Startup Spotlight #30: Pona

December 21, 2019

If you live far away in your family, you may miss the food you eat at home. Especially if you are not very good at cooking, it is quite normal for you to eat at restaurants all the time. After a while, you will miss homemade food. Pona offers a marketplace that brings together people who want to sell their meals and those who want to eat homemade food. On the other hand, if you trust your cooking skills and cook a little more food than you need, it gives you additional income. In addition to all of this, Pona enables you to reach your remaining food to others. In this way, it helps you to reduce your food waste.

What is your first name?

Philip

Welcome, Philip! What is your surname?

Seifi

What is the name of your startup?

Pona

What is the website address of Pona?

https://www.pona.app/

Where is your startup based?

Malaysia

What are your targeted verticals for your startup?

Food tech

Tell us what your startup does.

Connecting families through a marketplace for home-cooked food.

Tell us about your team.

We're a cross-disciplinary team-based with backgrounds in economics, law, behavioral design, and engineering. We’ve worked together for eight years on educational products that have been used by hundreds of thousands of users.Philip SeifiPhilip draws on his interdisciplinary background to align design, technology, and business objectives. He also lends his time to Harvard Alumni for Global Development and has mentored young entrepreneurs at UNDP and startup events around the world.Ollie CapehornOllie combines organizational clarity from his experience as a legal researcher and educator, and a unique insight into the human condition from his passion for standup comedy to align stakeholder interests, and form ambitious partnerships.

When and why did you found your startup?

Ollie and I have lived and traveled around the world, and we noticed that some of the best memories we have all revolve around the dinner table, while being served delicious home-cooked food, and listening to the stories of our caring hosts.In the age of delivery apps and our obsession with efficiency, we started to forget the people behind the food we eat, and the delightful experiences that used to happen around the dinner table.You have a limitless choice of meals available to order in a single tap, and yet dinner never felt more dispiriting and routine.

How can that be?

What we found is that good food is made by people who care. And the more you anonymize the cook, the less they care about the food they’re making, or you, the final consumer.Busy foodies ourselves, we wanted to put this missing ingredient of ‘care’ back in takeout, while creating meaningful economic opportunities in the home kitchen.The result is Pona — a marketplace for home-cooked food, for and by people who care.

What are your key and unique features?

Supply-side: Educational component that teaches talented home-cooks how to turn their passion into a thriving micro-food business.Demand-side: Variety of food that caters to niche demand for regional & international cuisine and specific dietary requirements.

What is your growth like?

We are currently trialing the project in Kuala Lumpur. In just one month, we've had over 500 cooks apply to sell food on the platform, and we're now inspecting their kitchens one by one. We have also partnered with several coworking spaces, where we will cater to lunch boxes during the trial.

Tell us about the numbers that matter to you.

719 home-cooks interested in selling their food currently in the pipeline, waiting to be on-boarded onto the platform. Most of them stay at home parents, disabled individuals, and other underprivileged groups.

What are your plans for next year and for the next 5 years?

Next year: Expand across Klang Valley in Malaysia.5 years: Expand internationally, to all major countries that allow the sale of home-cooked food.

Did you receive any investments?

$120,000 from The Refiners (San Francisco, CA), an accelerator that helps foreign serial entrepreneurs expand to Silicon Valley.

Tell us 3 startups that excite you, and why?

Notion - a nimble team with a grand vision, disrupting some of the biggest companies in the worldHelp Scout - their remote-first culture has been a great inspiration for us throughout our entrepreneurial journeyWarung Pintar - a great example of a huge opportunity combined with deep market understanding, and excellent execution

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