Talk about seed and feed.
Crowd Cow, the Seattle-based startup that launched in 2015 with the goal of bringing higher-quality beef to more meat lovers, announced Tuesday that it has secured $2 million in seed funding and plans to scale its operations in order to feed a national audience.
The round was led by Fuel Capital, and also includes investments from Maveron, Zulily founders Mark Vadon and Darrell Cavens, ex-NFL star Joe Montana, and several other individual investors.
Crowd Cow was founded by Joe Heitzeberg (founder of Snapvine and Poppy) and Ethan Lowry (founder of Urbanspoon and Poppy) and set itself apart from traditional butchers and grocers by giving consumers access to beef from a single steer, raised humanely by Northwest ranchers. Using crowdfunding tactics, Crowd Cow shoppers could shop for quantities they desired and have the meat shipped directly to them.
“We spent a good portion of 2016 testing the concept of crowdfunding beef, which included everything from seeing if we could find reliable rancher relationships to seeing if customers would bite on the idea itself,” Heitzeberg told GeekWire. “We now have several fantastic ranch partners here in the Pacific Northwest, and working with them has given us a strong foundation for how to enter into new relationships.”
Heitzeberg also said that on the customer side, he and Lowry determined that they could sell out a whole steer in just a few hours. They gained the confidence to start offering additional steers from assorted ranches in just one day, and it taught them how to offer customers greater variety.
“This early success has left us with a waiting list of customers who would love to buy from Crowd Cow, but can’t because we are unable to serve their region just yet,” Heitzeberg said. “It’s the main reason for us to seek out funding. We’re ready to go fully national and the additional financial resources will let us do that much more quickly than if we continued to bootstrap.”
Crowd Cow aims to be a marketplace connecting consumers with ranchers.
“While other companies will sell you beef, we think it’s critical to know where you beef comes from and how it was raised,” Lowry said in a news release. “That means finding ranchers who spend their lives following only the best cattle-raising practices, and supporting their work by giving them a new outlet to sell to consumers.”
Heitzeberg said that the young company is excited about the investors that they’ve brought on board.
“Playing in the consumer space, we wanted to build a group of advisors who we could turn to as we tackle user acquisition and retention challenges,” Heitzeberg said. “Having Zulily founders Mark and Darrell on board is going to be a huge benefit as we aim to scale quickly. Between their experience at Blue Nile and Zulilly, we have some incredible heads we can pick for ideas and guidance.
“Fuel and Maveron Capital both have great track records when funding early stage companies and we knew they’d be great partners as we’re building up,” he added.
Montana, the legendary San Francisco 49ers quarterback, is managing partner of Liquid 2 Ventures, a venture capital firm which raised a $25 million fund in 2015.
Crowd Cow told GeekWire last fall that the business was growing rapidly and delivery to all of the West Coast was just the start before going after a much larger audience.
“We’re looking to build out our core leadership team right now, which includes marketing, operations, and development,” Heitzeberg said when asked what the $2 million will target. “Crowd Cow is playing in an interesting space that intersects e-commerce and technology innovation with traditional branding and offline operations. Our incoming team will help us bridge these sectors so that we can hit national reach this year.”