Gourmet ready-made food startup CoLab hits the wall

Gourmet ready-made food startup CoLab hits the wall

Photo courtesy of CoLab (via Facebook)

Sydney-based culinary marketplace CoLab, formerly known as ChefPrep, has gone into administration after a recent attempt to secure funding failed to deliver.

Ernst & Young’s (EY) Morgan Kelly and David Kennedy were appointed administrators of the CoLab group on 27 March, assuming control of the group’s affairs and taking possession of assets.  

It comes almost a year after the company secured $3 million in a seed round led by Artesian Ventures and Berlin-based Global Founders Capital, and supported by Yellow Brick Road chairman Mark Bouris, Circular co-founder Yaniv Bernstein, and others.

Founded in 2021 by Elle Curran and Josh Abulafia, CoLab offers ready-to-cook meals from more than 150 restaurants nationwide, as well as gourmet pantry food and drinks, and gift packages for special occasions or corporate events.

The rebrand followed a merger between ChefPrep and Melbourne-based gourmet meal company Co-Lab Pantry in 2021, the latter of which was founded by Danielle Lebon, Natasha Buttigieg and Alvin Chadee.

At the time of collapse, CoLab employed roughly 16 staff, with offices in Sydney and Melbourne.

“After a recent funding round fell through, the business was in acquisition discussions with a number of businesses and EY was appointed as administrators to manage the sales process and to assess options for restructuring the business,” CoLab co-founders Curran and Abulfia explained.

“We appointed EY as administrators when it became clear that we were unable to continue acquisition discussions on the current runway.

“We have been working closely with EY throughout the process and we are confident in their ability to achieve the best result for the business, employees and creditors.”

CoLab was born out of frustration with bland ready-to-heat meals, and aims to offer restaurant-standard meals that simply need to be heated once delivered to the customer's doorstep.

In April 2022, CoLab was only available to customers based in Sydney, selling more than 100 products from more than 25 restaurant partners and vendors, including Butter Sydney, Salt Meats Cheese, Delhi “O” Delhi, Bellevue Cottage and Bourke Street Bakery.

The aim of the $3 million raise was to expand the company’s customer base and product range, and to eventually launch delivery across Australia.

Four months later, the company would break into Victoria after merging with Co-Lab Pantry, which offered access to more than local 150 restaurant partners, with new food products being added daily from Melbourne and regional Victoria.

At the time of the merger, all three Co-Lab Pantry founders opted to join the leadership team of the new combined venture.

“Following stabilisation of the business, we are conducting an urgent expression of interest campaign to determine whether a strategic fit for CoLab can be identified,” EY Restructuring partner Morgan Kelly said.

“The current environment is challenging for startups, but the voluntary administration regime is designed to maximise the chances of a business continuing to exist.

“We intend to explore all options for CoLab and its stakeholders, and will keep everyone informed as the administration progresses.”

According to a disclaimer on CoLab's website, the administrators intend to continue to trade the group on a ‘business as usual’ basis.

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