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When they were young

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When Blue Apron was young: the early years

Blue Apron started out as Petridish, a crowdfunding site for scientific research

Innovation series by Steven Loeb
September 5, 2017
Short URL: http://vator.tv/n/4a14

As our readers know, Vator has started a series called when they were young.

It's a look back at the modest days of startups, what traction they had in their first few years, and how they evolved. In the end, we hope to provide a glimpse into what great startups looked like in their first three years.

Stories like these are always well received because it reminds us that anyone, regardless of pedigree and environment, can rise above the noise and have great influence. They show us the value of being resilient, persistent, and committed. If we can follow their footsteps, maybe we too can have similar success.

This segment is on Blue Apron.

— Blue Apron's First Year —

Founded: Blue Apron is incorporated in Delaware on December 5, 2011 under the name Petridish Media.

Founders (ages at the time): Matt Wadiak (32), Matt Salzberg (28), Ilia Papas (29)

Initial company description: The original idea, started by Salzberg and Papas, was called Petridish, "a crowdfunding site for scientific research that operated much like Kickstarter, with all-or-nothing fundraising goals and reward tiers for backers."

Traction, at three months from founding: Petridish successfully funds its first two projects: David Kipping’s “Help us find the first exomoon” and Kevin Miklasz’s project “The mystery of tiny algal spores.”

First funding, early 2012: The company raises $800,000 in seed funding from investors that include Invite Media co-founders Nat Turner and Zach Weinberg; Jason Finger, founder of Seamless; Eric and Alan Gould, the co-founders of IAG Research; Graph Investments; and Yipit founder James Moran.

Pivot, at six months from founding: The funding is used to create a food delivery service based on the model of Swedish company Linas Matkasse, which was doing $45 million in revenue by that point. 

They begin calling the new service Part & Parsley. The name change occurs in June 2012, according to a Twitter account that was never used.

The company's logo is created through a contest created by Papa on 99designs, where is winner is selected from 180 designs submitted by 30 freelance designers.

Personnel, at eight months from founding: Wadiak, a graduate of The Culinary Institute of America, joins the company full time after meeting Papa and Salzberg through Salzberg’s wife.

Second name change, at eight months from founding: As part of his conditions for joining, Wadiak insists that the company start calling itself Blue Apron, based on a French tradition where young chefs would wear a blue apron as they learned to cook. On August 29, 2012, the company officially changes its name.

"In France, it is an age-old tradition for young chefs to wear a Blue Apron while they master the art of cooking. In America, master chefs such as Julia Child and Thomas Keller have adopted the Blue Apron to symbolize the importance of lifelong learning. We named our company Blue Apron to remind us that amateur and expert chefs alike can always learn something new," the company writes on the site in early 2013.

Launch, at nine months from founding: In August 2012, Blue Apron begins shipping its recipes to early testers, allowing them to choose between three meals: fish, poultry, or beef or pork.

The three founders hand-pack the first Blue Apron boxes themselves and deliver them to family and friends.

Press mention, at 10 months from founding, one month from launch: In September 2012, Blue Apron get its first press coverage in an article on Mashable

"We make cooking fun and easy for people by taking all the work out of it," Salzberg tells Mashable. "We're a new kind of Fresh Direct."

Traction, at 10 months from founding, one month from launch: In September 2012, Blue Apron is shipping to parts of Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Maryland.

 

— Blue Apron's Second Year —

Second funding, at one year and two months from founding, five months from launch: In February 2013, Blue Apron raises $3 million in Series A funding from First Round Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, and David Tisch from the Box Group. The previous $800,000 the company had raised is included in this round. 

Phin Barnes, a partner at First Round Capital, joins the company’s Board of Directors.

Traction, at one year and two months from founding, five months from launch: By Februrary 2013, Blue Apron is serving 6,000 meals per week.

Press mention, at one year and two months from founding, five months from launch In February 2013, Blue Apron is mentioned, along with Plated, HelloFresh and Chefday!, in an article in the New York Times entitled, Everything but the Cook.

"This ready-to-cook meal is called the dinner kit. And Plated — along with a host of similar new services, including Blue ApronChefday! and HelloFresh — is the latest in a stream of technological innovations and corporate interventions, from the cake mix to the cookbook app, that have long promised to relieve Americans of kitchen drudgery while retaining the flavor and cachet of home cooking."

Third funding, at one year and eight months from founding, one year from launch: In August 2013, Blue Apron raises $5 million in Series B funding led by Bessemer Venture Partners. First Round Capital, along with other previous investors.

With this funding, the company plans to expand delivery to the West Coast. 

Tractionat one year and eight months from founding, one year from launch: Blue Apron is delivering 100,000 meals per month to 80 percent of the United States in August 2013.

Press coverage, at one year and eight months from founding, one year from launch: Salzberg appears live on CNBC to discuss the company's new funding round.

 

 — Blue Apron's Third Year —

Revenue, at two years from founding, one year and four months from launch: By December 2013, Blue Apro is seeing $3 million in monthly sales.

Accolades, at two years from founding, one year and four months from launch: At the end of 2013, Blue Apron is named by Forbes as one of the hottest startups of the year.

Fourth funding, at two years and four months from founding, one year and eight months from launch: In April 2014, Blue Apron raises a $50 million Series C led by Stripes Group, with Bessemer Venture Partners and First Round Capital also participating.

This values the company at $500 million.  

Traction, at two years and four months from founding, one year and eight months from launch: Blue Apron now delivers over 600,000 meals per month to customers across the country.

Traction, at two years and 11 months from founding, two years and three months from launch: In November 2014, Blue apron announces it is shipping one million meals per month.

To meet this demand, it opens a fulfillment center in Jersey City, New Jersey.

Business model, at two years and 11 months from founding, two years and three months from launch: In November 2014, Blue Apron opens delivery beyond food for the first time when it introduces the Blue Apron Market, a curated e-commerce store that features kitchen tools and cookware hand-selected by the company's culinary team.

 

 — Blue Apron's Fourth Year —

Business model, at three years from founding, two years and four months from launch: In December 2014, Blue Apron announces family plans featuring seasonal recipes for four people, rather than two. It offers four new Family Plan recipes each week, though users are able to chose to receive all four recipes in two separate deliveries or they can chose to receive just two recipes per week instead.

“Since we started the company, families have been asking us to create a plan specifically tailored to them,” Salzberg says in a blog post. “With the launch of our new Family Plan, even more families across the country can now make Blue Apron a part of their weekly routine.”

Fifth funding, at three years and six months from founding, two years and 10 months from launch: In June 2015, Blue Apron raises $135 million in Series D funding led by Fidelity Management and Research Company, with participation from Blue Apron's existing investors.

The round values the company at $2 billion.

Revenueat three years and six months from founding, two years and 10 months from launch: The company is now delivering over 3 million meals a month to homes across the United States. 

Expansion, at three years and six months from founding, two years and 10 months from launch: The company opens a fulfillment center in Arlington, Texas, its third overall, in June 2015. With its other two centers in Jersey City, New Jersey and Richmond, California, this allows the company to begin shipping to the entire United States.

Business model, at three years and six months from founding, two years and 10 months from launch: The company launches Blue Apron Wine in September 2015.

Blue Apron Wine deliveries include six custom bottles, sized to pair with Blue Apron meals for two. Each wine comes with a customized tasting card that features the story of the vineyard, helpful tasting notes about the wine, and information on how to pair that wine with upcoming Blue Apron menus.

 

 — Blue Apron Today—

In June 2017, Blue Apron went public at an IPO price of $10 a share, raising $300 million. The stock is currently trading at $5.22 a share, down 48 percent.

In its first earnings report, Blue Apron reported revenue of $238.1 million, versus expectations of $235.8 million. It also saw a loss of 47 cents a share, versus an expectation of 30 cents a share.


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