation for rutabaga.

Newfound appreciation for rutabaga.

Hungryroot meals have a 10 day shelf life.  So if you don't have any by Friday, no worries.  You can have them next week.  They do this through vertical integration and special packaging--and that's where the technical innovation comes in.  By the time you get your food, you've gotten it days in advance of when you'd get your food if you were ordering from a service that preps it for you, enabling it to last longer in your fridge.  To find another product with the same flexibility, for most people that means a frozen dinner or a can of soup--not exactly fresh and not exactly healthy.  

Hungryroot is going after that category--the packaged food category, with a product that takes about 7 minutes from package to mouth.  All you need is a pan and some olive oil.  Most people wouldn't describe that as cooking any more than they would warming up a can of soup.  

Because I always want them around, I order it on a subscription much like I order paper towels or soap on subscription via Amazon.  Just because something appears at your door regularly doesn't make it a service.  

I'm excited to be working with such great co-investors--and I'm hugely excited to finally be working with Ben McKean.  I first met Ben on January 29th, 2011 at an SLP mentoring session.  He was working on Village Vines, which became Savored.  We stayed in touch and reconnected around a blog post that I wrote in 2012 on falling in love with the problem and not getting attached to the solution.  Ben has a unique insight into the food space and that's why Hungryroot is resonating with so many customers--because he understands the problem.  

Getting to this deal early and being able to put down a fair term sheet was a function of the Brooklyn Bridge Ventures strategy of going deep in the NYC community and making super long term investments in relationship building over time.