Industry: Food Service/Automation
Founding Student Names: Jose Alonso (CEO, Berkeley Haas MBA 19); Josh Peterson (CTO, Berkeley MEng 19)
Brief Description of Solution: Offers automated assembly stations targeted for limited-service restaurants, back-of-house, as a B2B service. The station will allow for better operating margins, improved food safety, affordable extended operating hours, constant food monitoring, and integration between the front of house and back of house by adding technology to the central restaurant workflow: the order assembly line.
Funding Dollars: Received the Jon Sebastiani Grant from Berkeley, currently raising seed capital.
What led you to launch this venture? Growing up in a family of restaurant operators, I fell in love with food service, but couldn’t wrap my head around why it’s near impossible to succeed from a business perspective. Especially after spending time working as a line cook in full-scale restaurants before coming to Haas, I knew I wanted to do something different. I thought that I could make my mark by using data and technology to hopefully innovate the slow-moving foodservice space and improve the economic viability of food businesses.
What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with your venture? Reaching the final round of the Berkeley Launch Accelerator and the MIT Rabobank Food and Ag Innovation prize have been great milestones for our team. Our latest one was completing our newest prototype! Hardware is hard.
How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? First of all, it has given us the license to go out and pester investors and start-ups in the food ecosystem. The “I’m an MBA student” line works like a secret password and people are surprisingly open to teaching you. Second, the Haas network runs deep in the food space, ranging from entrepreneurship to sustainability to brand management, so leveraging that network in every way possible was valuable in getting access to expert feedback in the process of shaping Caldo.
What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? Megan Mokri (the CEO of Byte Foods, MBA 16). Over the past couple of years, I’ve heard many founders speak about their experiences; more often than not, they tell feel-good stories about their journeys and it’s all smiles. The first time I heard Megan speak she led with, “Here are all the things I did wrong along the way.” She’s a leader who leans into feedback, doesn’t fear to question her methods, and has a “go get it” attitude that inspired me to try it myself. The beautiful thing about the Haas network is how supportive alums are. Case and point: Megan is now on our company’s advisory board!
Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? Food Innovation Studio. FIS is a course that focuses on creating an entrepreneurial perspective on the food system. You are forced to stand by an opinion, as entrepreneurs do, research to back-up that opinion, and go out into the world to test your hypothesis. The class forces you to step outside the comfort of the classroom. I learned how immensely valuable collecting conflicting feedback from interviews is; the important thing is to know how to use it, and if necessary, pivot. During this class, I began formalizing the ideas for Caldo and it was Will Rosenzweig, who teaches FIS and leads other food-focused courses at Haas, who challenged me to go out and find my technical co-founder. He does a great job of bringing in amazing, high-profile speakers for the course for both educational and networking purposes.
What is your long-term goal with your startup? Our goal is to make a palpable impact on the food industry as a whole. We believe that making foodservice operations smarter and more efficient will allow for better jobs; turnover in foodservice right now is insanely high and low-level employees don’t take jobs to improve their skill sets and rise in the restaurant ranks. By removing repetitive tasks, there will be room to repurpose labor efforts to more meaningful ones and dedicate efforts to developing employees rather than churning and re-training. Not to mention that improved margins will also lead to increased access to better food and lower prices for eaters!