Menulog co-founder launches new startup FoodByUs with $2 million in funding to bring the sharing economy to home cooking

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The co-founder of Menulog and two experienced Australian entrepreneurs have teamed up to launch a new startup after receiving $2 million in funding to develop the idea.

FoodByUs is a sharing economy platform connecting home cooks with members of the community – think Foodora or Deliveroo but with your neighbour cooking the food instead of a restaurant.

The FoodByUs platform allows vetted home cooks to list their food on a platform, with users then selected what they want and either collecting it or getting it delivered. The startup takes a 20% cut from every transaction made on the platform.

Combining the sharing economy and home cooking

The Sydney-based startup is the brainchild of Menulog co-founder Gary Munitz, former Menulog lead developer Tim Chandler and Flipsters co-founder Ben Lipschitz.

The trio began working on the business full-time earlier this year after receiving a $2 million cornerstone investment from a group of high-net worth individuals and institutional investors.

Lipschitz says the founders were inspired by the success of other sharing economy-based startups.

“We looked at the fact that these days people are buying products and services from other people – you don’t take a taxi, you take an Uber; you don’t stay in a hotel, you stay in a private residence through Airbnb,” Lipschitz tells StartupSmart.

“We took the concept of the sharing economy to enable home cooks to really have a way to sell their food and change the way people in Australia can buy and sell food.”

FoodByUs will be the first company in Australia to apply the Uber model to home cooking, Lipschitz says.

“It’s an Australian-first – no one has done this before,” he says.

“Despite the level of innovation happening in the food industry, a lot still revolves around restaurants and retailers. No one has looked at it in terms of the sharing economy, and we’re hoping to break new ground with.”

Experienced founders

The cash injection came in the very early days of the startup, and Lipschitz says the experience of the co-founders helped to convince the potential investors.

“Experience played really well in terms of the ability to say that it’s not just a great idea, but that we are the team to make this idea happen,” he says.

“We really picked a team that shared our vision and who had the right network and experience to build this company with us.”

FoodByUs soft launched at the start of August and now has 80 makers on the platform offering 500 meals. The startup has now officially launched in Sydney with plans to expand across Australia in the coming months, starting with Melbourne.

“We’ve really focused on building a quality product for all of our users,” Lipschitz says.

“To rush out across cities and across countries wouldn’t be best. We want to make sure that every buyer can locate that authentic quality local food in their area.”

As with all marketplace startups, Lipschitz says the focus is on growing both sides by providing value to all users and the founders’ experience at Menulog proved crucial to do this.

“We were very fortunate to have that Menulog experience in our co-founders,” he says.

“We got quite a lot right off the bad and that was from understanding how to build a two-sided marketplace.”

For the sellers, it’s all about flexibility and providing the ability to earn a supplementary income, Lipschitz says.

“It’s important for us that we give them the ability to set which days they’re happy to cook and for how much,” he says.

“That focus in the beginning was really good and helpful in terms of evolving the idea.”

For the buyers, he says it’s about saving money and discovering great local food.

“It’s about the idea of ‘meet your maker’,” Lipschitz says.

“This represents local, authentic freshly made food that’s difficult to find, and you can’t get anywhere else.”

He says that every home cook trying to list on the platform will have to pass a taste test by a member of the FoodByUs team, and will be required to fulfil all local regulations. Users on the other side will have to rate and review after every purchase.

“That’s not just for the sense of quality and trust, it’s about making sure you are a quality maker,” Lipschitz says.

“We don’t take just anyone and if people aren’t up to scratch we take the appropriate course of action.”

Capitalising on a booming market

FoodByUs can capitalise on the booming food delivery market as well as more traditional sectors like farmers’ markets, he says.

“The size of what we could be dealing with is in the order of $2 billion,” he says.

“We’re the first to do it and we’d love to be the market leader and take a healthy chunk of that.

“People are adopting the idea in its early stages and from here the next step is just to grow to get that scale.”

He says that while founders are often told to go to market quickly, it’s also important to be patient.

“What we’ve learnt in the weeks since we’ve gone live is that spending extra time to make sure that makers can set their schedule and have extra functionality is actually worth it,” Lipschitz says.

“It’s worth waiting because it’s so hard to get people to come back a second time if the experience isn’t great. We all have had previous business experience and we had a level of patience this time round, which we’re happy to see paying dividends.

“Don’t rush it because as fast as you want to go in a startup, it’s better to do it right.”

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Denham Sadler is the editor of StartupSmart. He was previously a journalist at the publication and has worked as a freelancer for the Guardian, the Saturday Paper and the ABC. In his spare time he likes puns and jaffles.
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  • Matthew Newton

    Looks great, good luck guys!

    This is not the first attempt – I’ve seen a couple of these in Melbourne, for instance – but I think this may be the best REAL potential shot at getting this idea running successfully.

    This is a business I’ve been waiting for for years now and I hope that it succeeds.

    The coming introduction of autobots – robots that will deliver things P2P without drivers – could be a massive boon for these guys too.

    • Maddox Healtley

      It’s certainly got the backing to make this idea successful. I too have been waiting for it, as it’s a natural step in the sharing economy!

      But autobots… seriously… I’m so bearish on this tech. It’s not going to happen for years. There is going to be a massive fight between humans and this tech, with vandalism the BIGGEST threat I see. Drone flying in the sky with pizza? Not that hard at all to bring it down. A simple push to a deliverybot, and the thing is useless. It’s going to need a massive societal shift for the world to accept autobots in our lives.

  • Ken from Double Bay

    What safeguards will be in place to prevent people warming up dog food and serving it to unsuspecting diners?

    • Tim @ Techstart Coogie

      I agree Ken, however I wouldn’t be overly concerned…
      How much are we expecting a serving of that, sufficient for a grown man would cost? Even if plentiful, the 20% mark up for FoodByUs would probably tip me towards a no

  • Charles Black

    Also it isnt actually the first and the claim to be the first is not true – I purchased from hometaste.com.au earlier in the year and continue to do – and it’s awesome 🙂

  • Priya

    Kodos to sharing economy . watscooking.com is doing the same for the past one year with 4500 home chefs in the platform from 5 countries

  • JS

    How would foodbyus ensure the food safety from the cook? (eg: to ensure seller has proper commercial kitchen setup and not just cook their food from their garage?)

    The T&C from foodbyus.com.au stated:
    “As a Maker, you are responsible for all aspects of food preparation, health and safety compliance, certifications, compliance with laws, customer service and service delivery. You acknowledge and agree that, as a Maker, you are responsible for your own acts and omissions and are also responsible for the acts and omissions of any individuals who may assist in the preparation and delivery of food and creation of Menus’ or who may assist in any other way that arises out of or relates to the use of this Site and Application or the supply of services.”