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Food Genius Raises $1.2M to Help the Food Industry Understand Restaurant Trends

Chicago, IL – September 11, 2012 - Food Genius, which provides data-based restaurant insights to the food industry, has raised $1.2 million in venture capital. Chicago’s Hyde Park Venture Partners and Hyde Park Angels led the round; other investors include New World Ventures, IDEO, Amicus Capital, and the I2A Fund.

“With this funding, Food Genius is expanding the team in order to bring Food Genius Reports to market,” says founder & CEO Justin Massa. “Food Genius Reports is a leap forward for the food industry, providing intuitive and deep access to restaurant trends as they develop new products and craft marketing strategies.”

“Food Genius is direct evidence that Chicago has truly become a place where ideas evolve into viable businesses, creating jobs and economic growth in the City,” said Chicago’s Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “Entities like 1871 and Excelerate Labs play crucial roles in the development of these young companies, and I am pleased to see an environment developing that supports entrepreneurship and business expansion. I look forward to many more small businesses developing out of these facilities and programs and fueling Chicago’s economy in the coming years.”

“The food and restaurant industry is ripe for data disruption, and Food Genius offers astounding insights in this market where the consumers’ voice has been opaque,” says Guy Turner, managing director at Hyde Park Venture Partners. “We are excited to see them grow.”

The company is also announcing that Owen Shapiro of Leo J Shapiro & Associates and Hyde Park Angels as well as Brian Distelburger of Yext have joined Food Genius’ board of directors. Shapiro notes, “Food Genius brings a powerful combination of talent and tools to address the pressing need for better real time information on food sold through restaurants.  Starting with a firm grasp of ‘big data’ techniques and building with a unique set of data sources and tools, Food Genius is quickly positioning itself to be a primary source for insights that can drive innovation and profitability for foodservice and CPG companies that depend on restaurants directly for sales and insights into emerging trends.” According to Distelburger, “As the breadth, depth, and quality of local business data grows, there is an enormous opportunity to build new business intelligence services on top – Food Genius is leading this charge in the food vertical.”

Data Partnerships

In separate, key developments for the company, Food Genius is announcing data partnerships with CHD Expert and GrubHub.

A core element of Food Genius’ approach is to acquire, normalize, and extend massive amounts of menu item-level restaurant data. Food Genius is partnering with GrubHub, which will be the primary source of menu data. “GrubHub has the most comprehensive and highest quality database of restaurant menus,” says Massa. “We’re incredibly excited to work with not only the best data set around but also a company that regularly brings us lunch and dinner.”

Food Genius is also partnering with CHD Expert, a leading provider of data for foodservice sales and marketing strategies, to pair deep menu-level data points with detailed operator information. This new level of detail will provide foodservice sales teams with unparalleled insight into how specific locations use ingredients and preparation techniques.

About Food Genius  

Food Genius is big data for the food industry. By tracking more than 16.3 million restaurant menu items and how consumers interact with them, Food Genius leverages the social web to generate high quality and incredibly granular data for an array of commercial and consumer uses. They provide manufacturers, distributors, operators, and CPG brands with actionable data on consumer behavior and restaurant trends. Their signature product Food Genius Reports, a robust restaurant trends dashboard for the food industry, will launch in early winter 2013.

Food Genius is a graduate of Excelerate Labs (class of ‘11), was the first-ever Startup-in-Residence at IDEO’s Chicago studio, and was the first graduate of 1871. For more information, visit

About Hyde Park Angels

Hyde Park Angels (HPA)  is an organization that provides a forum for entrepreneurial-minded members to invest in seed and early stage businesses, primarily located in the Midwest. HPA is a group of current and former executives, entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists who are interested in investing their time and money into outstanding startups. HPA also provides domain expertise, strategic advice and coaching to its companies. The Chicago-based Hyde Park Angel Network was founded in 2006 by a group of classmates from the University of Chicago Booth School of Business Executive MBA Program. For more information, visit

About Hyde Park Venture Partners

Hyde Park Venture Partners (HPVP) is a venture capital fund investing in early stage technology companies in the Midwest, with particular focus in Chicago. HPVP invests in technology-enabled business and consumer services and healthcare IT companies raising their first or second round of institutional capital. HPVP draws on its strategic relationship with Hyde Park Angels (HPA) to provide industry and business expertise to its portfolio companies through a network of more than 90 seasoned business executives, entrepreneurs and service professionals. HPVP’s principals and the HPA network take an active role in mentoring and guiding portfolio companies in product development, business strategy, financing and exit through both formal director roles and informal mentorship relationships.

For more information, visit 

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — September 11, 2012

Excelerate Needs Interns!

Excelerate is a busy place during the summer, with 10 growing companies in the throws of intense programming. We are looking for help from MBA and undergraduate interns for the summer. If you’re excited about entrepreneurship and venture capital, we offer a great environment for learning.

Every day would be different. For example, an intern might work on some market research in the morning, then order pizza for a team lunch, then take notes during a mentor meeting in the afternoon, and help one of the teams test their software near the end of the day. You’d have a wide range of tasks, from the strategic to the mundane. That’s part of startup life, and part of Excelerate. As an intern, you’ll meet our hundreds of mentors and be around as our teams get advice from the best entrepreneurs, VCs, and executives anywhere.

Requirements for Undergrad Interns: Rising senior or recently graduated. Demonstrated interest in startups. Comfortable with uncertainty and self-directed.

Requirements for MBA Interns: Completed your first year or have recently graduated. Able to leverage your knowledge of startups, business models, strategy, finance, and more to help both our companies and the program. Ready to manage one or more interns.

Both must be available in Chicago weekdays May 29th – Aug. 31th.

Interested? Send a cover letter saying why you’d be great for the job (including a link to your LinkedIn profile) and your resume in PDF form to: ”Kristin at ExcelerateLabs dot com”  by Friday, March 2nd at midnight.


Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — February 21, 2012

New Reasons to Live in the Windy City

We were so excited to see venture capitalist Brad Feld post about the Chicago start up scene in There’s a ton going on here, and it’s great to see it be recognized:

Troy Henikoff, one of the founders of Excelerate Labs and one of the leaders of Chicago’s startup community, sent me an update on what’s going on in Chicago. It’s pretty awesome and is a great example of what happens when entrepreneurs take a long term view to building their startup community. Here are a few of the things going on that Troy mentioned….

Click here for the full post.

Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: — February 20, 2012

Open House(s) for Applicants – Come meet Excelerate!

Thinking about applying to Excelerate for the summer of 2012?  Have questions?  What to learn more and meet the people?  Here is your chance – we are having a couple of open houses – one in San Francisco on February 21st and one in Chicago on February 29th.

Register now as there are a limited number of tickets:

February 21st – San Francisco

February 29th – Chicago




Filed under: Uncategorized — Tags: , — February 16, 2012

New World Ventures offers $500,000 to Excelerate Companies

New World Ventures has been a strong supporter of Excelerate since its inception, but yesterday’s announcement that they are offering $500,000 in convertible debt to the companies ($50,000 for each of the ten companies) was amazing news.  TechCrunch reported the details in their article:





Filed under: Status Updates,Uncategorized — June 1, 2011