In this heyday of Seamless and GrubHub, many New Yorkers might not be able to recall the last time they prepared an actual meal at home — and no, reheating last night’s leftovers doesn’t count.
But one local startup is aiming to get New Yorkers back in the kitchen and away from their laptops. Blue Apron brings the convenience of online-ordering to the home cooking space. Using Blue Apron, you can order the perfect portions of ingredients to make a gourmet meal for two at home. You won’t find yourself splurging on $60-worth of Saffron, for example, just for one night of Indian food.
We caught up with Blue Apron cofounder Matt Salzberg to learn how he got his start in Silicon Alley, and what it’s like running a startup in New York City.
Where’d the idea for Blue Apron come from?
My co-founder Ilia and I came up with the idea because we both loved to cook, but found it inaccessible. We wished there was a service that existed which would send us everything we needed, so we could just enjoy the cooking and the food. We also wanted to cook with interesting, high end ingredients, but have it still be affordable. Once we came up with the idea, we recruited Matthew Wadiak (our third co-founder) to join our team– he’s been an incredible chef his entire career. And the three of us launched the business in August of 2012, just packing deliveries ourselves and begging our friends to try it.
What comes first for you: tech or cooking?
Fundamentally, Blue Apron is about the cooking experience– making it accessible & fun, and teaching people new things. It’s what we and our customers love. Technology is the way that we reach and communicate with them, as well as how we make it all happen operationally behind the scenes.
What made you choose to base your startup in New York City instead of Silicon Valley or elsewhere?
New York is really the cultural capital of the country, and if you think about it, many of the best consumer brands come from here, especially in e-commerce. The food scene here is unparalleled, both in terms of having incredible, innovative chefs and also in terms of access to an array of fresh produce and specialty suppliers.
When you were younger, before the Internet and the tech scene existed, what did you want to be when you grew up? How does it compare with your current situation?
I’ve actually wanted to be an entrepreneur my entire career– I had no idea it would have to do with food or technology when I was younger though. I literally can’t imagine loving a job any more than I love working at Blue Apron.
What’s been the biggest challenge in starting Blue Apron?
Without a doubt it has been hiring. We’ve been growing so quickly that just keeping up with that growth has been a challenge. We probably have at least 50 open positions at our company right now. Since culture is so important to us, we often leave positions open for long periods of time instead of compromising on the quality of the person and filling them right away. That makes it a little harder on everybody else on the team that needs to pick up the slack, but it pays off because the result is that everybody in the company is somebody that you are excited to work with.
What can we expect in the future from both your company and you?
We’re trying to make Blue Apron a nationwide, household name in 2014. We’ll be expanding geographically, introducing new products surrounding the home cooking experience, and continuing to innovate our supply chain to bring fresher and more interesting food to people at unbelievable prices.