Lab Dispatches

Dispatch from the Lab: February 2016 – Columbia Startup Lab Food Founders

This month, Columbia Startup Lab Program Manager Hayley Katz takes a bite into socially responsible food startups Sharebite and Eat off Beat. These Lab food founders are filling stomachs and warming hearts.

Get a taste of what it takes to make the world a better place.

Eat Off Beat
Inspiration can come from the strangest places. For Manal Kahi ‘15SIPA, it was bad hummus. Hailing from Lebanon, she had high standards when it came to the beloved dip, and was disappointed with what she found in New York City. So she started making her grandmother’s recipe at home and got rave reviews from her friends. Kahi and her brother Wissam realized that they had found a market undeveloped: providing truly authentic foreign cuisine to the hungry masses of New York City.

And so Eat Offbeat was born. Wanting to create a service that not only delivers unique food but does good, Manal and Wissam worked with the International Rescue Committee to hire three refugee chefs from Nepal, Iraq, and Eritrea. Having experience with refugee issues in their home country of Lebanon, Manal wanted to find a way to help refugees in the U.S. The duo also noticed that refugees in America are underrepresented in the restaurant scene in New York, which made it all the easier to hire refugee chefs and fill a market currently underserved on both sides (hiring refugees and serving unique cuisine).

A fellowship provided by the Tamer Fund for Social Enterprise, a recently established center in the Columbia Business School was instrumental in providing not only the necessary funds, but more importantly, the support. Sandra Navalli and Bruce Usher of Columbia’s Tamer Center were especially helpful in encouraging Manal to pursue this venture by giving her the confidence to strike out and the guidance to refine her business strategy and improve her pitch.

ShareBite
Mohsin Memon `14CBS saw the tremendous market opportunity in further digitalizing the food sector, since only 5% of the $70 billion restaurant delivery and takeout market in the United States is ordered digitally. He took this, and combined it with his desire to help fight a cause he cares about dearly: childhood hunger.

ShareBite is a food ordering app with a social twist — it’s both charitable and communal. The charitable aspect promises that 2% of every transaction being given to a charity of the customer’s choice, with over one million charities to choose from. The communal portion allows users to see what neighbors and friends are ordering, and what dishes are trending in a given area.

ShareBite’s preferred charity is with City Harvest, where a meal is provided for a child facing hunger in NYC for every meal ordered on the platform. Sign up today!

Manhattan’s food delivery industry is legendary and the sight of delivery guys whizzing by on bicycles is an inextricable part of the city’s character. While currently Seamless/Grubhub has market dominance, Memon knows that Sharebite can compete. The major issue with the current model of ordering apps is that they only let you search by restaurant. However, any committed foodie knows that a restaurant can make one dish amazing and fall flat on the others. Sharebite allows users to discover food not just by restaurant, but also by dish. So now, you’ll be able to find that 5 star pastrami on rye served at that 2 star deli.

Memon’s tactics are working too. In December Sharebite launched a Take-on Hunger campaign, and it was able to successfully fund 40,000 meals for Gotham’s hungriest. In only two months, Sharebite has seen the number of orders from the app double. It’s clear to see that this food startup is on a buttered roll.

 

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