Minnow, which makes IoT-connected cubbies for lunch deliveries in office buildings, is swapping one Portland for another as it officially launches its business.
Though the company began in Portland, Maine back in October of 2017, when it came time to go live, Minnow picked Portland, Oregon as its launch city, where it has installed its pods in seven different locations. The company has also moved its headquarters from Maine to Seattle, where it believes it will have access to more talent and capital.
As my colleague Mike Wolf wrote previously (when the company went by the name Kadabra), Minnow essentially makes an Amazon locker for food. You could also think of it as an Eatsa/Brightloom service, but for offices. Minnow installs their pods, which house 20 different cubbies, in office buildings. Office workers use either SMS or the mobile web to pre-order their lunch from a rotating menu of local restaurants. Once the restaurant completes the orders, Minnow then delivers all the orders at once at a designated time, putting each order in its own cubby. To collect their lunch, the recipient just goes to the Minnow pod, clicks in a special mobile link and the cubby housing their food is opened.
There are actually a few benefits to this office cubby approach. For the restaurant, it consolidates a bunch of orders first thing in the morning, so they start the day with some revenue and can more easily manage fulfillment since all the orders are being picked up at the same time.
For the building locations, it serves as a tech-forward amenity to attract tenants, and it can help reduce the number of delivery people coming in and out of the building. Instead of ten different delivery people for ten different lunch orders at ten different times in the morning, there is just the one drop off.
For office workers, this type of asynchronous approach means that they don’t have to wait around for a lunch delivery person, or have that delivery person arrive during an important meeting. Lunch is delivered at a set time and waits in the cubby until pickup. Additionally, the delivery fee for Minnow is just $1 and there’s no tipping or extra service fees that often come with other third-party delivery services, so it can be a more economical way to get your meal delivered.
There are limitations to Minnow, however, especially as it gets started. It offers a rotating menu featuring just one restaurant a day per location, so there isn’t a ton of variety. And you have to lock in your lunch order early on in day, so there isn’t a lot of wiggle room if plans change. Also, with just 20 cubbies available (for now), the service can sell out in busy offices with lots of people, and those cubbies aren’t temperature controlled, so your hot stuff can get cold if you don’t grab it in time.
But as noted, Minnow is just starting out and will be ironing out some of these bumps as it grows. The company has raised more than one million dollars in seed funding, and has three revenue streams: it collects an amenity fee from the office building, it takes a cut of the sales it gathers for the restaurants, and it gets that delivery fee.
Minnow’s approach is similar to the Outpost delivery system Sweetgreen put in place a couple years back. Though the advantage to having a Minnow system is the ability to order from more than just Sweetgreen.
And like Byte Technology, Minnow is staking its territory in the middle ground of office lunches. It’s a meal solution for offices that can’t afford full-on catering or an on-site chef, but still want to provide an easier way for workers to eat on-site. It would be great if Minnow could work with offices to enable meal subsidies to provide an extra perk and incentive to workers (Minnow says this feature is on its roadmap).
If Minnow takes off, it’s next step will be raising more money so it can grow beyond PDX, PDQ.