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StartUp PHL’s first investment has shut down and nobody wants to talk about it

Back in 2013, Real Food Works received $200,000 from an innovative, city-led program meant to help Philadelphia startups. The startup is now closed. What does it mean for StartUp PHL? No one will say.

After five years, Real Food Works calls it quits. (Photo by Aidan Un)

When healthy meal delivery startup Real Food Works secured $200,000 in seed funding from StartUp PHL in 2013, we were there. It was hailed as a big moment. “City jumps into venture capitalism,” the Inquirer blared. The startup had even moved into the city from Conshohocken to qualify for the funding.
“The goal of Startup PHL is to help innovative new companies to start and grow in Philadelphia, and this investment in Real Food Works is an example of that strategy,” then-Mayor Michael Nutter said in a statement.
Well, it’s now 2016, and we’re here to tell you that the company — founded by current Monetate CEO Lucinda Duncalfe — has permanently shut down, citing low profit margins and high shipping costs as the cause of the downfall.
“We’re sad to say that Real Food Works has had to cease operations,” the company wrote in a brief statement on its website earlier this month.

This is how looked on June 21, 2016.

This is how looked on June 21, 2016. (Screenshot)

“Thanks for the memories!” has since been taken down. now leads to a big 404.
Besides the short-lived statement, the company has remained quiet. Josh Kopelman, whose First Round Capital was tapped to manage the city-backed fund, rolled out the boilerplate:
“While we hope that all of the companies in the StartUpPHL portfolio will succeed, we recognize that as an early stage investor, many will not,” Kopelman said via email. “As a policy, we don’t comment on company specific matters, and instead defer to the founder/CEO of the company to comment.”
(A note on “city-backed”: The city’s $3 million was administered through the quasi-public Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. First Round Capital put up a matching $3 million.)
However, both Duncalfe and Devin Fitzsimons, former president of Real Food Works, declined to comment.
The company’s social presence has also halted since June 3. We did find a couple of complaints on Twitter from stray customers demanding refunds.
No comment was made available from several StartUp PHL-affiliated spokespeople. The city’s Department of Commerce declined to comment. PIDC declined to comment.
Startups come, startups go. Most fail. Failure is a healthy part of the process.
In political circles, maybe not so much.

Companies: First Round Capital / Real Food Works
People: Josh Kopelman / Lucinda Duncalfe
Projects: StartUp PHL

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