Here’s some cool news: Internet of Things (IoT) fridge system startup Cubbi (formerly Arctic Shelf) has secured a $1.35 million CAD seed round.
Conexus Venture Capital led the round with additional capital from Jerry Grandey, the former president and CEO of uranium producer Cameco Corporation; Malcolm Leggett, the co-founder of NSC Minerals, and former CN Rail general manager, Jim Newton.
“What’s different about our service is that we’re catering kitchen delivered in bulk through a single driver.”
Cubbi’s total financing to date also includes $250,000 from the federal government’s National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program.
Cubbi’s internet-connected fridges for offices, called Hubs, contain 12 individual “cubbies” that customers can permanently rent to store their food, or that may be used for one-time food deliveries across multiple users. Each Cubbi is linked to an individual, and can only be accessed using the Cubbi mobile app.
The startup also operates a delivery platform, Cubbi Kitchens, which it claims improves food delivery for customers, restaurants, and couriers with its multi-unit fridge design. The fridge design allows for cheaper, high-quality, and contactless food delivery, according to Cubbie.
Founded in 2019, the startup has partnered with a catering company and uses its own couriers for food delivery.
“The fridge is the most ‘touched’ appliance in most office settings and we all have horror stories of the dreaded office fridge that has your co-workers’ old and messy food in it,” explained Cubbi Founder and CEO Dawson Norrish. “We’ve solved that through our multi-unit fridge system and further elevated the experience by connecting our user base to local kitchens and providing a seamless method of delivery into the workplace.”
Cubbi plans to use the fresh capital to improve its product and marketing. Currently, Cubbi has 11 staff and plans to expand to 14.
Norrish told BetaKit that he believes what drew the investors was their excitement over the change in how people are eating at work. “Our mission is to fuel the builders of tomorrow,” he said.
Norrish came up with the idea for Cubbi while still a student at the University of Saskatchewan. He designed a mobile app to allow customers to find, and rent their own fridges. His proposal was one of the top five in the InVenture Business Plan Competition from the Edwards School of Business in 2020.
He secured $5,000 from Co.Labs’ Spring 2020 Co.Launch program after making it to the final pitch session. Norrish set up his first fridge on the University of Saskatchewan campus that same year, where more than 200 students signed up for a cubbi within eight hours. Two weeks later COVID-19 shuttered everything.
That didn’t stop Norrish. He pivoted his entire platform and began to integrate food delivery as well. Norrish interviewed 18 catering companies across Canada, and ultimately landed on the Taste Hospitality Group in Saskatoon. Taste operates three restaurants: Bar Gusto; Latin Local Picario; and Una Pizza and Wine. All the meals that are delivered are options under $10.
Norrish reached out to Taste in the middle of 2021, asking if they’d be interested in providing meals for the platform. “They’d been hurt by covid and going through that cycle of opening and closing, and they were looking for some stability in their operations,” Norrish noted. “Using our network we were able to provide them with that, and connect them with hungry individuals here in Saskatoon.”
It should come as no surprise that the Saskatoon-based Norrish became interested in the food delivery industry. He comes from the same town that hatched SkipThe Dishes. United Kingdom’s Just Eat acquired that startup in 2016 for $110 million.
Norrish acknowledged that he drew inspiration from SkipTheDishes’ model, but opined he has improved upon it. He pointed out that SkipTheDishes is restaurant food delivered by on-demand couriers. “What’s different about our service is that we’re [a] catering kitchen delivered in bulk through a single driver,” Norrish said.
Cubbi’s model of having a single driver drop off hundreds of meals in bulk allows the startup to reduce its delivery pricing, while passing the savings along to its customers.
“Dawson is a phenomenal founder who understands the true value Cubbi brings to all stakeholders – from customers to restaurants to couriers,” said Kyle Scott, managing director of Conexus Venture Capital and Emmertech. “We’re excited to work closely with Dawson and the whole Cubbi team to change how people view food storage and delivery in the workplace and beyond.”
Norrish said he hopes to bring the concept to condominium buildings, and apartment towers where dense groups of people congregate.
He called refrigerators undervalued. “The fridge is the biggest piece of infrastructure that connects us with our food and with our diet, and no one cares about it,” Norrish explained. “So what we’re trying to do is revolutionize how that fridge connects people with their food, with kitchens, and [with] food providers.”
CORRECTION 11/02/2022: This story previously incorrectly stated (based on information shared by Cubbi) that the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program contributed to Cubbi’s seed round. This has been updated to reflect that the council’s financing was not part of the round based on additional information shared by Cubbi.
Image courtesy Cubbi