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February 22, 2024 | Katelyn Keenehan

FarmGrub fields the hot seat at the latest ‘In the Room’ session

The Knoxville Entrepreneur Center's 'In the Room' is a monthly advanced business growth and investor series.

In one of the most-anticipated event series at the Knoxville Entrepreneur Center (KEC), Wade Austin, Co-founder of FarmGrub, took the hot seat for the monthly ‘In the Room’ session. Dozens of other entrepreneurs, investors, and community members gathered to listen to the one-minute start-up pitch.

Each month, a local entrepreneur takes the hot seat to experience what it would be like to pitch to a major investment firm. Gera Grinberg leads the sessions. During his esteemed career as an executive and attorney, he represented both major companies and investors in major mergers and acquisitions, totaling more than $1,000,000,000,000. Grinberg is tough.

Austin started his pitch by sharing about FarmGrub’s roots. He co-founded the company during the pandemic as a way to help farmers and consumers connect. FarmGrub works with local farmers to provide fresh local groceries, including fruits, vegetables, bread, free range and grass-fed meats, farm eggs, cheese, dairy, pantry items, and more to residents in and around Knoxville, seven days a week, in as little as two hours (read this article for more background on FoodGrub).

“There is an anemic representation of local food at the grocery store,” he said. “We want to connect people with their neighbors who are growing fresh food.”

Wade Austin pitches FarmGrub during ‘In the Room’ session.

Austin said their vision is to build out a large network of local farms and farmers. Their target customers are seniors who want fresh food delivered to the door, affluent young women who support local small businesses, and moms who value fresh ingredients for their children. Austin said the company needs $600,000 to effectively scale its logistics operations, develop partnerships, and hire new employees.

During the hot seat, an entrepreneur typically cannot talk for more than 30 seconds before Grinberg jumps in with a question. This tactic, Grinberg said, mimics what entrepreneurs may experience in a high-stakes pitch to investors.

“With all due respect, I’m going to stop you there,” Grinberg said. “Who do you identify as your biggest competitors?”

While FarmGrub is a relatively fresh concept, other companies like InstaCart, Market Wagon, and other food delivery sites already offer similar services. Grinberg wanted to know what made FarmGrub different.

“We are going up against the national food chain, and approaching the logistics differently,” Austin said. He shared that the majority of customers will have the same (or the same rotation) of delivery drivers each time they order. He said that’s been one of the biggest compliments from their repeat customers is that they get to know the drivers personally by name. Also, due to their business model and sequenced drop-off strategy, Austin said FarmGrub can pay drivers more competitively than some other food delivery services.

At the end of the hot seat, the audience applauded Austin. Fielding questions from Grinberg is no easy task.

Gera Grinberg shares about the life cycle of a deal during ‘In the Room’ session.

The next session of the KEC ‘In the Room’ series will be on March 28 from 8 to 10 a.m. During that session, another local entrepreneur will take the hot seat, and Grinberg will share about entity structures, and how they may change over time.

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