How adventures in Africa led to the perfect ZeroCater Series B

A couple weeks ago, our portfolio company ZeroCater announced its Series B, led by Cleveland Avenue (founded by the former CEO of McDonald’s). I’m excited about what this capital and partnership means for the company, given that we’ve accomplished so much while raising a total of <$6M beforehand. Here’s CEO Arram Sabeti talking about the company on Cheddar at the NY Stock Exchange.

The space is experiencing a time of reckoning; while at the surface all of our peers are providing food to businesses, it turns out there are many ways of doing so. Some (like Zesty) have already gone out of business, and others are on the way. The next couple years will determine who survives and being well-resourced is an important element of navigating the choppy waters ahead. With Cleveland Avenue, I think ZeroCater is poised to win.

The other reason I’m excited is that I now get to work with my friend Sky Fernandes, who is joining the board. We met in a rather different context, in 2011 when I was contemplating an Africa-focused fund (Romulus Africa). Sky was a leader in the South African-American venture networks and was very helpful in guiding my thinking toward the “missing middle” – the idea that a large opportunity existed between ‘microfinance’ and ‘private equity’ in emerging markets. Innovative technology and financing could come together to fill this gap and we had fun trading ideas on how.

While Romulus Africa was put on hold as we grew the core of Romulus, Sky and I became great friends (I attended Sky & Jenna’s lovely wedding in Brooklyn). Sky now runs venture capital investments at Cleveland Avenue (living 10 minutes from where I grew up), and is focused on food-related opportunities. They presented a very compelling value proposition for ZeroCater. At my young age, in our industry, you don’t often get to work with people you’ve known as friends for many years. I’m thrilled it worked out this way! Who knows – maybe we will help take ZeroCater to Africa one day…