The home cooked story of our investment in Blue Apron
Today I am really excited to announce that First Round is partnering with the team at Blue Apron to help change the way people think about cooking at home.
A couple months ago, my friends Nat and Zach introduced me to an entrepreneur with a “subscription business for grocery” — I was very skeptical, worried that it would be a replenishment business doomed to compete on price with the big players in this crowded space. But this one was different — and the founder was focused on delivering an amazing service that would put the joy back in home cooking by eliminating everything that stops people from cooking at home — namely uncertainty about the result and the time commitment required to get groceries and prepare a meal.
After my first meeting with the founders, I realized that I even though love to cook, love the process of exploring a recipe, enjoy selecting the ingredients, have fun learning a new way to make something — find the process of crafting a meal rewarding — I was almost never doing it. As much as I enjoy cooking, before i signed up for Blue Apron, I actually prepared a meal about once a week.
My wife and I have a soon to be 2 year old and the romance of a home cooked meal is often swamped by the reality of life as a working family. The uncertainty of choosing a recipe to attempt, the friction of grocery shopping, the waste of using a small portion of a critical and often expensive ingredient and the doubt about the time required to prepare the meal have us ordering out more than we should — and when we do cook at home, it is almost always the same 5 or 6 things we each know how to make. Ordering out is expensive and often not that healthy and cooking at home is repetitive, but in many ways became boring because a lot of the joy in crafting anything is the process of doing something new — that turns out to be amazing.
Blue Apron eliminated all of these pain points for us and changed the way we think about making dinner at home. For about $10/meal you get a box of fresh food delivered to your home that has pre-measured ingredients for 3 home cooked dinners. The recipes are interesting and the time from choosing the meal you will make to sitting down to enjoy it is less than 40 minutes. The service has fundamentally changed the way we shop for our weekly groceries and has improved our diet. It has also helped us spend more time together around dinner time and feel confident in the kitchen — we have become the “good cooks” that we want to be.
As an investor, I have been lucky enough to spend a lot of time with the team at Birchbox, one of the pioneers in the subscription commerce space and have learned a ton about what makes the model work. In December of 2011 I wrote that successful subscription commerce businesses needed to have opt-out economics and design the service so that it created a strong brand voice. At the time I said,
Subscription businesses work best in categories of consumer goods that are overwhelmed with choice from infinite brands; categories where the consumer understands quality in a qualitative rather than quantitative way and where experimentation with a new product is both low risk and delivers immediate results. When you have all these things working for you, you have built a service that moves people. You have the chance to change the way people shop.
I still believe these fundamentals are critical to a successful subscription business and are a huge piece of why Blue Apron has been able to fundamentally change the way my family thinks about meals at home. The service has changed the way we shop for groceries and the way we think about ordering out for prepared meals. I am excited to see them expand nationally and glad to be joined in this investment by our friends at Bessemer, David Tisch, Jason Finger and Jim Moran.