How an entrepreneur who didn’t know how to cook started a cooking company

Unless you’re an avid cook, the phrase “what’s for dinner” is an everyday phrase in most households.

Ten years ago, SideChef founder and CEO Kevin Yu set out to make it easier to answer that question by creating an all-in-one cooking, shopping and meal planning app. He later brought on Cadence Hardenbergh as co-founder and COO.

Recipe management itself is not a new concept, and SideChef is one of a group of startups bringing technology to an area where handwritten recipes are kept in a folder or Rolodex. We’ve seen companies like Galley Solutions and Maze do it for restaurants, Pestle, Whisk, Foody and even Instacart create apps for consumers.

However, if you want SideChef’s “secret sauce” over 12,000 purchasable recipes can be added to your cart and all the ingredients needed to make that recipe will be delivered for in-store pickup from Walmart. There’s also a “Create Your Own” feature for account owners to upload their own recipes and share them publicly.

SideChef co-founders Cadence Hardenbergh and Kevin Yu. Image Credits: SideChef

The app is free to download and now has over 20,000 “smart recipes” that users can filter by dietary preferences, ingredients in your kitchen, meals or cooking time. There’s a $4.99 monthly subscription that comes with the premium version, which offers recipes from SideChef’s culinary experts.

Before starting the company, Yu was a video game developer for eight years, working with Warcraft and Blizzard. He said he didn’t know how to cook at the time, but was curious if there was a step-by-step guide through an app to help people cook. SideChef in 2010 It was named “App of the Year for Google Play” when it launched in 2014.

“This was a really big validation for us,” Yu told TechCrunch.

Following this, the company planted the first seed and built the platform, where tablets, iPhones, Android and smart home resources can read step-by-step recipes. Yu describes it as “the start of a journey where our mission is to allow anyone to be able to cook.”

However, there was a point where he realized that monetizing recipe users is not the same as video game users: mainly people don’t spend a lot of money to go into the app and buy recipes. So, he went out looking for business models and saw that online grocery, although still low penetration, was becoming a trend.

“Our idea was to take the structured data we had, map all the ingredients, and ship the lasagna with one click,” Yu added. We know everything they need and the amount of supply so we can send them the right pasta sauce or pasta.

SideChef tied up with Instacart for grocery delivery around 2016 and also went on to work with kitchen appliance makers like Sharp, GE and LG Electronics.

Those new business models have paid off: The company has doubled its revenue growth three years in a row, in part because of the global pandemic, which Yu says has led more people to cook at home.

At the same time, the modern kitchen side led the company to a previously unknown Series A with LG and now another $ 6 million in Series B funding. Seed, Series A and Series B funding for SideChef totaling more than $16 million from institutional investors, Ideate Ventures, AB Electrolux, Peacock Capital Group, V-ZUG AG, Ilion Capital, Empower Investment, Innolead Investment, LG Technology Ventures and KZone LLC.

The new funding will allow SideChef to move to the next level of growth, including online grocery shopping, contextual marketing, and an end-to-end cooking platform supported by modern kitchen technologies such as image recognition devices. and data insights.

“I believe we have the most structured recipe data format in the world,” Yu said. “What started out as teaching myself how to cook became a sort of ‘Rosetta Stone’ to connect the entire industry.

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