Three years after getting started with a plan to change how people shop for quality beef products, Seattle-based Crowd Cow announced an $8 million Series A funding round on Thursday.
The round is being led by Madrona Venture Group. New investors include actor Ashton Kutcher and Guy Oseary’s Sound Ventures, and existing investors including Joe Montana of Liquid 2 Ventures also participated.
The online marketplace, founded by startup veterans Joe Heitzeberg (Madrona Venture Labs) and Ethan Lowry (Urbanspoon), has seen significant growth since 2015 when they launched with a unique digital butcher platform in which meat lovers could choose beef varieties and cuts and help crowdfund a sustainably raised animal from independent ranchers.
The financing will help Crowd Cow grow by adding more ranches and farms to its platform, improving its supply chain, and boosting the search for new beef, chicken and pork flavors.
“Crowd Cow is applying technology to a market that hasn’t seen much change in the past 50 years,” said Scott Jacobson, managing director at Madrona Venture Group, in a news release. “By combining transparency with a great consumer experience, they are building a company and brand that has the power to transform not only the lives of their consumers, but of their suppliers. We are excited to back this incredibly talented team and to work with them as they grow to a national scale.”
As a proof-of-concept, Crowd Cow started by selling out, or “tipping,” its first cow within 24 hours. The company spent much of 2016 securing connections in the farming community and growing its West Coast customer base.
“We all knew the meat industry needed disrupting,” said Mark Canlis, the Seattle restaurateur who is also an investor in the startup. “These guys just did something about it. It isn’t just about a better steak, it’s about a better way to care for the planet, for one another.”
Crowd Cow raised a $2 million seed round in January 2017 and by June the startup had generated $1 million in sales and was ready to expand its reach to a national audience, opening up delivery across the U.S.
This past April, there was more growth, this time on the “menu,” as Crowd Cow began offering pasture-sourced pork products to meet demand from bacon-loving Americans.
Earlier this month, Heitzeberg and Lowry and their growing team bested Amplero, Textio, JetClosing and Boundless at the 2018 GeekWire Awards to take home Startup of the Year honors.
“When we started this thing, we couldn’t tell the difference between a cow and a steer,” Lowry said from the stage at the Museum of Pop Culture. “We’ve come a long way. And it’s great to have a business where you get to eat a lot of great food.”