BSH Home Appliances (or BSH Hausgeräte GmbH) announced today that it has made a strategic investment in Chefling, maker of an AI-powered assistant for the kitchen that helps a user manage food inventory, create shopping lists and zap digital recipes to their connected appliances. The Munich-based appliance giant will acquire one third of the shares of the Silicon Valley startup as part of the deal, the terms of which were not disclosed. This deal comes a year after Chefling raised $1 million as part of a pre-series A funding round and less than two years after the startup pitched as part of the SKS Startup Showcase.
The deal was driven by BSH’s Digital Business Unit, the group responsible for the Home Connect platform as well as BSH’s Future Home accelerator initiative. BSH sees Home Connect, their Wi-Fi based connectivity platform for their Siemens, Bosch and Gaggenau home appliance brands, as a foundation to offer digital services. The company acquired a controlling interest in Kitchen Stories in 2017 to add guided cooking capabilities to their services toolkit, and with this deal the two companies will look to build out a personalized pantry management digital services layer for HomeConnect.
“With our Hardware+ strategy, we want to offer meaningful support to our consumers in the everyday usage of their appliances,” said Mario Pieper, BSH’s Chief Digital Officer. “Chefling offers digital services that link the entire cooking journey, from inspiration to inventory management, shopping, and cooking. With Chefling’s Artificial Intelligence technology platform, both companies are in a strong position to raise the bar on personalized services and assistance in the kitchen.”
This deal didn’t happen overnight according to Chefling cofounder Amar Krishna. The two companies first announced a partnership during SKS 2018 last October, and over time realized it made sense to explore a deeper relationship. Under the deal, Amar explained that Chefling will look to leverage BSH’s reach to expand connections with grocery and CPG brands, while also building on the startup’s UltraConnect platform which they debuted at CES.
So what does UltraConnect do? According to Krishna, it can take any digital recipe and convert it it into a machine readable format to be used by a connected appliance. It also enables ‘pantry management’ by taking ingredients on hand – not just the what of what you have, but the weight as well – to automatically generate a “smart recipe”.
The machine learning capabilities at the core of UltraConnect have taken time to build and have gotten stronger as Chefling’s user base has grown into the hundreds of thousands, said Amar. As he told Chris last January, reaching over 600 thousand users meant “giving Chefling the hundreds of thousands of data points (recipes searched for or browsed, recipes chosen, frequency of cooking, etc.) required to do more deep learning and, as Krishna put it “unleash the algorithms.””
Of course, as with any deal like this, I have to wonder what it means for a startup’s other relationships. Chefling announced an UltraConnect partnership with GE at CES this January, and so it remains to be seen if GE will remain open to using Chefling’s technology as the startup enters a strategic relationship with BSH. GE also works with Innit and SideChef, and could expand those relationships further. But, since Chefling-BSH wasn’t a full acquisition, it may be the Louiseville-based appliance brand could be fine with the new arrangement.