Tovala hopes to follow Instant Pot into kitchens with $9M in new funding
By Ben Meyerson
Blue Sky Innovation|
Dec 18, 2017 | 2:00 PM
What does the trendy Instant Pot have to do with Chicago startup Tovala? They both took vintage technology and repackaged it for modern kitchens, Tovala co-founder and CEO David Rabie says.
He hopes they’ll have something else in common soon: a path to success.
“If you really look hard at a lot of the features on the Instant Pot, they’re not new — a lot of those things have existed for decades and decades. It’s no different than steam ovens (like Tovala) — steam ovens have been around since the 1800s,” Rabie said. “It takes a bunch of different factors to create a groundswell of demand for new appliances. I think the Instant Pot’s a great example of that, and hopefully we’re on the same trajectory.”
Tovala, which won the University of Chicago’s New Venture Challenge in 2015, has raised $9.2 million in new funding, the company announced Monday. The Series A funding round caps the smart oven and meal-delivery service’s first year on the market, having gone on sale to the public in July.
The company sells a $399 countertop oven that alternately steams, bakes and broils. It also offers a subscription meal service, with each dish featuring a QR code that tells the oven exactly how to cook the meal. Diners who commit to the meal service get a discount on the device.
Tovala plans to use the money to hire more employees, potentially doubling its corporate staff from 24 to 40 or 50 people by the end of next year, Rabie said. The company is also considering opening a second facility for making its subscription meals on the west coast within the next year and a half, he said.
While he wouldn’t share sales figures, Rabie said the “vast majority” of people buying its ovens are also signing up for the companion meal service.
For now, Tovala has been focused on individual consumers, but Rabie said the company’s been getting interest from other spaces like offices, hotels and dorms, which it might explore more in 2018. The company has also built out a food truck that’ll hit the streets in the spring, promoting Tovala food at various events and locations around the city.
The round brings Tovala’s total funding to $13.1 million. Origin Ventures led the round; Origin partner Jason Heltzer is joining Tovala’s board as part of the deal. Pritzker Group, Y Combinator, Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto and Levy Restaurants co-founder Larry Levy were among other investors in the round. The University of Chicago is also investing in the round as part of its Startup Investment Program.