Wiley Cerilli, Good Uncle’s co-founder and co-CEO, has done it all.
He went to college with the intent of becoming of a teacher. After a year at Syracuse, he dropped out and transferred to NYU before ultimately dropping out again to join Seamless, which was just getting started at the time.
In 2010, Cerilli founded SinglePlatform, a startup that helped get small businesses online and manage all of their listings in one place. Two years later, Cerilli’s startup sold to email company Constant Contact for $100 million.
Then, in addition to running his own company, Cerilli joined New York City venture capital firm First Round Capital in 2014 as a venture partner. Since then, he’s invested in companies like David Tisch’s swipe-to-shop startup Spring, and adoption startup Binti.
While he was at First Round, Cerilli had an idea for a food startup. He approached Josh Kopelman, another partner at the firm, in July 2015, with the idea, but didn’t tell Kopelman the startup idea was his. Kopelman told Cerilli to bring the company into a partner meeting. When Cerilli revealed the idea for the company was his, Kopelman said: “I think you should quit your job and do this.”
With his boss’s blessing, Cerilli quit his job at First Round, brought Matt Doumar — who had built SinglePlatform’s entire product team — on board as a cofounder, and got started on a company that would eventually become known as Good Uncle.
There’s plenty of competition in the food delivery space, but Cerilli and Doumar have a way to make Good Uncle stand out.
The gist of it is this: Getting great food delivered to you is really hard outside of major cities like New York City.
But instead of bringing expansive, overwhelming menus to people in smaller cities, Good Uncle wants to cook and sell just a few items from the world’s most iconic restaurants — the two most popular salads from a place like Sweetgreen, for example, or the most popular pizza from Roberta’s in Brooklyn — in smaller, non-NFL cities, like New Haven or Syracuse, places that have dense populations but lack easy access to great food.
Good Uncle is delivery-only, and you order the food through an app. When you open the app, you’ll get fewer options than a company like Seamless, but it’s a more immersive experience. You’ll be shown a video of a chef in Williamsburg making the burger that’s on the menu, or stories about the history of the neighbourhood where the restaurant is based.
The food doesn’t get delivered by the restaurants; instead, it will be prepared in Good Uncle’s kitchens, after the chefs spend a lot of time with each restaurant learning the recipe. Good Uncle will not work with national restaurant chains. The goal is, for example, to “bring the cool insider story of Williamsburg to new markets, to show you the West Village restaurant you’d never heard of,” Cerilli told us. Cerilli and Doumar are the company’s co-CEOs.
The name Good Uncle reminded Cerilli and Doumar of family, and of someone who introduced them to new, cool things. Good Uncle is the one who’s in the know. For a food discovery and delivery startup, the name made sense.
Good Uncle has raised $2.2 million from institutional investors including First Round, Box Group, and tech law firm Gunderson Dettmer. The founders of a number of NYC startups, including Warby Parker, Birchbox, Flatiron Health, Seamless, Sweetgreen, and Doumar and Cerilli’s old company, SinglePlatform, have all invested in the startup. Restaurateur Tom Colicchio, made famous when he starred on Bravo TV’s “Top Chef,” is also an investor.
Now that the startup has funding, it plans to build out a team and an app, and approach restaurants, launching in its first (and yet-to-be-determined) market in September. The startup will also get its own office space eventually, too — for now, it’s operating out of First Round’s New York offices.
What’s it like for Cerilli to be getting back into food delivery? “I can’t frigging believe it,” he says with a laugh. “I can’t believe I’m doing food again.”
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