UChicago Backs Tovala’s $20 Million Series B Funding Round

The meal service and smart oven company, founded by a University of Chicago alumni, has closed a $20 million Series B funding round to scale its business across the US.

UChicago Booth School of Business alumni, David Rabie, MBA ’15, founded Tovala after taking home first place – $70,000 – at the 2015 Edward L. Kaplan, ’71, New Venture Challenge (NVC). The company also raised $100,000 in less than 24 hours as part of a Kickstarter campaign.

Additionally, Rabie, who holds the title of Tovala CEO, participated in Polsky’s I-Corps program and was named one of four Pritzker Group Venture Capital Fellows for the 2015 summer program. He also was a Polsky Founders’ Fund Fellow (PF3).

The recent funding from UChicago comes from its Startup Investment Program – a new initiative in which the university co-invests in startups led by faculty, students, staff, and alumni, together with established venture funds. Twenty-five million dollars have been set aside from the school’s endowment for this purpose.

Since first investing in Tovala’s Series A round of funding in December 2017, UChicago has invested a total of $1,250,000 into the company.

“We would not be where we are today without the support of the University of Chicago,” said Rabie. “From helping us with initial customer identification, to the training and funding provided by the New Venture Challenge, all the way through today when the University continues to actively help the company through strategic introductions and investment, I am incredibly fortunate to have graduated from Chicago Booth and be part of its community.”

Moving forward, Rabie said the company will continue advancing its vision of bringing “high-quality, hyper-convenient home-cooked meals to people across the country.”

Bryan Wilcox (left), co-founder and chief technology officer, and David Rabie, co-founder and CEO (Image credit: Tovala)

The Series B round was led by Finistere Ventures, which has invested in other companies in this space, including Farmer’s Fridge, Memphis Meats, and Plenty. New for the series B round, Comcast Ventures, OurCrowd, and Rich Products Ventures, joined previous investors, Origin Ventures, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Crate & Barrel founder Gordon Segal, and New Stack Ventures.

The funds will be used to scale and expand the company’s production capabilities and team to reach new customers nationally – and meet increasing demand.

Tovala, which has shipped more than one million meals to date, has seen its annualized revenue increase by 300% since September 2019. Based in Chicago, the company’s subscribers also grew by more than 20% following the shelter-in-place order issued in mid-March.

The WiFi-connected countertop oven steams, bakes, and broils Tovala meals as well as more than 750 brand-name grocery items using its “Scan-to-Cook” feature. In partnership with LG, the company embedded this technology in LG smart ovens. Tovala also has worked with Beyond Meat and celebrity Chef Graham Elliot to develop limited-time “Tovala Meal” offerings and is selling on the television shopping channel, QVC.

“Tovala uniquely sits at the intersection of trends in the smart home and meal kit spaces: Meals enabled by an automated device, delivering convenience without compromise. We recognize Tovala’s potential to own the kitchen countertop and look forward to being part of their expansion journey as we increase our investment in the food space,” said Arama Kukutai, co-founder and partner at Finistere Ventures, in a press release. “Tovala demonstrated substantive growth and industry-leading retention even before the current shift in consumer food delivery models, and we think the company is poised to lead the reinvention of the food delivery market as it matures.”

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