How an entrepreneur, who didn’t know how to cook, started a recipe company


SideChef recipe app
Image Credits: SideChef

Unless you are an avid food prepper, “what’s for dinner” is probably the phrase uttered everyday in most households.

Ten years ago, SideChef founder and CEO Kevin Yu set out to make it easier to answer that question by creating an all-in-one cooking, shopping and meal planning app. He later brought on Cadence Hardenbergh as co-founder and COO.

Recipe management itself not a new concept, and SideChef is among a group of startups bringing technology to a sector where handwritten recipes kept in a folder or Rolodex is the norm. We’ve seen companies like Galley Solutions and meez do it for restaurants, while Pestle, Whisk, Foody and even Instacart are creating apps for consumers.

However, SideChef’s “secret sauce,” if you will, is its more than 12,000 shoppable recipes that can be added to your cart and all of the ingredients needed to make that recipe are delivered or made available for in-store pickup from Walmart. There is also a “create your own” feature so that account holders can upload their own recipes and even share them publicly.

Recipe app Pestle helps you organize, plan, and cook hands-free or with friends on FaceTime

Cadence Hardenbergh Kevin Yu SideChef recipe app
SideChef co-founders Cadence Hardenbergh and Kevin Yu. Image Credits: SideChef

The app is free to download and now has over 20,000 “smart recipes” that users can filter by dietary preferences, ingredients you already have in your kitchen, cuisine or cook time. There is a monthly subscription of $4.99 that comes with a premium version providing recipes from SideChef culinary experts.

Prior to starting the company, Yu was a video game developer for eight years, working with Warcraft and Blizzard. He admits that he didn’t know how to cook at the time, but was curious if there was a step-by-step guide via an app that helped people cook. When SideChef launched in 2014, it was named “Best App of the Year for Google Play.”

“That was really big validation for us,” Yu told TechCrunch.

Following that, the company got its first seed round and built up its platform so that tablets, iPhone, Android and even smart home hubs can read off the step-by-step cooking instructions. Yu described it as “the start of the journey in which our mission is to allow anyone to be able to cook.”

However, there was a point where he realized that monetizing recipe users was not the same as video game users: chiefly that people are not going to go into the app and spend a bunch of money buying recipes. So, he went out looking for business models and saw how online grocery, though still low penetration, was becoming a trend.

“Our idea was to take the structured data we had, map out all the ingredients and send lasagna to you in a single click,” Yu added. “We know everything that they need, and the serving size, so we can match some of the grocery database to be able to send the right amount of pasta sauce or pasta.”

SideChef linked up with Instacart around 2016 for the grocery delivery and also went on to work with kitchen appliance makers like Sharp, GE and LG Electronics.

Those new business models have paid off: The company doubled its revenue growth three years in a row, boosted in part by the global pandemic, when Yu said more people started cooking at home.

At the same time, the smart kitchen side led the company to its previously unannounced Series A with LG and now another $6 million in Series B funding. The seed, Series A and Series B give SideChef a total of more than $16 million from institutional investors, including Ideate Ventures, AB Electrolux, Peacock Capital Group, V-ZUG AG, Ilion Capital, Empower Investment, Innolead Investment, LG Technology Ventures and KZone LLC.

The new funding enables SideChef to move into its next phase of growth that includes an end-to-end cooking platform supported by smart kitchen technologies like image recognition devices to allow automated cooking and further monetization of the platform, including online grocery purchasing, contextual marketing and data insights.

“I believe we have the most structured data format of a recipe in the world,” Yu said. “What started as teaching myself how to cook became kind of a ‘Rosetta Stone’ to connect the entire industry.”

Ghost kitchens ride into college campuses on the backs of delivery bots

More TechCrunch

Expedia says Rathi Murthy and Sreenivas Rachamadugu, respectively its CTO and senior vice president of core services product & engineering, are no longer employed at the travel booking company. In…

Expedia says two execs dismissed after ‘violation of company policy’

When Jeffrey Wang posted to X asking if anyone wanted to go in on an order of fancy-but-affordable office nap pods, he didn’t expect the post to go viral.

With AI startups booming, nap pods and Silicon Valley hustle culture are back

A new crop of early-stage startups — along with some recent VC investments — illustrates a niche emerging in the autonomous vehicle technology sector. Unlike the companies bringing robotaxis to…

VCs and the military are fueling self-driving startups that don’t need roads

When the founders of Sagetap, Sahil Khanna and Kevin Hughes, started working at early-stage enterprise software startups, they were surprised to find that the companies they worked at were trying…

Deal Dive: Sagetap looks to bring enterprise software sales into the 21st century

Keeping up with an industry as fast-moving as AI is a tall order. So until an AI can do it for you, here’s a handy roundup of recent stories in the world…

This Week in AI: OpenAI moves away from safety

After Apple loosened its App Store guidelines to permit game emulators, the retro game emulator Delta — an app 10 years in the making — hit the top of the…

Adobe comes after indie game emulator Delta for copying its logo

Meta is once again taking on its competitors by developing a feature that borrows concepts from others — in this case, BeReal and Snapchat. The company is developing a feature…

Meta’s latest experiment borrows from BeReal’s and Snapchat’s core ideas

Welcome to Startups Weekly! We’ve been drowning in AI news this week, with Google’s I/O setting the pace. And Elon Musk rages against the machine.

Startups Weekly: It’s the dawning of the age of AI — plus,  Musk is raging against the machine

IndieBio’s Bay Area incubator is about to debut its 15th cohort of biotech startups. We took special note of a few, which were making some major, bordering on ludicrous, claims…

IndieBio’s SF incubator lineup is making some wild biotech promises

YouTube TV has announced that its multiview feature for watching four streams at once is now available on Android phones and tablets. The Android launch comes two months after YouTube…

YouTube TV’s ‘multiview’ feature is now available on Android phones and tablets

Featured Article

Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

CSC ServiceWorks provides laundry machines to thousands of residential homes and universities, but the company ignored requests to fix a security bug.

1 day ago
Two Santa Cruz students uncover security bug that could let millions do their laundry for free

OpenAI’s Superalignment team, responsible for developing ways to govern and steer “superintelligent” AI systems, was promised 20% of the company’s compute resources, according to a person from that team. But…

OpenAI created a team to control ‘superintelligent’ AI — then let it wither, source says

TechCrunch Disrupt 2024 is just around the corner, and the buzz is palpable. But what if we told you there’s a chance for you to not just attend, but also…

Harness the TechCrunch Effect: Host a Side Event at Disrupt 2024

Decks are all about telling a compelling story and Goodcarbon does a good job on that front. But there’s important information missing too.

Pitch Deck Teardown: Goodcarbon’s $5.5M seed deck

Slack is making it difficult for its customers if they want the company to stop using its data for model training.

Slack under attack over sneaky AI training policy

A Texas-based company that provides health insurance and benefit plans disclosed a data breach affecting almost 2.5 million people, some of whom had their Social Security number stolen. WebTPA said…

Healthcare company WebTPA discloses breach affecting 2.5 million people

Featured Article

Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Microsoft won’t be facing antitrust scrutiny in the U.K. over its recent investment into French AI startup Mistral AI.

1 day ago
Microsoft dodges UK antitrust scrutiny over its Mistral AI stake

Ember has partnered with HSBC in the U.K. so that the bank’s business customers can access Ember’s services from their online accounts.

Embedded finance is still trendy as accounting automation startup Ember partners with HSBC UK

Kudos uses AI to figure out consumer spending habits so it can then provide more personalized financial advice, like maximizing rewards and utilizing credit effectively.

Kudos lands $10M for an AI smart wallet that picks the best credit card for purchases

The EU’s warning comes after Microsoft failed to respond to a legally binding request for information that focused on its generative AI tools.

EU warns Microsoft it could be fined billions over missing GenAI risk info

The prospects for troubled banking-as-a-service startup Synapse have gone from bad to worse this week after a United States Trustee filed an emergency motion on Wednesday.  The trustee is asking…

A US Trustee wants troubled fintech Synapse to be liquidated via Chapter 7 bankruptcy, cites ‘gross mismanagement’

U.K.-based Seraphim Space is spinning up its 13th accelerator program, with nine participating companies working on a range of tech from propulsion to in-space manufacturing and space situational awareness. The…

Seraphim’s latest space accelerator welcomes nine companies

OpenAI has reached a deal with Reddit to use the social news site’s data for training AI models. In a blog post on OpenAI’s press relations site, the company said…

OpenAI inks deal to train AI on Reddit data

X users will now be able to discover posts from new Communities that are trending directly from an Explore tab within the section.

X pushes more users to Communities

For Mark Zuckerberg’s 40th birthday, his wife got him a photoshoot. Zuckerberg gives the camera a sly smile as he sits amid a carefully crafted re-creation of his childhood bedroom.…

Mark Zuckerberg’s makeover: Midlife crisis or carefully crafted rebrand?

Strava announced a slew of features, including AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, a new ‘family’ subscription plan, dark mode and more.

Strava taps AI to weed out leaderboard cheats, unveils ‘family’ plan, dark mode and more

We all fall down sometimes. Astronauts are no exception. You need to be in peak physical condition for space travel, but bulky space suits and lower gravity levels can be…

Astronauts fall over. Robotic limbs can help them back up.

Microsoft will launch its custom Cobalt 100 chips to customers as a public preview at its Build conference next week, TechCrunch has learned. In an analyst briefing ahead of Build,…

Microsoft’s custom Cobalt chips will come to Azure next week

What a wild week for transportation news! It was a smorgasbord of news that seemed to touch every sector and theme in transportation.

Tesla keeps cutting jobs and the feds probe Waymo

Sony Music Group has sent letters to more than 700 tech companies and music streaming services to warn them not to use its music to train AI without explicit permission.…

Sony Music warns tech companies over ‘unauthorized’ use of its content to train AI