Rob Glaser is well aware that restaurants make for risky investments.
“There’s two arguments,” he told GeekWire. “One, they have a very high failure rate, which is true. The second is that in success, they don’t have that much leverage unless you’re going down the franchising path.”
So how did the restaurateurs behind the soon-to-open Little Fish hook the RealNetworks CEO as an investor? The bait was a friendship between Glaser and the co-founders, but they reeled him in using canned fish.
“It’s going to focus on something that is big in Europe, which is canned seafood,” Glaser said. “That’s not being done in a high-end way tied to restaurants. The idea is that Little Fish will start out as a restaurant that cans its own [seafood] — be it muscles or clams or salmon or other regional seafood — and that will, over time, create a series of products.”
Little Fish’s plan to sell a line of products tied to its upscale restaurant operation checked an important box on the list Glaser uses to evaluate potential investments. But it isn’t the only reason he decided to back the restaurant.
He also has a personal relationship with the co-founders: Zoi Antonitsas, the former head chef of Westward and Bryan Jarr, owner of JarrBar. Glaser was encouraged by the past successes of Little Fish’s co-founders and the new restaurant’s prime location.
Glaser also saw success as an early investor in Wild Ginger so the restaurant industry isn’t exactly new territory for him.
“This particular concept of being a phenomenal restaurant, in a great location, with an amazing creative and business team and then being in the food products business associated with that is very compelling,” Glaser said. “I don’t think I’m going to do a lot of these, but I think this is a compelling and unique project.”
Little Fish is flying below the radar under the pseudonym Jarr & Co, according to Glaser.
Glaser is no stranger to off-beat ventures. Last fall, he launched PutinTrump.org, a website with news, analysis, and opinion dedicated to exposing “dangerous and unprecedented ties” between the two leaders. Glaser’s foundation also donated $200,000 to a Mother Jones project called “Trumpocracy: The Russia Connection,” with a mission of investigating ties between President Donald Trump and Russia.
When he isn’t focused on extracurricular activities like the political activism, Glaser serves as CEO of RealNetworks, the online media pioneer he founded in 1994. He served as CEO until 2010 and returned to the company as interim CEO two years later before eventually taking over again as the company’s permanent chief executive in 2014.
Jarrandco.com says the restaurant will launch this summer but Glaser said he expects the grand opening sometime this fall. When it does open, Little Fish will be slinging Northwest seafood out of a location in the new MarketFront at Pike Place Market.