"We Got Funded!" Abu Dhabi-Based Cloud Kitchen Platform The Cloud Raises US$10 Million In A Series A Round To Fuel Expansion Into The GCC And Europe
The Cloud was designed with a vision to become "the Airbnb of kitchens" by enabling the transformation of regular restaurant kitchens into artificial intelligence-powered cloud kitchens.
The Cloud, an Abu Dhabi-based business-to-business-to-customer (B2B2C) cloud kitchen platform, has raised US$10 million in a Series A funding round led by Middle East Venture Partners (MEVP), a venture capital firm that caters to early and growth-stage tech companies, and Olayan Financing Company, the Middle East investment arm of Europe-based multinational enterprise The Olayan Group. The round also saw the participation of Saudi Arabia-based venture capital firm Rua Growth Fund, among a consortium of other venture investors.
Launched in 2019 by Kamil Rogalinski and George Karam, The Cloud was designed with a vision to become "the Airbnb of kitchens" by enabling the transformation of regular restaurant kitchens into artificial intelligence-powered cloud kitchens, and thus increasing their kitchen utilization capacities. In just a little over two years of operation, the startup has already set up shop in the UAE as well as Saudi Arabia and parts of Europe.
"The rise of virtual restaurant brands is possibly the biggest disruption of the food service industry in the past 50 years," Karam, CEO, The Cloud, said. "Virtual brands can be created and launched quickly, and The Cloud's intelligent kitchen matching technology allows brands to be launched in localities and kitchens, where they are most likely to succeed. For F&B entrepreneurs, this means that they can test concepts and ideas very, very quickly using a fast fail mentality, and without having to take the full risk of setting up a physical restaurant. Proof of concept can be obtained in weeks, rather than months. The same, of course, goes for expansions into new markets."
Now, with the new influx of capital expected to be allocated towards further developing The Cloud's kitchen platform, the startup is keen on continuing its own expansion plans into the GCC and Europe. First on the cards, however, is solidifying its position in Saudi Arabia, where The Cloud launched in August 2022. "Our extremely fast growth since launching in Saudi -we are already in 15 cities in the country- shows that it's a hungry market," Karam said. "The country has a very big young audience, keen to try out new F&B concepts and cuisines and eager for new tastes. The Cloud can thus cater to these tastes very fast and we are creating new brands every month and also bringing favorites brands from around the world to Saudi Arabia. The Cloud also allows us to increase customer variety and serve customers in the provinces and more remote areas, where there is less choice of traditional brick and mortar restaurants."
Karam and his team's aspirations align well with the projected success rate of the cloud kitchen market, as a whole. As per Allied Market Research, the sector is expected to globally reach $112.7 billion by 2030, with a 2022 report by Zawya showing how MENA-based cloud kitchens are already contributing to a sizable chunk of that growth trajectory. But while the pandemic accelerated the interests of investors and consumers, alike, in cloud kitchens, there also remains the return to normalcy within the F&B sector: in-person dining and brick and mortar restaurants are back.
That, however, hasn't deterred the team at The Cloud. "We're happy that people are dining out again; F&B needs a good mix of sales channels, but we also realized that the COVID-19 crisis has changed the landscape permanently and has opened many restaurateurs' eyes to the potential of delivery," Karam said. "Consumers now value having a choice whether to dine out or in, or to organize a quick get-together with friends and good food. Restaurateurs, on the other hand, realized that they can evolve their restaurants into multi-brand restaurants, growing profitability and optimizing resources."
Karam and his team's overall vision has deeply resonated with the leading investors who partook in the Series A round. "The Cloud is truly collaborative in its approach and operates adroitly at the delicate intersection of restaurant owners, aggregators and food connoisseurs," Ankit Sarwahi, Managing Director at MEVP, said. "This unique positioning is central to our investment in The Cloud." A spokesperson for the Olayan Financing Company mirrored similar investor sentiments, saying, "We recognize that The Cloud -which is now firmly established in the UAE's food technology, online food ordering and delivery industries- is at the heart of today's increasingly complex restaurant ecosystem. It is accelerating growth by unleashing entrepreneurial opportunities and enabling chefs and restaurant owners to focus on what they do best– making great food and building incredible brands."
The Cloud's goals, of course, will be catapulted into action through its new round of funds. So, for F&B entrepreneurs who may need pointers on fundraising, Karam shared advice that is largely centered on resilience. "Persevere and be determined, and expect many no's before getting a single 'yes,'" he said. "The entrepreneurial journey is a long one; so prepare the right story, make sure you articulate your vision well so that it resonates, and network, network, network! Surround yourself with like-minded people who will only motivate you to succeed. And above all, believe in your product, work to make it better every day, and have a fail fast mentality."Related: "We Got Funded!" UAE-Based Produze Raises US$2.6 Million Seed Round To Bring The Power Of Technology To The Agriculture Industry