Three University of Wisconsin alumni and founders of EatStreet, a food delivery company, were presented with the 2018 UW Entrepreneurial Achievement Award Nov. 14.
According to their website, EatStreet serves more than 250 cities and has partnerships with more than 15,000 restaurants.
As reported by the Milwaukee Business Journal, EatStreet raised $12 million in equity as of Oct. 2018. $6.09 million of that was sold to eight different investors.
According to the Journal Sentinel, the food delivery business has raised more than $38.5 million in venture capital funding since its founding.
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CEO Matt Howard said the founding of EatStreet was a response to the unreliable food ordering system many restaurants had in place. He and his partners created EatStreet as a solution.
The students started in their dorm rooms and worked their way up.
“Working from our dorm rooms, Alex Wyler and Eric Martell developed the original platform, while I hit the pavement to recruit restaurants,” Howard said. “We continued to hustle, add restaurants, improve the customer experience and grow.”
He added that UW supported them regardless of their individual majors. Howard cited mentorship, advice and networking opportunities as resources the university provided him with while developing the platform.
Howard described current efforts to expand locally. He said the company employs about 150 people at its Madison headquarters and is working to expand in-state.
“This fall, we launched a statewide expansion to many of the major markets in Wisconsin,” he said. “We’ve really committed to bringing our online ordering and food delivery services to our home state that has supported EatStreet for so long.”
One of their earliest supporters is a startup accelerator called gener8tor, Howard said. The company currently operates by investing $90,000 in five companies, three times a year. These companies are provided with hands-on mentorship and funds, in exchange for equity.
Gener8tor offers mentorship programs in Madison, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, along with additional programs in northeast Wisconsin.
Howard said the visibility the award provides is a welcomed bonus, but not the key takeaway.
“It’s such an honor to win any award, but to receive recognition from our alma mater makes it truly special,” Howard said.
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Charles Hoslet, vice chancellor for university relations at UW, said the award was created eight years ago and designed to honor UW alumni and faculty for successful entrepreneurial and business ventures.
When determining candidates for the award, Hoslet said the university looks for alumni and faculty who have made a significant impact with their entrepreneurial work, in terms of company growth, job creation, local economic impact and other factors.
Beyond their economic success, Hoslet said many other factors made EatStreet an obvious choice for the winner of the award.
“I think the thing that is particularly exciting about EatStreet is the fact that you had three undergrad students who took what they saw as a problem, turned it into a business opportunity and have pursued that with relentless passion,” Holset said. “Out of their dorm room came a company that now spans cities across the U.S., has several hundred employees and has raised millions of dollars in investment funding: All before they hit the age of thirty.”
Their age has not gone unnoticed. Howard and CTO Alex Wyler, recently earned spots on Forbes’ “30 Under 30” list, in the category of Consumer Technology for 2018.
Hoslet also pointed out that none of the three founding students — Howard, Eric Martell and Wyler — were business majors.
“It goes to show or suggest that entrepreneurship isn’t just for business majors,” Hoslet said. “Anyone can be an entrepreneur, and anyone can have a good idea. Through relentless pursuit, they can be successful.”
Hoslet said his hope is that the award inspire students at UW.
The reason for such awards is not only to recognize individuals for their good work, but to also inspire students through real-life examples of success, Hoslet said.
“These are folks who recognized opportunity, took advantage of resources, pursued a passion, and have built these companies and organizations,” Hoslet said.