- Catering startup Hungry has raised $52 million from traditional VCs and celebrities.
- Getting time with celebs to convince them to invest isn’t easy, Hungry’s founders say.
- The company’s focus on giving back to the community really resonates with celebrity investors.
Hungry, an emerging catering startup, has grabbed the attention of celebrities like Jay-Z and Issa Rae.
The startup is an online marketplace that connects independent chefs with businesses that need catering services. It has grown into an immersive catering platform that also provides food and delivery services, chef-focused pop-up events and online cooking classes with professional chefs.
The company has raised $52 million in venture capital, which includes its most recent $21 million Series C round in September. Much of those dollars have come from well-known celebrities.
The Series C included investments from actress, writer and producer Issa Rae, “America’s Got Talent” host and actor Terry Crews, DeAndre Hopkins, a wide receiver for the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals, Lonzo Ball, a point guard for the NBA’s Chicago Bulls, and heavyweight boxing champion Deontay Wilder.
Before that, Hungry got capital from Jay-Z and his venture firm Marcy Ventures, as well as singer-songwriter Usher for its $8 million Series A in April 2019.
Attracting those celebrity investments is a feat that the company’s founder says isn’t easy because it requires getting a slot in their busy schedules to convince them to invest.
“They’re pressed for time and they’re also very concerned about their brands and how their investments align with their values,” said Hungry cofounder and CEO Jeff Grass.
The Hungry cofounders were connected to Jay-Z and Usher through their network of chefs. Jay-Z’s personal chef, Brandon Crowe, introduced the team to Marcy Ventures. Similarly, Usher’s mom and manager, Jonetta Patton, who initially had an interest in Hungry, encouraged her son to invest.
Crowe later went on to help expand Hungry in New York, while Patton and Usher worked to help establish a presence in Atlanta.
For Grass, what really sets Hungry apart from other startups is that it defines itself as a purpose-driven business, which resonates with a bulk of their celebrity investors.
“We have a real focus on giving back to the communities where we operate and I think it seems like a lot of the celebrities have really gotten excited about that. Once they get involved with the business, they figure out different ways where they’re able to help out and propel the brand name,” Grass said.
That has included partnerships with actor and comedian Kevin Hart to donate 1,000 meals to those in need.
Hart, in particular, has helped Hungry by simply posting on Instagram to his 128 million followers about the startup and its donation program. This, to Hungry cofounder and COO Eman Pahlavani, is a testament to how celebrity investments can help startups gain more public exposure.
“Once you get them on board and they invest. It’s awesome because they go all in and not only invest but help propel the brand name and get us on the map,” Pahlavani said.
Pahlavani believes that if startup founders are intentional about reaching out to celebrity investors, they can have some success because they are more accessible now more than ever. But it will take tons of work and the right approach.
“You’ve got to be very methodical and very strategic,” Pahlavani said. “Do your homework. Figure out what their interests are, how you can get connected to them through anyone else. And once you get them to invest in your company, be sure to call them and ask them for their advice.”
Original posted at www.businessinsider.com