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We’ve profiled some intriguing startups in the past, but it’s not often that you come across a company attempting to meld the limitless world of the internet into the world of premium, bespoke cuisine. Welcome to ChefHost.
The brainchild of angel investor and big dreamer Abhinandan Balasubramanian and equally savvy entrepreneur Yiu Yin, ChefHost is “is an online peer-to-peer marketplace and community connecting chefs and hosts for private dining and exclusive catering”. Essentially, it is the venerable Craigslist of cuisine, where chefs can flaunt their skills and needy hosts request said chefs’ services.
Consumers who wish to make use of the service of a professional chef for whatever reason — from dinner parties to wedding functions — can call upon a chef via the marketplace. Chefs who sign up for the service can also publish their wish for opportunities. It allows chefs to showcase their talents, as well as allowing hosts of events to showcase bespoke first-class cuisine.
Spoonfuls of innovation
Currently 250 chefs are signed up to the service, with over 50 culinary consultants, celebrity chefs and partners. Additionally, ChefHost is claiming that it has broken the 2500 hosts barrier for signups in its beta run, suggesting that it’s extremely popular in its base of operations — southeast Asia.
Based in India and Hong-Kong, the company (currently in beta) will launch officially at TechCrunch Disrupt this week and at WebSummit in November, expanding to Japan, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore in the not too distant future. Considering that the startup is just over 90 days old, it’s a massive feat.
Three months in, going from strength to strength
Birthing a startup is usually a long, laborious process, but ChefHost has been hurtling forward at an astonishing rate.
The meteoric rise can be attributed to Balasubramanian’s keen eye for market conditions and innovation. This isn’t his first rodeo, after all. His debut venture was with the founding team of Liquity — Europe’s-then first marketplace for buying and selling private company shares. The marketplace inspiration seems to have stuck.
“We are enabling this service using technology to scale it and enhance the regulations,” he explains.
“There is a huge demand for this, given the propensity to spend on food. Wearables or technology products might or might not have a demand. Food is a necessity, and alternative experience will be one of the biggest markets in the future.”
Whilst studying at the University of Warwick, Balasubramanian met his current business partner and co-founder Yiu Yin, who took the model to Hong Kong. He, like Balasubramanian, also has a keen eye for a market opportunity or two, specialising in launching successful Kickstarter campaigns in the retail tech space. And if that’s not credibility enough, he also previously ran an events management company in the United Kingdom.
But why ChefHost as the next venture?
Democratisation, transparency, regulation
“The private dining and catering market is highly fragmented with no transparency and regulation,” explains Balasubramanian. “ChefHost will consolidate all the stakeholders and give this industry a structure. The peer-to-peer review will help bring transparency and quality standards.
“For the chefs, there is a severe lack of talent democratisation and there is no access or opportunity to monetise. Chefs are like artists, and there is no platform for them to excel unless they are celeb chefs or TV Hosts,” he concludes.
Talent democratization is perhaps the most important concept here. While anyone can become a chef, it takes a talented chef a staircase laden with fortune to actually achieve great things — just like the tech industry. ChefHost aims to be an equal platform for all chefs to laud their skills, allowing all a fair footing. It also allows hosts to contact these tailor-made chefs for their specific need:
“For the hosts, the time and effort to coordinate private dining is a major hurdle in considering this as an alternative to dining out. The ChefHost platform makes this process hassle free,” notes Balasubramanian.
The chefs, once the ChefHost platform has been launched fully, will allow chefs and hosts to rate each others’ work, creating a democratic rating system. Think of it like Yelp, but with a more ecommerce-tinted spin.
Untapped, uncultivated market
Currently ChefHost estimates that the private dining and catering market is worth a ridiculous US$2.5-billion. Although the company doesn’t exactly plan to exploit every cent of it, it does aim to provide a standard platform on which the market can be organised.
And it’s not exactly a market exclusively for the rich and famous. ChefHost aims to bring bespoke dining to the commoner. When quizzed on the seemingly wealthy market of private dining, Balasubramanian replied:
It is highly misguided that bespoke dining is for the wealthy. And that is what chefhost wants to clarify. If there is greater transparency and access in the market, we will make the affordability and accessibility scalable. Plus, as the most expensive designer in the world Bijan Pakzad said: “If you can afford it, it is cheap!”
Making waves one city at a time
For now, ChefHost is a Southeast Asian exclusive, but Balasubramanian has massive plans for the startup.
“Year two [we] will be scaling to Europe, with the UK, France and Germany as first destinations,” explains Balasubramanian.
“We already have progressed our talks to establish expansion partners in the UK. Africa would be tested over time during the next year — South Africa & Kenya primarily. The US is the last on our agenda as the two startups we are similar to, have been established there for over two years already. Maybe when we go to the US in year four or five, we will hopefully be acquiring our competition.”
It’s that brand of ambition that has seen ChefHost on the radar of the world’s leading tech conferences. And while ChefHost may just be another startup on the expansive map of businesses trying their utmost to be the next greatest success, Balasubramanian and Yiu Yin’s company will be making waves in Southeast Asia, TechCrunch Disrupt and WebSummit in the very near future.
“Be passionate and be ready to be a slave of your vision,” he concludes.