‘FARMER’S MARKET INGREDIENTS’ FOR THE ULTRA-BUSY
The combination oven and food delivery subscription serves a specific market, believes Rabie. It’s for people like him who don’t always have time to cook but don’t want to sacrifice delicious and healthy food.
“I don’t think we’re ever going to replace people that want to feel a deep connection to where their ingredients are coming from and want to touch them and smell them and cook them all themselves,” explains Rabie. “We’re not going to replace people who are passionate home cooks. And we don’t want to. I love to cook. We’re solving a problem for people who don’t have time to do that on a regular basis.”
Wilcox likens it to people who care about “farmer’s market ingredients” and quality, but don’t necessarily have the time or know-how to create that on a nightly basis. “They do care and they want to participate in that. But not everyone can be that,” says Wilcox, who holds a PhD in mechanical engineering. “So for people who do care, but don’t have the time and knowledge, this can be an option.”
‘HYPER-LOCAL’ BETA TESTING TAKING PLACE
Currently, there are four menu options in beta testing. Half the company operates a “hyper-local” beta test in Chicago and the others run a similar operation in Silicon Valley. Smart ovens are currently only offered in the beta testing and are being sold on Kickstarter for delivery in early December. Users can order the meal kit subscriptions, which Rabie says will likely extend to breakfast and snacks in addition to dinner, or to prepare their own meals and ingredients. The meal kits are sourced “as close as possible” to the two beta locations and will offer six different options every week.
While Rabie says they’re using a caterer to create meal kits now, eventually they’ll open a platform for home chefs and food artisans to submit recipes for the smart oven. Users may then vote up or down the recipes and recipes that are voted to a certain level will be turned into menu item meal kits. The home chefs will then get their brands on the subscriptions as well as royalties from Tovala. “It’s a way to empower home chefs and artisan food makers,” believes Rabie.
A VALUABLE EXPERIENCE NO MATTER WHAT HAPPENS
Rabie possesses a cool, calm and confident demeanor, which seems essential. The logistics and headaches of starting a company that both delivers food and sells a product are never-ending. “Things like that happen all the time,” says Rabie. “You’ve got a hurdle and the solution for right now is going to be band-aid. It’s not going to be like this ultimately, but we’ve got to move so quickly.”
When forced to create meals quickly, they found the catering company less than a 10-minute drive away. When they had trouble convincing local VCs to invest, they drew upon their Midwestern connections. When Rabie needed an engineer to develop the product, he found Wilcox.
And there is no doubt in Rabie’s mind that the startup experience–whether it’s successful or failed experience–will be a valuable one.
“Even if in two months, this business doesn’t exist anymore, we’ve gained such immense experience and connections and know-how and skills and could bounce back very easily into something that I would love to do equally.”