2023 Most Disruptive MBA Startups: Allergood, Duke University (Fuqua)

Allergood

Duke University, Fuqua School of Business

Industry: HealthTech/SaaS

Founding Student Name(s): Michelle Addison

Brief Description of Solution: Allergood is a B2B company that revolutionizes dining outside of the home by creating interactive menus that automatically filter for allergens and dietary preferences while giving data back to companies so they can better know and serve their customers.

Funding Dollars: $32,000 in grant and prize money, currently raising our seed round which will close in Nov. 2023.

What led you to launch this venture? I am a passion-driven entrepreneur. I practiced corporate law for 6 years before becoming a serial entrepreneur, and I’ve founded each of my companies to fill a void that I personally experienced.

Allergood is no different. I have 3 kids with food allergies, and I developed a couple of adult-onset anaphylactic allergies. When my oldest daughter turned 10, I realized that our experiences eating outside the home had not changed in 10 years!

It was time-consuming, stressful and, at times, dangerous. There was no other area in my life that I could think of that hadn’t been impacted and improved by technology, and I realized at that moment that my next company would have to solve this problem. That’s how Allergood was born.

What has been your biggest accomplishment so far with venture? So far, my biggest accomplishment has been growing to 18 restaurant locations using Allergood’s technology in the Triangle of North Carolina and now pitching prospective enterprise clients. We’ve accomplished so much growth in 9 months with just $32,000 in grant and prize money, a tiny team, and a lot of hard work from many passionate Duke Fuqua MBA students and Duke undergraduate students.

What has been the most significant challenge you’ve faced in creating your company and how did you solve it? For me, the biggest challenge I’ve faced was the decision to go 100% in on creating Allergood. Being a first-generation Cuban-American and raised by a single mom with little resources, I don’t have the family resources to support my business ideas, nor do I have an established network to tap into for funding.

Not being technical myself, I knew what I wanted to build, but I didn’t know how to build it. I was also running my company in Miami, and I’m married with 3 kids. I knew I needed more support, which is why I reached out to MBA programs and Duke in particular.

Once I was awarded the Forté Fellowship to attend Fuqua, it was a no-brainer for me that it was time to move to NC and focus 100% on growing Allergood with Duke’s resources empowering my every move.

How has your MBA program helped you further this startup venture? I would not be where I am today without Duke. From my first contact as a prospective student, Duke took my idea seriously and began supporting me as a founder. I had the support of the faculty at Fuqua, whether they were my professors or not, the administration, and the entire Duke system.

Duke-wide, students have been eager to put hours of work into helping me grow Allergood, and they are, to this day, my biggest cheerleaders. The Duke Innovation Studio, Duke’s student-run accelerator, and Duke’s Melissa & Doug Entrepreneurship program helped me accelerate Allergood’s growth and gave me access to mentors who have put so much energy into helping Allergood succeed.

Duke Innovation & Entrepreneurship has been key to helping me make connections across the U.S. that have helped me scale Allergood as quickly as I have. Professor Jamie Jones and her team are always on the lookout for opportunities that can continue to benefit Allergood. The Fuqua and Duke alumni have also been instrumental and I am so grateful to be a part of the Fuqua Family.

What founder or entrepreneur inspired you to start your own entrepreneurial journey? How did he or she prove motivational to you? I was motivated to go all-in on Allergood while listening to Guy Raz from the How I Built This podcast. I was fortunate enough to get some one-on-one time with Guy during a conference. When I told him about my idea to start Allergood, he seemed genuinely excited and interested.

Whether he remembers speaking to me, I don’t know. What I do know is that later that month I was listening to his podcast while painting my daughter’s room during the pandemic. Here, he said something that made me realize that the time was now to start Allergood. Guy is a visionary and a successful entrepreneur. He inspires me constantly with the insightful questions that he asks of other entrepreneurs and the hours of learning that he’s been able to provide me.

Which MBA class has been most valuable in building your startup and what was the biggest lesson you gained from it? The most valuable MBA class for me in building my startup was New Ventures: Develop (NVD), a class taught by Professor Jamie Jones as part of the New Venture series of classes taught at Fuqua. In the course, founders pitch their ideas and build teams to work through key skills with the final deliverable being a pitch deck.

The class is open to students Duke-wide, which brings in a variety of skill sets that can be really useful to growing a startup. In fact, our lead engineer is a grad student who began working with Allergood during this class and is still working with Allergood on a contract basis today. NVD is where the customer discovery work and my learnings from my first-year MBA program came together during a design thinking session to form the first iteration of Allergood. NVD is where I learned how to pitch and it’s the class that equipped me with the foundational knowledge to know when to make quick pivots that have been essential for growth.

What professor made a significant contribution to your plans and why? Professor Jamie Jones has made the biggest impact. She was my first contact when evaluating MBA programs and continues to be one of my biggest champions. Even though I was 42 with 3 kids, had a law degree, and had already started multiple companies, she never questioned my desire to attend a full-time MBA program.

Professor Jones met with me regularly throughout my first year to keep me accountable to my goals and is always looking for opportunities that can help me grow Allergood. She has been an invaluable connector to people and resources, and she’s a trusted sounding board whenever I need a listening ear. Professor Jones is so smart, so connected, and so invested. I owe her for everything she’s done for me, and I will do my best to pay it forward.

How has your local startup ecosystem contributed to your venture’s development and success? The Triangle is a fantastic place to be a startup founder. Our ecosystem is exploding with growth. The most beautiful thing is that everyone here is so willing to help and is so invested in seeing the entire ecosystem succeed.

Whether it’s an investor you want to meet with or another founder whose brain you want to pick, everyone is willing to make time to grab coffee or hop on a call. People willingly connect each other to resources and opportunities. It’s a wonderful place to be while growing a venture, and I feel so fortunate to be here.

What is your long-term goal with your startup? My long-term goal is to revolutionize dining outside of the home. This isn’t limited to restaurants. I want to bring nutritional transparency everywhere. There are many facets to how Allergood will do that, and our technology is going to get much more advanced as we scale, which we’re excited about.

Today, 48% of Americans are avoiding at least one nutritional ingredient, so this is a huge market opportunity for us. We want to empower every person to be able to know exactly what’s in their food when they’re eating it and to be able to choose food options that exactly fit their dietary profile. Whether they’re at a baseball game, at a restaurant, or at their university dining hall, we want this to be the reality and we’re working every day to make that happen.

DON’T MISS: MOST DISRUPTIVE MBA STARTUPS OF 2023

Questions about this article? Email us or leave a comment below.