Philadelphia’s city-backed seed fund just announced its first investment

 Workers pack a Real Food Works delivery bag at the startup's Center City headquarters. (Zack Seward/WHYY, file)

Workers pack a Real Food Works delivery bag at the startup's Center City headquarters. (Zack Seward/WHYY, file)

And the first investment from the city’s first major foray into the world of venture capital investing is … Real Food Works.

Mayor Michael Nutter announced Thursday morning that the health food startup would be receiving $200,000 from the $6 million StartUp PHL Seed Fund.

Real Food Works, a 10-person company that moved into Philadelphia from Conshohocken last summer, works with local restaurants to prepare healthy meals. The meals are then delivered to Real Food Works customers via courier. The company launched in May of 2012.

“The goal of Startup PHL is to help innovative new companies to start and grow in Philadelphia, and this investment in Real Food Works is an example of that strategy,” Nutter said in a statement.

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It may strike some as an odd choice for a fund dedicated to backing IT-based startups. The seed fund is managed by First Round Capital, which put up $3 million to match the city’s investment.

“Real Food Works is tapping into an important trend of healthier eating,” said Josh Kopelman, First Round Capital’s managing partner. “The company’s scalable model and technology promises great growth.”

We’ll have more on this story later today.

It’s the first investment from the StartUp PHL Seed Fund, but another smaller pot of money associated with the program has already funded tech internships for local college students, among other things.


In a ceremony capped off with a kale smoothie toast, Real Food Works was joined by StartUp PHL officials to announce the $200,000 investment. Another investment of $175,000 from the state-backed Ben Franklin Technology Partners of Southeastern Pennsylvania was also announced Thursday.

“Real food does work — and we are on a mission,” said Real Food Works founder and CEO Lucinda Duncalfe. “That makes this day a very important one, because some heavy hitters have stepped up to help us realize our vision.”

The company, which, Duncalfe says, serves up “delicious food with a heaping side of health,” is growing. The startup has about $1 million in total backing and roughly 100 customers in the area. One such customer is lawyer Neil Cooper.

“I hope it catches on,” Cooper said, “because I know there’s a lot of people that need to eat better and they’ll be happier and healthier for it.” He says he’s lost 22 pounds in eight weeks.

The investment in Real Food Works was a pleasant surprise, according to Deputy Mayor for Economic Development Alan Greenberger. He says he wouldn’t have expected as much when the StartUp PHL Seed Fund was first announced almost exactly one year ago.

“I think it indicates that we’re going to look for a lot of different varieties of businesses, because it’s Philadelphia, it’s a big city,” Greenberger said. “There’s a lot of technology going on here, but there’s a lot of other things going on here, as well.”

Greenberger says more investements from the seed fund, which is operated by First Round Capital, should be announced in the next month or so.

“Companies like Real Food Works are exactly why the fund was created,” said First Round Capital’s Josh Kopelman. “It enabled us to invest earlier than First Round might have traditionally done so. And it’s already had the result that we expected, in that Real Food Works moved from the suburbs into the city because of this investment.”

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