Kevin Hart and Jay-Z are backing this catering startup

Hungry Marketplace connects independent chefs with businesses that need food

Hungry Marketplace is a startup that connects independent chefs looking to cook to corporations that need catering. Actor Kevin Hart and rapper Jay-Z seem to like that idea.

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Thanks to the two celebrities, and some star NFL athletes who invested, the Washington-based startup raised $20 million in a new round of funding led by Evolution VC Partners and former Whole Foods co-chief operating officer Walter Robb. The latest influx brings its total funding to more than $32 million, according to a report in Crunchbase.

More than 1,000 chefs applied to be on the platform, but co-founder and CEO, Eman Pahlavani, said the company only picks the “cream of the crop,” as each must complete a vetting process that includes local tastings where try and rate the chefs’ meals.

Hungry has 200 active chefs on the program.

The startup doesn’t own or operate any kitchens.

Instead, a team of “catering captains” deliver the food and set it up at a company’s location after the chefs, independent contractor, cook it. “The idea is chefs don’t like to do delivery,” Pahlavani said in the report. “They don’t like to leave the kitchen and deliver food. That helps keep the business capital-efficient, he said.

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Hungry serves more than 500 companies across the United States and its revenue has shot up more than 300 percent year-over-year. Its valuation has passed $100 million this round.

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So far, the company only operates in six cities, which are mostly on the East Coast, but it plans to add Dallas soon and stretch its total to 23 cities by the end of 2021.

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“Where the chefs need help is on the business side,” Pahlavani said. “How do you bring on a customer … Hungry is that side of the business. We’re a business in a box for them.”

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