Tovala, maker of a countertop “smart oven,” announced today that it had raised a $20 million series B funding round to expand production capabilities and add staff.
CEO and cofounder David Rabie says the company started to see an uptick in business in September of 2019, and it began the fundraising process at the beginning of this year. Interest from potential backers cooled during the economic slowdown caused by the pandemic, but Tovala, which also sells meals specially designed for use in its oven, saw growing demand as residents began to shelter (and cook) at home. “We’re very fortunate to have a good story to tell,” he says.
Still, Rabie and his investors acknowledge that their inability to meet face-to-face complicated the fundraising ritual, which typically involves plenty of in-person due diligence as the parties get comfortable with one another.
“This was one of the first times we actually tried to do this entire process of getting to know the people, understanding the business and the numbers, without being in person, which was a departure for us,” says Arjun Kapur, a partner with Comcast Ventures, the investing arm of media and telecom giant Comcast Corporation. Comcast Ventures is a new investor in Tovala.
The round was led by Finistere Ventures, which has backed Farmer’s Fridge, Memphis Meats, and other fast-growing food companies. In addition to Comcast Ventures, new investors include OurCrowd and Rich Products Ventures. Previous Tovala backers Origin Ventures, Pritzker Group Venture Capital, Crate & Barrel founder Gordon Segal, New Stack Ventures, and the University of Chicago also participated in the round. (Morningstar founder Joe Mansueto, owner of Fast Company’s parent company, is an investor in Tovala.)
Tovala launched in 2017, and in its early days faced comparisons to Juicero, the failed venture-backed maker of a $400 juicer. (Tovala’s Wi-Fi-connected oven, which cooks meals based on a custom QR code, sells for $299, or $199 with six meal purchases.) Rabie says he didn’t receive any questions relating to Juicero during this round of fundraising, although he did field concerns about meal kit companies such as Blue Apron, which has struggled. “The specter that has loomed for a long time are the meal kits,” Rabie says. “Our business is fundamentally different, and we’re starting to show the gap between our business and theirs. This round is kind of a representation of that.”