In three short years, Riya Grover and Lyz Swanton have transformed their passion for healthy eating into a fast-growing wellness business. Now, backed by more than £2 million in funding, the startup is accelerating its mission of disrupting the food-tech sector and helping to democratise workplace wellness.
Feedr — an online marketplace enabling office workers to order nutritious food from some of London’s most interesting restaurants and food stands, at a lower cost than on the high street –– is now in more than 400 companies, including PwC, Airbnb, Etsy, DHL and Matches.
The British startup’s mission to help people eat more healthily during the working day continues to be embraced by businesses that recognise the value it offers to both them and their employees. Meanwhile, its innovative business model enables independent food providers such as Deliciously Ella, Detox Kitchen and Karma Cans to scale their businesses.
To date, thousands of meals made from clean and honest ingredients, transparent food chains and eco-friendly packaging, have been purchased by workers across London, with demand for the service continuing to skyrocket. And its growth hasn’t gone unnoticed.
Last year the business was named one of the top 100 Startups in the UK, with Grover shortlisted for the Forbes 30 under 30 list — her passion for tech and wellness, and a belief that there is so much disruption opportunity in the healthy food space continues to underpin her drive to scale the service.
By looking beyond the capital, and investing in nutrition and personalisation software to deliver an enhanced product experience to thousands more employees, Grover plans to leverage the growing demand for healthy and accessible food, whatever the environment.
Here the 30-year-old discusses why purpose drives change, how a ‘test and learn’ approach has enabled the business to scale quickly, and the growing role of technology in democratising wellness……….
On creating a business with purpose……….
We had the belief that everyone should be able to access the kind of nutritious and transparent food they want to eat… easily and at an affordable price point, every day. We each felt the pain of this while working in London offices, and saw an opportunity to create a mainstream way of accessing healthy food daily at work.
There are some amazing food creators in London doing great things to drive innovation in the healthy food space, but there is an accessibility problem. We created Feedr to solve this issue.
On implementing a ‘test and learn’ approach………..
To launch Feedr, we needed both a great supply of meals from amazing food innovators and a technology product for people to order and pay. Like many marketplace businesses, we first went out to our vendors and sold the concept to them, we then built the simplest version of our tech, so that we could get out to customers and validate our concept quickly.
Only from serving our first few hundred users did we learn where the gaps in the market were and what type of meal choices and order experience they wanted. This approach of ‘test and learn’ has helped us to continually refine our concept over time.
On resonating with conscious consumers……….
To build a successful wellness business, it has to be led by a fundamental passion to drive positive change – whether that is for your target audience, the industry or wider society.
We built Feedr on our passion for healthy food and we are transforming how people eat, using smart technology to unlock spare capacity in the city’s best healthy kitchens.
Our model is built to fuel the ecosystem – it makes it easier for people to access healthy food at a more affordable price point, whilst providing a platform for small, independent vendors to reach a wider audience. It is our passion for driving this positive change that fuels our team and business, and in turn, resonates with our customers. We have been lucky in that
On the impact of technology on personalisation and affordability………
A key USP for us is that we’re using tech to drive choice and personalisation. We have built a unique content library of recipes from healthy eateries, influencers and chefs which we then offer to customers with curated menus. These menus are tailored to the customer depending on their food preferences, nutrition goals, ratings and previous choices. In short, we’re creating a personalised eating platform like no other.
We’ve also realised more and more that driving affordable pricing is a key priority. Artisan providers who are using high-quality ingredients face higher input costs than the average high street chain, so we have increasingly started working with virtual kitchens using smart restaurant technology to produce these high-quality meals at a lower price point.
On fuelling innovation through investment……….
We’ve been fortunate to raise capital from some fantastic, incredibly smart investors. The process of fundraising can be gruelling — lots of meetings (and rejections), but when you ultimately do find the right investors who share in your vision, it’s amazing to have their insight, support and expertise behind you.
We’ve raised two rounds so far (one of which was a VC round) and the large injections of funds have helped us to scale quicker, grow our team and be really bold in our approach to innovating.
On big plans, and business growth………..
We have big plans for building new features that really bring our users closer to the food they’re ordering, and provide more transparency. This includes full nutritional information with content that helps people meet their nutrition goals, sourcing details, and highlighting meals that fit with individual food and lifestyle preferences.
For example, if someone wanted to eat high protein with low refined carbs, they’d see items that fit this preference on the menu first and their menus would be constructed with this objective in mind.
Our new mobile app is coming out soon and we’re excited about how that will make daily ordering easier and allow Feedr to fit better into people’s hectic work schedules. Our machine learning work we keep relatively quiet, but it’s all about understanding what truly drives food choices and helping people find what they want to eat, faster.
On women working in wellness tech………
I think all the same opportunities exist for women wanting to make their mark in tech as they do for men, but you have to be more proactive about going out and fighting for them. Statistically, there’s still less opportunity for warm introductions to key investors as women, but I believe that the momentum is shifting in the industry to change that. There are people out there looking to support and invest in great female-founded businesses, so it’s about finding the people who share your vision and making them evangelists.
We have been really lucky to find each other as Co-Founders and be able to build a strong, diverse team. We have more women than men in the team actually, and for a tech company, that’s rare.
On taking time to build the right team……….
When hiring, our philosophy has been to find people that are incredibly smart and ambitious, passionate about what we’re doing, and believe in the values we hold as a company. We hire for cultural fit and attitude and then train for skill. We hold very high standards and that sometimes means we have had to wait a long time to find the right candidates –– in our experience it’s always been worthwhile to wait for people who hold the right values rather than hire quickly to fill a position.
On future expansion……….
We have identified a number of cities in the UK and internationally that have the right supply base and demographics for our product. For the next year, our focus will remain in London – only 1% of food here is purchased online, and we see significant opportunity to scale this – but we have built technology to scale beyond our current market and in 2020 will start rolling out to new markets. Watch this space.