Jason Demant

CEO, Bento

Product: Bento
Vertical: Food Delivery
Tags: Catering, Tech Restaurant, Asian Cuisine, Instant Delivery, Sharing Economy
Stage: Launched March 2015
Co-founders: Mattin Noblia and Vincent Cardillo
Investors: Jason Calacanis, Sajid Rahman & others via AngelList Syndicates
Location: San Francisco, CA

“Our future vision is to get any ethnic cuisine anywhere delivered in minutes… We see ourselves as eliminating the veto vote.”

Born and raised in Oakland, California. Studied Information Systems at UC Santa Cruz. Ran an online video game business throughout high school. Worked at SeaGate then sold everything in 2009 to live in Asia. Founded Unanchored, a travel resource, in Seoul. Former CEO of LAUNCH.
It really all started with [food delivery service] SpoonRocket. I ordered my food and from app to table, it literally happened in 3 minutes. I realized this was the restaurant of the future. I started thinking about the space and thought that one day it will resemble “tech restaurants.” That’s why I decided to focus on Asian food first. My frustration with existing companies such as Sprig & SpoonRocket was that, as someone who doesn’t eat many carbs, I’d always have to have them. I wanted to further customize what I was ordering.
“Done is better than perfect” — Sheryl Sandberg
I don’t have any formal mentors except for (LAUNCH founder) Jason Calacanis. But I have a solid network where when I have questions, I’m not bashful about sending them out.

Influencers: Elon Musk

When you’re on your own, the highs are higher and the lows are lower. But overall this is what I want to do, I get to set my calendar every day, and, with my co-founders and employees, the direction of the company. We get to decide where we go and how we get there and that’s an extremely satisfying way to live a life in terms of business.

MY STORY

Growing up, I ate so much Asian food that my parents would make fun of me.

Schoolboy entrepreneur

My first taste of entrepreneurship was selling baseball cards as a child. Through high school — which was during the dot com bubble — I had an online video game business. People would pay to put banner ads on my website. I didn’t set out to do it but I realized I could make money that way, money that sustained me through school. I eventually sold the site to a fan.

After I graduated from the University of California at Santa Cruz, I joined SeaGate and started to climb the corporate ladder, but it wasn’t for me. My now-wife and I decided to sell everything we owned and went to spend two years in Asia. We traveled around Japan, China, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and a number of other countries before settling in Seoul for a year.

“Unanchored” in Seoul

While she taught English, I founded Unanchored, a travel website. Its travel guides, which were written by local experts all round the world, gave users exact itineraries down to the particular restaurants they should visit on a given route. As much as people appreciate choice, I think they also like having other people make decisions for them.

In 2012, we moved back to the U.S. and I joined LAUNCH in a sales position. It wasn’t well paid but I built my network and skillset and was promoted to CEO after 6 months. I left the company in September 2014 to start Bento. Jason Calacanis was our first investor, while I still worked at LAUNCH.

The Bento Way

Our food is all pre-made and put into cold bags for lunch, and both hot and cold bags for dinner. The food is loaded into servers’ cars at the beginning of their shift and they’re sent out to circulate around the city. That’s how we reduce delivery time.

Customization is key — for dinner menus, you can choose your own sides to go with the main. Our servers will assemble the meal before dropping it off to you. Drivers never have direct access to the food, everything is sealed. They use their own cars, and we aim to get every meal delivered within 10-15 minutes. Uber is doing a food delivery service in Los Angeles, New York and Barcelona called UberEATS, transporting food from restaurants. But we’re different, not least because we’re focusing on Asian food.

More than 6,000 people have downloaded our iOS app and we’ve had an impressive rate of repeat orders: 25% within 14 days and 30% within 28 days.

We see numerous potential markets for a service like this, not just San Francisco, LA and New York City. It can work in many small markets — we’ve identified 100-150 in the U.S. alone. We’re thinking about diversifying into other ethnic cuisine, for example Mexican, thereby eliminating the veto vote [when two members of a household can’t agree on what to eat].

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