Over $6 million in venture capital has been handed to Grubwithus, a company that thinks it can make money by arranging meals between strangers. It looks like that bet was probably wrong.
It's clearly not for lack of funds, with names like Ashton Kutcher, Reddit's Alexis Ohanian, and mega-VC firm Andreessen Horowitz all chipping in. It doesn't seem to be lack of publicity, either: TechCrunch wrote five separate posts about the niche-of-all-niches app, taking Grubwithus' that-can't-be-true functionality quite seriously:
The startup has constructed a model that aims to send groups of friends and strangers to a new restaurant by giving the merchant guaranteed business in the form of a prearranged number of seats under one prix fixe bill, while exposing hungry diners to like-minded new friends and new local restaurants. All users have to do is show up with an appetite, ready for some conversation, and Grubwithus takes care of the details — finding your table mates, check-splitting, tipping, etc. And, to make money, the startup attaches a service fee, which on average, works out to be between $2 to $3 per reservation.
If you've ever tried to eat dinner at a restaurant, but you couldn't figure out how to pay, and also you don't have anyone to eat with, this app will maybe be for you, who knows. But according to our tipster, Grubwithus is somehow not convincing people that this would be fun:
GrubWithUs is fucked. The problem: ppl ain't buyin' or grubbin'.
Check any given city on main website, the attending numbers are 1 or 2 (very often local grubwithus employees/community managers fill out the list at the last minute so somebody who signed up & paid isn't dining out totally alone)
It's one of those things that perhaps has novelty factor, but 1) how often do you really go out to eat with complete strangers; 2) in this economy, is $20-$25 something that a lotta people (ie enough ppl to support 15 employees & a pad in Venice) can afford to do several times over and over?
Big issue: it's stuck in startupland. Lotsa dinners for people to "swap startup tips" (?!?) Ppl want good food, possibility of meeting somebody, etc
It's true: browse the site, and there are precious few opportunities to chow with someone you don't know. There are only two open meals to join in the entirety of New York. Only three in San Francisco, perhaps the only place on Earth where this would work. What is out there doesn't sound appealing:
Work at a startup? Thinking of starting one? Come swap stories and tips with fellow entrepreneurs over a burger, pizza, and beer!
Only one person has RSVPed.