Engineering & Capital Goods News

The Kitchen 66 food entrepreneurship incubator has helped 118 businesses get a start


The macaroni and cheese comes in a little brown box, topped with finely chopped chives. A creamy, rich sauce. Shrimp and bacon. Now that is decadent.

“People talk about knowing love when you see it. I want to make people know love when they taste it,” Renauld Porter tells me, grinning, as we stand in front of his Creole-style temporary kitchen in the corner of Tulsa’s Mother Road Market food hall. 

Porter, who moved to Tulsa from New Orleans 21 years ago, and his three-person team were in coveted real estate yesterday within the Food Hall—the Kitchen 66 Takeover Cafe. Every day, this food stall is handed off to a different food entrepreneur, so they can test new concepts with customers. On average, the vendor in this stall will make around $3,000 in sales from open to close. 

Renauld Porter, a graduate of the Kitchen 66 incubator, chats with a customer outside his Creole-style food popup in Mother Road Market.

Jessica Mathews—Fortune

The Takeover Cafe is part of a larger food entrepreneurship initiative within the city of Tulsa. Kitchen 66, a program backed by the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, offers an education incubator to 20 entrepreneurs each year and rents out affordable kitchen space, food stalls, and store shelf space for individuals looking to try out new concepts.

Porter himself is a graduate of Kitchen 66’s spring incubator program—and his LeRoux’s Kitchen, which features macaroni and cheese, honey jalapeño chicken and fish, gumbo, and cobbler, is one of the top selling vendors in the Takeover Cafe, according to KateLynn Dunning, program director of Kitchen 66. 

The incubator program dates back to 2016, shortly after various city players, including the George Kaiser Family Foundation, the Lobeck Taylor Family Foundation, and the Tulsa Regional Chamber got together and mapped out where the local Tulsa business ecosystem needed support, Lobeck Taylor Foundation executive director Shagah Zakerion tells me. 

“One of our main economic drivers in Tulsa from a grassroots and ground floor development standpoint were food entrepreneurs,” Zakerion says. At the same time, there wasn’t much opportunity available for them to hone in and develop their businesses.

Each year, Kitchen 66 has two cohorts of 10 food entrepreneurs—including aspiring restaurateurs, food truck chefs, catering businesses, or someone wanting to put their family’s salsa or spice blend on retail shelves. Entrepreneurs learn the ins and outs of launching their own business. A few years into the program, the Kitchen 66 staff realized that—while there was no lack of food ideas—people had no place to pilot their ideas. The Lobeck Taylor Foundation invested $5.5 million into building Mother Road Market, which includes a food hall, the pop-up cafe and food truck, shelf space for consumer packaged goods, a space for classes complete with food blogging technology, and a 2,800 square foot commercial kitchen where individuals can rent out kitchen prep stations, cooking stations, or storage space starting at $10 a day. There is also Route 66-themed mini golf in the outdoor area.

Approximately 250 food businesses have operated in Tulsa’s Mother Road Market food hall.

Jessica Mathews—Fortune

The foot traffic is heavy—with about 5,000 people coming through the food hall a week, with $128,761 in weekly food and bar sales. The idea behind Kitchen 66 is that the businesses will grow beyond Mother Road Market and be able to open their own restaurants or start selling their product elsewhere. (In the case of the Kitchen 66 food truck, Dunning says success may also look like a person realizing they despise working in a food truck prior to them putting down the money to purchase one.) 

Since 2016, more than two dozen Kitchen 66 businesses have opened up brick and mortar stores, food truck operations or supply consumer packaged goods to local businesses, according to Kitchen 66—including Big Dipper, Pamela’s Tamales, and Que Gust, which have all gone on to open stores.

Much of the food coming out of the Kitchen 66 incubator program is ethnically diverse—and so are many of the food entrepreneurs that are making it. In total, about 150 food businesses run by individuals representing 20 different countries have participated in the program (118 of which have graduated from it). About half of those are women. Kitchen 66 is currently piloting Cocina 66, a Spanish-speaking version of the incubator program. 

By the time I left Mother Road Market yesterday, there was a long line for LeRoux’s Kitchen. “It’s well worth the wait,” one customer told me.

And I’m back… The last two years have delivered record venture funding to startups being founded outside the Coasts—which is one of the reasons I decided to drive over to Tulsa, a city nearby where I’ve noticed escalating early-stage activity, and try out something new for Term Sheet. Thanks for following along, and you can expect the normal programming of this newsletter again starting tomorrow. 

See you then,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

Zesty, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based cloud infrastructure solutions provider, raised $75 million in Series B funding. B Capital and Sapphire Ventures co-led the round and were joined by investors including Next47 and S-Capital

Podimo, a Copenhagen, Denmark-based podcast and audiobooks subscription service, raised €58.6 million ($58.56 million) in funding. 83North, Highland Europe, and Saban Ventures led the round and were joined by investors including Chr. Augustinus Fabrikker, Heartcore, and Headline.

Devialet, a Paris, France-based audio engineering company, raised €50 million ($50 million) in funding. Crédit Mutuel Equity, Bpifrance, and others invested in the round. 

Kojo, a San Francisco-based materials management platform, raised $39 million in Series C funding. Battery Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Schneider Electric, RXR, Bienville Capital, 8VC, Suffolk Construction, Human Capital, AME, and BoxGroup

HopSkipDrive, a Los Angeles-based school transportation solutions provider, raised $37 million in Series D funding. Energy Impact Partners, Keyframe Capital, FirstMark Capital, Alumni Ventures, Transform Capital, and others invested in the round.

Dig, a Tel Aviv, Israel-based cloud data security company, raised $34 million in Series A funding. SignalFire led the round and was joined by investors including Felicis, Okta Ventures, and other angels. 

Diamond Standard, a New York-based diamond commodities company, raised $30 million in funding. Left Lane Capital and Horizon Kinetics led the round and were joined by investors including Gaingels and Republic.co.

Morpheus Space, an El Segundo, Calif.-based in-space mobility systems provider, raised $28 million in Series A funding. Alpine Space Ventures led the round and was joined by investors including Morpheus Ventures, Vsquared Ventures, Lavrock Ventures, Airbus Ventures, In-Q-Tel, Pallas Ventures, and Techstars Ventures

Denim, a remote-based financial enablement platform for the freight and logistics industry, raised $26 million in Series B funding led by Pelion Venture Partners.

NYSHEX, a New York-based ocean freight contract technology provider, raised $25 million in Series B funding. Collate Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Blumberg Capital, Goldman Sachs, and NewRoad Capital.

TruckSmarter, a San Francisco-based marketplace for truck drivers, raised $25 million in Series B funding. Thrive Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Founders Fund, a16z, Bain Capital Ventures, and Fin Capital.

CANDIS, a Berlin-based software solutions company for automating accounts payable processes, raised $16 million in funding. Viola FinTech led the round and was joined by investors including Lightspeed and Viola Ventures

Chameleon, a San Francisco-based product adoption platform for software companies, raised $13 million in Series A funding. Matrix Partners led the round and was joined by investors including True Ventures and other angels. 

Benivo, a London-based employee mobility management platform, raised $12 million in funding led by Updata Partners

InsightFinder, a Durham, N.C.-based incident investigation and prevention platform, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Silicon Valley Future Capital led the round and was joined by investors including Yu Galaxy, Acadia Woods Partners, Eight Roads Ventures, Eastlink Capital, Fellows Fund, IDEA Fund Partners, and Triangle Tweener Fund.

WhiteLab Genomics, a Paris, France-based predictive software simulation platform for gene and cell therapies design, raised $10 million in funding. Omnes Capital and Debiopharm co-led the round. 

Bluesky, a Menlo Park, Calif.-based workload optimization and cost governance company, raised $8.8 million in seed funding. Greylock led the round and was joined by investors including Quoble co-founder Ashish Thusoo, Cloudera co-founder Jeff Hammerbacher, and Microsoft Redmond research director Johannes Gehrke

Hopscotch, a New York-based pediatric behavioral health technology provider, raised $8 million in seed funding. Greycroft and Inspired Capital led the round and were joined by investors including New York Ventures, Remarkable Ventures, Watershed VC, Cold Start, and other angels.

AOA Dx, a Boston, Mass.-based early detection tool developer for ovarian cancer, raised $7 million in funding co-led by Avestria Ventures, AlleyCorp, The Helm, RH Capital, Olive Tree Capital, Tencent, and others.

Composer Technologies, a Toronto, Canada-based automated investing platform, raised an additional $6 million in funding. Left Lane Capital led the round and was joined by investors including First Round Capital, AVG Basecamp, Draft Ventures, and Not Boring Capital

Valve, a London and New York-based sales, marketing, and distribution solutions provider for commercial real estate professionals, online booking platforms, and workspace operators, raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Project A led the round and was joined by Discovery Ventures.

dope.security, a Mountain View, Calif.-based cybersecurity company, raised $4 million in funding led by boldstart ventures.

Bloom Community, an Oakland, Calif.-based events and connections app for LGBTQ and other communities, raised $2.5 million in seed funding led by Tuesday Capital

PRIVATE EQUITY

SLIPNOT, a portfolio company of Victor Capital Partners, acquired Amstep Products, a Briston, Conn.-based slip-resistant stair treads and nosings manufacturer. Financial terms were not disclosed.

EXITS

Bottomline acquired Nexus Systems, a Falls Church, Va.-based accounts payable and payments automation software provider for the real estate and property management industries. from Mainsail Partners.  Financial terms were not disclosed. 

OTHER

3Pillar Global acquired Jonah Group, a Toronto-based software engineering firm. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

SPAC

Apollomics, a Foster City, Calif.-based cancer drugmaker, agreed to go public via a merger with Maxpro Capital Acquisition Corp., a SPAC. A deal would value the company at $1 billion. 

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

Madrona Venture Group, a Seattle-based venture capital firm, raised $690 million across two funds. Madrona Fund 9 raised $430 million and will focus on supporting Pacific Northwest-based pre-seed, seed, and Series A founders. Acceleration Fund 3 raised $260 million and will focus on teams that have found product-market fit at Series B or C stage.

Prime Movers Lab, a Jackson, Wyo.-based venture capital firm, raised $500 million for a fund focused on science companies in the energy, transportation, infrastructure, manufacturing, human augmentation, and agriculture sectors.

Two Sigma Ventures, a New York-based venture capital firm, raised $400 million across two funds. Two Sigma Ventures IV will focus on early-stage startups and Two Sigma Ventures Opportunity Fund II will focus on growth-stage companies. 

North Island Ventures, a New York-based crypto-focused investment firm, raised $125 million for a fund focused on early-stage investments in crypto and Web3 companies and protocols.

PEOPLE

Canaan, a Menlo Park, Calif-based venture capital firm, promoted Laura Chau to general partner. 

Francisco Partners, a San Francisco-based investment firm, hired Erin Blake as managing director, legal M&A, Jason Warner as managing director and head of data science, Brian Elrod as director of tax, and Tulsi Byrne as director and head of ESG. Formerly, Blake was with Kirkland & Ellis, Warner was with Blackstone Group, Elrod was with Deloitte, and Byrne was with Nuveen

VSS Capital Partners, a New York-based investment firm, hired Brad Corbin as principal. Formerly, he was with BBH Capital Partners.





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