A who’s-who of early stage investors are putting a $2 million bet that two young Northwestern grads can teach millennials a better way to eat with their new startup Spoon University.
Founded by Mackenzie Barth (not a foodie) and Sarah Adler (total foodie), New York-based Spoon University is a crowd-sourced, would-be Food Network for millennials, according to Barth, who serves as the company’s chief executive.
“We’re building it from within the community,” Barth says. “We have 3,000 college students around the country who are building up content. They all volunteer. What motivates them is this whole food movement.”
Like every other demographic, twenty and early-thirty somethings want to embrace healthy eating and living, and Spoon University wants to be their source for tips, tricks, food reviews, and content. Popular stories on the site include “18 Facts Every Tofu Newbie Should Know” and “11 #SpoonFeed Ice Cream Concoctions That Are Dope AF” (not necessarily your typical FoodTV fare).
The vision was enough to capture the attention (and dollars) of investors led by SoftTech VC. Additional financing came from Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Box Group, VaynerRSE, BBG Ventures, MATH fund, Joanne Wilson, Howard Morgan, Project Mayhem Ventures, Kosinski Ventures and RuggedVC.
Unlike other contributed content platforms, Spoon University isn’t open to everyone. Members who want to apply goes through an on-boarding process and receives training in how to write headlines, use Facebook to promote their content, and manage analytics tools to see how well their contributions are performing.
Spoon University launched as a magazine at Northwestern in the fall of 2012, while both women were still undergraduates. The two went on to launch a website in 2013, and began receiving requests from people at other schools on how to get a similar publication going.
The two women got a much different education in the most recent Techstars program in New York. They graduated from the accelerator’s most recent, April cohort.
“What we had been doing was manually launching these new chapters,” says Barth. “So we created this one place called secret sauce… Now we’re able to launch new content pretty seamlessly and we’re able to train people all in one place.
Like Buzzfeed and other new flavors of publishing, Spoon University wants to leverage its content creators to develop packages for brands, and use their on-campus presence to do experiential marketing to college users. The site now averages 1.5mm monthly unique visitors.
“The magic behind Spoon University and the engine with which we run our business is ‘Secret Sauce’”, said Spoon University co-Founder and CTO Sarah Adler in a statement. “Our proprietary onboarding, training, and analytics system has enabled us to expand from one chapter at Northwestern in 2013 to over 100 university chapters in the US, Canada, and India.”
The company said it would use the new financing to continue to expand its network of contributors and begin creating more video content.