A show about what it’s really like to start a business

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Kitchen Confidential

May 27, 2016

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Show Notes

The Story

Two men decide to start a company. Everything is going well... until it’s not. That’s the moment they decide to start recording their conversations—painful, awkward, emotional conversations. Jason and Vincent launched Bento about a year ago. Their goal was to make Pan-Asian food fresh, tasty, and on-demand. They joined the food tech swell just as it was winding down, just as the funding was drying up, just as the smaller players were being weeded out. With only a year under their belt and a quickly draining bank account, Bento’s odds don’t look good. We listen in on the co-founders as they try to decide whether their setbacks are just bumps on the road to success or a sign to shut things down.

The Update (06/09/16) The day after this episode posted, the Bento founders sent an email to customers—Jason and Vincent 

announced they were turning off the Bento app. It was a big change, and a surprising one to make right after raising $100,000 from investors. So what happened? When we called Jason, he explained that what led to the decision was actually a good development. He had a positive meeting with the CEO of a catering company that buys meals from Bento. “They want to do more,” Jason said. “They want to do much, much, much, much more with us. And this is super exciting.” This news also meant Jason was facing a conundrum. Ever since Jason and Vincent laid off twelve people in February, Bento has operated with a small kitchen staff. And that handful of people was already having trouble keeping up on busy days. With more orders on the way, something would have to give. That is how the app wound up on the chopping block. The number of orders coming in through the app has always been small. As Jason put it, “it’s meaningless in terms of revenue.” But those orders put pressure on the kitchen. “There’s a lot of items on that menu,” Jason explained. “It doesn’t always mirror the items we’re making for our partners.” The app gave a choice of 11 dishes, while the catering partners order four or five on any given day. So between the catering partners and a few dozen people ordering through the app, the kitchen could wind up making 15 different dishes in a single morning. Once Jason stepped back and looked at that picture—a lot of extra work for little return—his decision was made. His meeting with CEO of the partner catering company happened the day we finished our episode. The Bento app closed for business the following afternoon. Bento still has a little more than $100,000 left in the bank. Jason’s hopeful that their burn this month will be lower than it’s ever been, maybe as low as $10,000. And he’s doing what he always seems to do: pushing ahead. 

The Facts

Matthew Boll mixed the episode. Our theme song was written and performed by Mark Phillips. The special ad music, Microliters, was written and performed by Build Buildings. Additional music by Matthew Boll, John Kimbrough, Tyler Strickland, and the band Hot moms dot gov. Our logo was designed by Elias Stein.