Far North Queensland-founded private chef and catering startup Gathar is linking up with one of Australia's biggest culinary icons to launch its in-home dining platform in California, backed by $1 million in post-seed funding led by angel investment group ACAC Innovation.
Michelin-starred Australian chef and LA-based restaurateur Curtis Stone will become a co-founder of Gathar USA, alongside Jodie Mlikota who first launched the service in Cairns and Port Douglas in 2018.
From what began as an assignment at Central Queensland University for Mlikota, Gathar has been sizzling as an "Airbnb of dinner parties", witnessing a 330 per cent increase in demand last year and reporting growth across all key markets despite tough times in the hospitality sector.
The company now services 27 locations across all Australian states and territories, thanks to a growing community of more than 180 chefs, cooks, caterers and stylists.
"Our growth in revenue and ability to attract investment, even during pandemics and floods, has proven our resilience and potential,” says Mlikota, who co-founded the company with Nicky Jurd and Kaj Haffenden.
"It’s so encouraging to know our users, investors and partners like Curtis can see the possibilities ahead for Gathar globally."
Curtis Stone - who has enjoyed success with his restaurants Maude and Gwen in LA, as well as Georgie in Dallas - says he is incredibly proud to bring this Aussie initiative to his adopted home, especially at a time when more chefs are making the move towards the creator economy.
"The thing that excites me about Gathar is the amazing community of chefs and caterers we’ll be supporting, giving them the ability to create restaurant-quality dining experiences for people in the comfort of their own homes," he says.
"The world has changed for chefs. Post-pandemic, we’re seeing more chefs wanting to start their own private chef businesses and I think Gathar is in the perfect position to support this shift within the industry."
New investors including Up Bank co-founder Dominic Pym joined the post-seed raise led by Brisbane-based ACAC Innovation.
"It was an easy decision for us to lead this funding round and continue investing into Gathar,” says ACAC Innovation CEO and director Bryce Greig.
"Gathar’s growth in the Australian market gives us huge confidence for their entry into the US and expansion into future locations beyond LA."
Mlikota adds the capital raised will be used to scale the Gathar platform and team in Australia, and establish the brand's US presence.
"Over the past four years, our focus has been on building a global, scalable platform that changes the way the world gathers," she says.
"We’ve created thousands of amazing dining experiences in Australia from date nights to dinner parties, corporate events and weddings, and we can’t wait to help LA get ‘gatharing’ soon."
The raise follows a $600,000 seed funding round in mid-2020 that was also led by ACAC Innovation, as well as co-investors from FNQ Angels and the Queensland Government’s Business Development Fund.
In that year, she told CQUniNEWS the first version of Gathar came from one of her entrepreneurship assignments as part of her Graduate Certificate of Social Innovation.
"The project was to think of a problem and design a new business to solve it, and my lecturer was really encouraging, and said that Gathar could actually work in the real world," she told the publication at the time.
"I was super passionate about the idea, so that night I registered the business name!"
After registering the business name in May 2017, she pitched her idea at the Global Startup Weekend Women in Brisbane, winning her way through to an international pitch opportunity in France in March 2018. In September of that year the business then expanded into Brisbane, and has been gathering steam ever since.
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