Popchew cooks up creator partnership approach to digitally native, local food brands

To create the perfect recipe of new food brands and experiences, Popchew has compiled a list of infrastructure and restaurant partnership ingredients so that creators can build, launch and grow their own local, digitally native food brands nationally in a matter of weeks.

The New York startup was founded in 2021 by Rushir Parikh and Nick Sopchak and in the company’s first six months, launched two brands, Bitcoin Pizza with investor Anthony “Pomp” Pompliano and Wing SZN in partnership with YouTuber Zias. They are available for delivery via third-party apps and the Popchew website.

The idea for the company stemmed from Parikh’s childhood growing up working at his uncle’s restaurant and Sopchak’s background in the hospitality industry. They felt food was fun, but that the $40 billion food delivery market could be opened up to help creators expand their personal brand, connect with fans and create a new revenue stream.

“We realized that the way we are eating is evolving and it is turning into content,” Parikh told TechCrunch. “You see food everywhere on Instagram and TikTok, and we felt the future of food could be creators. However, it is hard for creators to get into food unless they are a mega celebrity working with a food company.”

Here’s how it works: Creators figure out the type of food they want to sell, and Popchew brings that idea to life through digital experiences where friends can come together around food — see what they’ve ordered and send food to friends. On the restaurant side, Popchew taps into restaurants’ unused capacity and helps creators optimize it to create another revenue stream. All of the orders flow through the company and its splits the proceeds between the creators and restaurants.

The company has partnerships with more than 100 restaurants currently, but Parikh says with over 600,000 restaurants in the U.S., brands can expand reach without changing restaurants’ existing operation.

Popchew, WingSZN

Popchew’s Wing SZN brand. Image Credits: Popchew

Parikh and Sopchak are also toying with the idea of enabling parents to load up Popchew accounts for their college-aged children for food delivery. Users earn a loyalty point for every dollar spent, which then can be used to purchase prizes from the creators, for example, an appearance on their YouTube video or merchandise.

A pilot in May for Bitcoin Pizza Day took place in 10 cities and pulled in $100,000 in gross merchandise volume in the first seven days. Since then, Popchew has processed tens of thousands of orders and is poised to generate several million dollars in revenue by the end of the year.

The company has plans to launch new brands every month with its roster of creators, and to reach that goal, secured $3.6 million in seed funding. Long Journey Ventures led the round and was joined by Jake Paul’s Anti Fund, Flybridge, WndrCo, the Uber Alumni Syndicate and a group of strategic angel investors, including Rus Yusupov of HQ Trivia and Vine, Steven Galanis of Cameo, Rich Antoniello of Complex Media, Scott Belsky, Pompliano and Matteo Franceschetti.

The capital infusion will enable the company to build on its core food experiences and invest in product, engineering and operations.

“Food is the authentic way to engage with audiences,” Sopchak said. “Our approach provides an incremental line of revenue for creators and restaurants, so it is mutually beneficial.”

Popchew is the latest startup to attract capital for its approach to helping people create food brands. For example, in 2020, Disha Gulati and Nicholas Florek tapped into $800,000 in pre-seed to get Here Here Market going to feature local food gift boxes from up-and-coming culinary creators. In the past year, we also saw DishDivvy, WoodSpoon and Shef raise funds to help home cooks create a revenue stream with their homemade creations.