Tovala’s Series C — Zero Knob Twisting
Have we reached a new level of laziness during the pandemic? Seems reasonable. We live, work, and sleep in the same square foot. 10 steps to the bathroom compared to 50 office steps. 25 steps to the fridge trimmed to 7.5 at home strides. Limited options to leave exacerbate excuses to stay. Marinate in that environment for a year and it leads to the inability to read cooking instructions and muster up the strength to adjust toaster oven knobs.
That’s where Tovala comes into play. The Series C recipient touts the smart oven that “only does everything.” Compared to many other food prep services out there, Tovala is the one that also requires $200 to purchase a smart oven before a single buttery carrot enters your mouth. Each meal comes with a QR code to scan on the oven and voila your meal is cooking in the conditions intended by the chef who pre-made it. But it doesn’t stop there. Cheat meal? Load and scan your pizza rolls barcode. Bulking season? Dump in your Kodiak Cakes and scan away. Less healthy but extraordinarily cheaper Kodiak cakes? Oh, you can scan your Eggos too(but only if you’re using Mrs. Buttersworth).
Tovala really hits on two areas: eliminating time and prep to cook food and providing delicious experiences with pre-made meals, rather than soggy reheated dishes in the microwave. The wifi-connected oven steams, bakes, and broils based on the corresponding QR code, cooking your meal with the tender passionate loving that an in-person chef would do.
The round checks in at an even $30 million — Tovala’s second round in just 6 months. The latest investment was led by Left Lane Capital with a hand from previous investors, including Comcast Ventures and entrepreneur Joe Mansueto.
Tovala says part of the money will go towards further innovating its platform. Please tell us that means it’s going to feed us. Everyone might chip in for the Series D at that point.
Interestingly, the company is able to track how many times ovens are being used by their owners as those devices are connected. The average sits at 32 times a month. Though total user numbers and valuation are numbers are being kept internally, employee count has sprouted up 40% as the annualized revenue 10x’d in the last 18 months. And even better news is the retention. Think about it, you’ve just bought a pristine, gadget-y oven that cooks the most tender, moist chicken this side of the Mississippi. Are you really going to switch to a competitor service? In the words of Jason Fielder, Left Lane Capital’s managing partner, “The pairing of a meal subscription with a connected device has enabled Tovala to achieve a customer retention rate that is a step-function better than anything else we’ve see in food delivery — in many ways similar to what Peloton achieved in a traditionally low-retention fitness industry.”
If Jason takes that analogy one step further, expect a live video experience coming through each meal with explicit, encouraging and semi-frightening advice from a Tovala personal chef to ensure perfection on your broiled Salmon.