Serial entrepreneur turns his passion for food into big business
Co-founder & CEO, Caviar
When it comes to startups, Jason Wang has a way of falling into successful endeavors. In middle school, an anime fan website he built for fun became so popular he earned $30 a day through Internet ads. A hobby creating mobile phone apps, which he started as a recent grad working at Google in Silicon Valley, turned into a profitable side business.
His later ventures have only increased in scale. Wang and his Pi Alpha Phi fraternity brothers Andy Zhang, Richard Din, and Shawn Tsao co-founded two of the most popular food apps: Munch On Me, a daily deals platform they sold to CollegeBudget in 2012, and Caviar, a food delivery service that became profitable in the first six months. They sold Caviar to Square last year for more than $100 million.
The genesis for Caviar came when Wang and his colleagues were working in San Francisco’s financial district and craving lunch from Ike’s Sandwiches in the Castro.
“We called and asked if they could deliver, offered to pay $10, and they said they couldn’t do it,” Wang says. “It took two-and-a-half hours to get some sandwiches and come back.” Research revealed that none of the restaurants they liked offered delivery. Wang and his friends saw this as an opportunity to help small businesses grow—and to satisfy their cravings.
They began Caviar in 2012 in San Francisco with just five founders. “You need to find a team of people who want to tackle an idea with the same passion as you,” Wang says. “Haas is the right place to do it because you find a lot of hungry, motivated students there.” Caviar service is now available in 15 metropolitan areas, including Boston, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Washington, D.C.
“At Haas, I learned how to work in a team, how to get people to buy into an idea, and how to manage a project, in addition to the core skills of finance, accounting, and budgeting,” says Wang. “It’s especially important in the early days of a startup when you don’t have a dedicated staff to do these things.”
Customers order meals via the app—aided by the professional photography supplied by Caviar. A fleet of Caviar-contracted couriers then delivers the orders within an hour or at a prearranged time. The app also tracks the progress of drivers. A variety of restaurants—most that are wildly popular with customers—use the service.
“I eat out a lot and my tastes are all over the map,” says Wang. “Anything from one dollar street tacos to fine dining. When I can’t think of what to get, I use Caviar to help me decide.”
Wang’s passion for food also extends to a blog he started in 2012 to uncover local culinary gems, City Foodsters. The site grew to 30,000 unique readers within the first year and some of its photography has been displayed on Food Porn Daily, Food Gawker, and elsewhere. —Mike Rosen