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Early Stage: Oakland startup delivers lunch, pulls young people out of poverty

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Startup of the week:

Who they are: The Town Kitchen

What they do: Deliver lunch to local companies, and employ at-risk, inner city youth

Why it’s cool: Order a meal from The Town Kitchen and your food likely will be prepared by a teenager or young adult who grew up in poverty and had few opportunities for success. Some of the startup’s employees have been homeless, involved in domestic abuse, incarcerated or in the foster care system.

The demographics of the startup’s workforce are part of its larger mission. The Town Kitchen, based in Oakland, is focused on providing training and job opportunities to local underserved young people ages 16 to 24.

“There aren’t a lot of companies out there who will give them a look,” said co-founder and executive chef Jefferson Sevilla.

But The Town Kitchen does. Founded in 2015, the company puts its young applicants through a rigorous six-week boot camp, where they train in the kitchen learning knife skills and how to pair different flavors, and behind a desk where they learn how to run a startup. If they make it through boot camp, The Town Kitchen hires them, either in the kitchen or behind a desk, for a 90-day probation period, with check-ins every month. After that, the candidates become full-time employees, making an average of just over $15.50 an hour.

Currently the startup has 14 such team members.

Where they stand: The Town Kitchen recently scored $1 million in seed funding, led by Urban Innovation Fund. The company is hoping to expand into the San Jose/ Santa Clara area by the middle of 2018, and offer job opportunities to at-risk youth in the South Bay.

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See thetownkitchen.com for more info.

What will they think of next?

If you’ve ever wondered how effective your workout really is — maybe you’re not shedding the pounds quite as fast as you had hoped, or the clothing size you aspire to just keeps alluding you — LEVL’s fat-loss breathalyzer might be for you. Once you blow into the device, which sits on your desktop, the technology analyzes the concentration of acetone in your breath  — which is supposed to correlate with how much fat you’re burning. Of course, that data syncs to a smartphone app, so you can track your progress in the palm of your hand.

The Seattle-based company launched the product nationwide in May. But it’s not cheap — the device costs $699, plus a $49 per month payment for the delivery of replacement sensors and calibration gas.

See levlnow.com for more info.

Run the numbers:

With sinking unicorn valuations, a few lack-luster IPOs and an uncertain political climate, venture capitalists are starting to worry, according to a recent study by the University of San Francisco. The university’s “Venture Capitalist Confidence Index” dropped to 3.52 out of 5 in the second quarter of this year, down from 3.83 the quarter before. And it fell below the 13-year average of 3.72.

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Food delivery darling Blue Apron recently priced a disappointing IPO, and Snapchat parent company Snap saw its share price decline after an initial first-day pop. Meanwhile, a separate study from Stanford’s Graduate School of Business found Silicon Valley’s unicorn companies are overvalued.

“This decline in confidence appears to have been driven by continuing uncertainty in the macro environment, high late-stage valuations, and a somewhat less welcoming exit market than had been anticipated,” USF Professor Mark Cannice wrote in a news release. “Whether the decline in confidence is a tell for future capital flows or a reflection of current, but temporal, macro issues is unclear.”

The study looked at responses from 32 Silicon Valley VCs.

Quotable:

Tech leaders are fighting back after President Donald Trump’s administration said it would likely eliminate a federal rule that would have opened the doors for immigrant entrepreneurs to come into the U.S. and found companies.

“Delaying or rescinding the International Entrepreneur Rule would be a major step backward for America’s innovation economy,” TechNet President and CEO Linda Moore wrote in news release Thursday. “Our nation should be encouraging entrepreneurs from around the world to start companies and grow jobs in the United States.”
 Photo: Oakland-based The Town Kitchen employees ready to prepare food in the startup’s kitchen. (Courtesy of The Town Kitchen) 

Tags: diet, food, food delivery, Oakland

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