Vision and Grit: The Story of Why We Invested in Homemade

I’m really excited to share the story of our latest investment, Homemade. This is a vision worth fighting for that we’ve been looking to back for three years and we’ve finally found the right team with the passion, perseverance and execution plan to actually bring this new idea into the world. Homemade lets any cook — from amateur to veteran chef — sell home cooked meals in a professional, simple way. The Homemade platform provides everything the cook needs to build a personal following and brand, including marketing, logistics, scheduling, and payment features — while ensuring that people will cook and eat homemade food for generations to come. It will enable the stay-at-home parent, the amateur cook, or the part-time or professional chef to share their talents and passions with their neighbors while bringing in some extra money. In some cases, it will launch new careers entirely. Homemade will build community in the most natural of ways: through food. Imagine a world with Homemade at scale — where you launch the app to see who’s selling amazing home-cooked food around you. You can pick up your home-cooked dinner on your way home from work, or have it delivered to you, at takeout prices. Imagine a world where low and middle-income families are cooking meals at home and selling extra portions to their neighbors. At scale, Homemade creates a new economy, brings together community, and possibly even makes a dent in the obesity and diabetes epidemics through making healthier, more natural foods available to communities that, today, rely on fast-food alternatives. Not only do we love the vision, but Homemade is also in line with some massive food trends in the US, as covered in this recent article from the Washington Post. First, almost two thirds of households are supported by two working parents today. Second, millennials aren’t cooking at home — and they also really, really don’t want to do dishes. These trends massively impact the frequency of home-cooked meals — without Homemade, it’s quite possible that home-cooked food would sadly be a thing of the past.

There’s also an interesting backstory to this investment. I first met Nick and Mike, the founders of Homemade, a year and a half ago when I was in New York visiting Techstars. I discussed some of the ideas that we were looking to fund with the team, and one such idea was what I called “Airbnb for food.” Nick and Mike had a very similar idea and happened to be at the Techstars office that day. We had a great first meeting, but we didn’t fund them at the time. Not only did we not fund them, but they were also initially rejected from the Techstars program. So, what did they do? They opened up their own café in NY to learn more about the industry, and continued to work on their own to launch Homemade, fully bootstrapped. That is the type of grit we love to see in our founders. Techstars was similarly impressed with their persistence, and they were accepted into the next batch. Fortunately, we reconnected with the team about 18 months later when they launched their product and are delighted to lead their Seed round. We’ll be working closely with Nick and Mike to build out their team and product and will do everything in our power to help them accomplish their big vision worth fighting for. Join the Homemade revolution: download the app to see who’s cooking in your community today.

As we plan for 2016, our team took a deep dive into our 2015 results. Here’s a glimpse into what our pipeline and deal pace looked like last year for our seed stage VC fund, and how we got to the 7 investments we made:

  • Top of the funnel: We saw about 2,900 companies in total. We have an open call on AngelList, which received about 2,000 applications in 2015. We also meet the bulk of our companies through our network, and we take meetings with between one half and one third of those companies that are referred to us. Plus, we speak with tons of startups through demo days and events, so we conservatively estimate these deal sources at about 900 companies.
  • Initial screening: From the 2,900 companies we screened from applications, referrals, demo days, and other sourcing, we met or had a phone call with at least 300 companies.
  • Investments: From those 300 companies, we made 7 investments in 2015. We met with lots of companies multiple times, and conducted diligence on many, to arrive at these investment decisions. The top referral sources of our 7 investments were: our founder network (2 companies), universities/ campus programs (2 companies), our co-investor network (1 company), and AngelList (1 company), with one company we pursued because we loved using the product!
  • We invested in roughly 2% of the companies we met with (and less than half a percent of those who came in the top of the funnel). So with every “yes,” we said “no” to 50 more. This investment analysis brought about three key insights. First, we strive for “nice nos.” With the bulk of our interactions not resulting in an investment, we hope that we’re able to share some helpful feedback with most companies we meet so that neither party feels their time was wasted. Several times, we passed on investing in a great startup that was doing well, but that just wasn’t a good fit for our Maven investment strategy. Second, to continue to be successful consumer seed stage investors we need to continue to cultivate a variety of deal sources. From AngelList to trusted co-investors, our money went to companies that came through a number of different channels. And third, in order to keep our quality high we have to keep our pace high. To invest at a similar rate this year, we plan to meet at least 1-2 new companies per day– and for each company we meet, we need to review and screen about 10 more. In addition to supporting our existing portfolio companies to help them succeed and grow, sourcing new deals in 2016 is a top priority.