Food52, the cooking site run by former New York Times food writer Amanda Hesser, has informed readers of some exciting news. Namely, that the site, which started as a simple crowdsourced recipe blog, has taken on venture capital money. The company closed a Series A round of funding led by Bertelsmann Digital Media Investments, with participation from Vocap Ventures, Zelkova Ventures, and Gary Vaynerchuk. Existing seed investors Lerer Ventures, 15 Angels, and Joanne Wilson also participated.
The site, which last year was named Publication of the year by the James Beard Foundation, has a fiercely rabid following. In fact, I learned of the funding through an email from a friend, which read:
This is my favorite cooking site and I feel about this the way people feel about their favorite indie bands when they get big… It’s not going to be the same :(
Certainly Food52 has big plans in the works — a better mobile experience, a new commerce site, more books and a new office. But my friend’s half-joking concerns aside, a $2 million Series A isn’t enough to turn the adorably charming online cooking community into a profit-hungry corporate powerhouse. The company made that much clear with its announcement today. Hesser and co-founder Merrill Stubbs wrote to readers:
Although it has become a tradition for start-ups to announce fundings with great fanfare (Ed. note: Ouch!), we haven’t done so until now, because we’d rather show you how we’re improving the site and building the company than tell you how much money some very-smart-and-sensible people invested in our dreams.
But since word had leaked out (in January, thanks to an SEC filing uncovered by Betabeat), the site’s co-founders decided to make it official.
Any community that starts small and catches on may lose some of its small-time charm as it grows, but now, armed with a tiny bit of capital, the company can expand its strong brand deeper into verticals it has only dabbled in, like book publishing and commerce. “We raised money because we want to build the best food site in the world — a place where you can meet other like-minded cooks and get everything you need to eat well,” the co-founders wrote.