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Tech Startup: Applying Amazon-Style Logistics and Technology to Food

FoodMaven sells three kinds of food: oversupply, “imperfects” and local foods that lack regional distribution


Published:

FOODMAVEN

WHERE: Colorado Springs 
FOUNDED: October 2015

INITIAL LIGHTBULB: 

After serving as CEO of CodeBaby and other venture-backed tech companies in Colorado Springs, FoodMaven founder Patrick Bultema turned his focus from digital to food.

“I’m a kid who grew up in an ag family,” says Bultema, who was raised on a ranch in Northern California. “I grew up at the front end of the food system.”

Now he’s trying to reinvent the back end. After a stint working at Colorado College, a student group developed a food rescue program that catalyzed the idea for FoodMaven. “The USDA estimates that 40 percent of all agricultural production is lost,” Bultema says. “A third of the waste in landfills is food.”

FoodMaven counters the problem with a data-centric, algorithm-optimized platform aimed at getting food to the dinner table instead of the garbage can. “Our premise is to capture this food that’s getting lost,” Bultema says. “We’re looking to create this flexible, agile complement to the food system.”

IN A NUTSHELL:

Bultema says FoodMaven is “applying Amazon-style logistics and internet-enabled technology” to sell three kinds of food: oversupply, “imperfects” from retailers and manufacturers, and local foods that lack regional distribution. “We’ve got relationships in place with most of the big distribution centers,” Bultema says.

Products for sale on the website include a wide range of produce and protein, as well as dairy products, baked goods and drinks. A recent visit found stockpiles of turkey drumsticks, organic bread, canned chickpeas, cherry juice and chocolate-cherry bonbons — and much more.

FoodMaven’s customers include more than 120 restaurants in Colorado Springs plus a growing number in Denver, as well as larger users like hospitals, school districts and retirement homes. Bultema says the price is usually 40 percent to 70 percent off wholesale. “Our mantra is equal to or better food at about half the price,” he says.

Nothing goes to waste: FoodMaven donates leftovers to food banks and is also able to sell certain products as livestock and pet feed. What’s left is composted or converted to biogas as a last resort.

After launching in mid-2016 in Colorado Springs, FoodMaven has since expanded into metro Denver. The company has grown from two employees to 25 in a little more than a year. “We’ve been seeing 50 percent growth month over month,” Bultema says.

THE MARKET:

Huge.

An estimated $200 billion of food ends up in landfills in the U.S. every year. Bultema says he hopes to expand into 50 U.S. cities in the next five years; then the company has international potential. With a warehouse and a few Ford Transit Connect delivery vehicles, FoodMaven can move into new metro markets with the existing platform.

FINANCING

After landing $500,000 in seed funding in 2015, FoodMaven brought in $1.5 million via a convertible note. Now Bultema is looking to raise another seed-stage investment of about $3 million. “I’m in conversations with a bunch of VCs for our first institutional round,” he says. By mid-2016, he’s hoping to close on a Series A in the ballpark of $20 million in order to scale FoodMaven into new markets.

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Eric Peterson

Denver-based writer Eric Peterson is the author of Frommer's Colorado, Frommer's Montana & Wyoming, Frommer's Yellowstone & Grand Teton National Parks and the Ramble series of guidebooks, featuring first-person travelogues covering everything from atomic landmarks in New Mexico to celebrity gone wrong in Hollywood. Peterson has also recently written about backpacking in Yosemite, cross-country skiing in Yellowstone and downhill skiing in Colorado for such publications as Denver's Westword and The New York Daily News. He can be reached at Eptcb126@msn.com

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