They say lightening doesn’t strike twice, but nobody bothered to tell Travis Kalanick.
Kalanick, who led Uber into becoming the world’s most valuable startup before he was unceremoniously ousted from his own company, has hit the ground running with his new entrepreneurial venture. Kalanick’s secretive new startup, CloudKitchens, has quietly raised $400 million from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, and the deal has valued his barely-one-year-old company at a cool $5 billion.
While CloudKitchens is now a unicorn five times over, the groundwork for startup appears to have had been laid a little while after Kalanick officially stepped aside as Uber CEO in January last year. In March, Kalnick had acquired a controlling stake in City Storage Systems, a company that focuses on the development of distressed real estate, particularly parking areas and retail spaces. At some point, it appears to have spun off into a new kitchen rental startup called CloudKitchens, which runs delivery-only smart modular kitchens, and aims to make food delivery cheaper than going out to eat or even cooking food at home. Kalanick has been working hard to keep his new startup under wraps — he’s poached engineers from companies like SpaceX and Tesla to work for it, but the engineers have reportedly been instructed to not even update their LinkedIn bios.
But even as Kalanick has been secretive about his new company, it hasn’t stopped it from raising some serious money. After pumping in $300 million of his own cash from his Uber exit, CloudKitchens has gone ahead and raised $400 million from Saudi Arabia’s wealth fund. Kalanick’s connections with the fund go back a long way — he had been the Uber CEO when it had invested $3.5 billion in Uber in 2016.
Interestingly, while Kalanick has founded CloudKitchens after being spurned by Uber, his new company might end up working — and perhaps competing — with Uber itself. Uber runs the UberEats platform, and CloudKitchens’ food brands would likely want to list themselves on UberEats, and this could give rise to an interesting dynamic between the two companies. Kalanick seems to be betting big on cloud kitchens in his own capacity too — last month, he’d invested in Rebel Foods, which runs several delivery-only brands in India including Faasos and Behrouz Biryani. After changing how people move around in cities, Kalanick now appears to have his eyes firmly set on how people eat their meals. And with a valuation that’s already reached $5 billion, he might be further into making progress than he’s let on thus far.