How Shy Pahlevani Is Taking Food-Tech Capabilities to the Next Level

Connecting consumers to curated catering options

There are countless food delivery services available, but not many that let you pick meals from independent local chefs. Shy Pahlevani and his brother decided to create an online marketplace that better caters to anyone’s food desire. 

Pahlevani is the co-founder and president of HUNGRY, a food-tech platform that connects independent local chefs with events and offices in need of unique catering options. 

Shy Pahlevani
Shy Pahlevani.

HUNGRY

“HUNGRY helps companies embrace the future of work with our culinary offerings,” Pahlevani told Lifewire in a video interview. “Our tech-enabled platform has been helping offices keep their employees engaged with creative and flexible menus virtually.”

Pahlevani launched HUNGRY in 2017 with his brother, Eman Pahlavani. The company first started serving the Washington, DC area and has since expanded to many major markets, including Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, Austin, and New York City.

HUNGRY not only connects independent chefs with office and event catering gigs, but the company also offers contracted meal delivery services, chef-centric pop-ups, virtual chef experiences, and home meal delivery. With investments from big names like Usher, Jay-Z, and Walter Robb, HUNGRY has raised $32 million in venture capital funding to date. 

Quick Facts

  • Name: Shy Pahlevani
  • Age: 36
  • From: Reston, Virginia
  • Random delight: He plays a lot of tennis. 
  • Key quote or motto: "Attack each day with a sense of urgency and determination. You don’t fail until you quit."

Innovation and Fast Growth 

Pahlevani said his Iranian parents were very entrepreneurial when he was growing up. As a result, he absorbed advice and information during conversations around the lunch and dinner table with them. 

"When I went to college, it all started kicking in," Pahlevani said. "I started small businesses while in school, which really helped build my confidence and experience."

During college, Pahlevani met Jeff Grass, who came and spoke to his business class. Pahlevani said Grass inspired him, and they've been working together ever since on tech startups. Grass, in fact, would go on to become HUNGRY's chairman and CEO, allowing Pahlevani, its president, to remained focused on the technology end.

The brothers, along with Grass, have grown HUNGRY’s team to roughly 200 distributed employees, which doesn’t include the company’s contracted delivery drivers or independent chefs using its platform.

Pahlevani said HUNGRY grew from a $1 million revenue run rate in its first year to $20 million in two years. The company is now at a $35 million revenue run rate, and Pahlevani is confident this trajectory will continue to grow.

"We’re serving thousands of clients in each of our cities," Pahlevani said.

Eman Pahlavani, Shy Pahlavani, and Jeff Grass.
Eman Pahlavani, Shy Pahlavani, and Jeff Grass.

HUNGRY

Pahlevani said the company has built nine different applications over the years to stitch its premiere platform together. There are applications specific to chefs, delivery captains, sales team members, the online marketplace, logistics, and more. 

"As a founder, one of my favorite things to do is innovate new features and technologies," Pahlevani said. "HUNGRY has a very comprehensive and complex technology platform; it’s built to support everything that we do."

Expansion on All Fronts 

Traditionally, minority founders struggle to raise venture capital, so Pahlevani said HUNGRY is lucky to have Grass, who has experience raising more than $100 million during his entrepreneurial journey. Being able to connect and partner with an executive who has raised funding in the past helped overcome fundraising challenges, Pahlevani said. 

"Being a minority founder may have helped get some of those celebrity investors that we got," Pahlevani said. "I’m very grateful for that. That’s given us great brand recognition and credibility to help grow our business." 

"As a founder, one of my favorite things to do is innovate new features and technologies."

There are many other benefits to being a minority founder, especially when it comes to hiring, Pahlevani said. With a diverse leadership team, HUNGRY has attracted team members of all races and backgrounds. Pahlevani said it’s also been a rewarding experience to onboard hundreds of top chefs and provide them with an additional or primary source of income. 

Over the next year, Pahlevani is focusing on expansion on all fronts. He wants to expand HUNGRY to more cities, mainly those with NFL and NBA teams. Whether the future of work will mean HUNGRY is continuing its curated virtual cooking classes or getting back to more in-person office catering gigs, the company wants to stay prepared for both. 

“Our biggest goal is to help companies embrace this future of work and what it means,” Pahlevani said.

Was this page helpful?