This interview was made possible by our friends at Guidant Financial:
The leader in alternative startup, franchise and small business financing.
Eddy Lu is the CEO and Co-Founder of Grubwithus, Inc. and currently oversees operations of the company, while managing back-end development. After a few years in corporate America, working for Deloitte LLP and Lehman Brothers as an equity research analyst, Eddy set-off with his Co-Founder Daishin Sugano to franchise cream puff stores and develop iPhone applications. Eventually, their cream puff stores led them to Chicago, where they soon realized the need for an easy way to meet new people. And thus, Grubwithus was born. Eddy received his Bachelor’s in Computer Science from the University of California at Berkeley.
Founded in July 2010 and headquartered in Venice, California, Grubwithus is a social dining network looking to take online social networks back offline. Pioneering the “in real life” movement, grubbers can browse and reserve meals online, and then meet, socialize, and build relationships over tasting menus in the US. Grubwithus gives users the opportunity to connect with others, meet people who share similar interests, engage with influential luminaries, and host private meals. For more information, visit the company website at www.grubwithus.com.
MO: What inspired you to launch Grubwithus?
Eddy: My co-founder (Daishin Sugano) and I moved to Chicago to open a cream puff store (yes, very random), and we realized we didn’t know anyone there. We tried meeting new people at bars and parties, but people go to bars and parties for two reasons: (1) To hang out with their friends or (2) To pick up and take people home. When you think about it, the process of making new friends in an unfamiliar city is incredibly hard and inefficient. We did some research to confirm our suspicions and learned that there weren’t any good solutions out there, so we built a social dining network to scratch our own itch.
MO: Can you talk about the development process behind Grubwithus and how it works?
Eddy: Grubwithus is built around the idea of being a real-world social network where you interact online with the intention of eventually meeting offline. People visit our website (www.grubwithus.com), create a free profile, and either find a great meal listed or create their own. If they find a meal that suits them, they reserve a seat. As long as the minimum number of people sign up (4 is our magic number), the meal is booked. Diners, or grubbers as we call them, prepay online, including the tax and tip, so when they arrive at the restaurant, they only have to pay for their drinks and let the conversation flow. If the grubber elects to create their own meal, they can do so in a matter of four clicks. They select a restaurant and choose the date, time, and party size. The host will then decide if they’d like to control the invite list and have the meal only accessible by those people (perfect for private events like a birthday party or bridal shower) or if they’d like the meal to appear on the Grubwithus meals page (we’ll invite the Grubwithus community on your behalf).
MO: Can we talk about your first venture? What inspired you to leave behind your tech career to open a cream puff company? Were any of your friends or family surprised by your change in direction?
Eddy: To be fair, our first venture was not the cream puff franchise – we literally tried to launch tens of businesses before we found Beard Papa’s (the cream puff company).
In 2006, Daishin and I were roommates in Santa Monica. I was working at Lehman Brothers when the company still existed and Daishin was at Edmunds.com; we hated our corporate lives. Every night we talked about wanting to do something for ourselves and wanting to build our own business. We didn’t know what that was, but we knew we wanted to do it. So we decided to quit our jobs, cold turkey, on the same day and figure the rest out. What that entailed, we didn’t know. As we expected, our parents weren’t exactly happy that we quit our high-paying jobs with no plan in place.
After that, we literally started every company under the sun. I mean, some people say that but we lived and breathed it. We started off with a gold apparel line and I enrolled in sewing classes at Santa Monica College. (If you know me, that’s just not something I should be doing.) We opened up an online tea business. We created iPhone apps and iPhone games. We day-traded. We did import, export. When we were on a trip in Asia, we visited a friend who was selling undergarments, so we said, “Why don’t we try selling female undergarments in night markets in Asia?” And nothing really stuck. Then on a trip up to San Francisco we chanced upon this product called Beard Papa’s, a cream-puff franchise and are still involved with the Company to this day.
MO: Congratulations on recently raising $6million Series A funding from an LA based venture firm. How will your investors help contribute to the growth and strategy and vision of Grubwithus?
Eddy: Thank you! Our investors are veterans when it comes to investing in and advising startups. I think an investor’s job is mostly about giving us the right tools and guidance to execute on our strategy and vision, and GRP has definitely delivered. Mark Suster, our board member, has been an entrepreneur twice over and sold one of his companies to Salesforce, so he truly understands the struggles of a startup and has been essential in helping us grow Grubwithus.
MO: How do you plan to the keep the momentum going past the initial stages of development?
Eddy: We’re working on a ton of features to become the easiest way to meet people offline. Basically, we’re working towards becoming a real-world social network, where you interact online (like the other social networks), with the goal of meeting offline.
MO: If I could grant you one business related wish right now, what would you ask for?
Eddy: A world that has ten times as many software developers as it does now. (Yes, we’re hiring!)