Khalil Tawil (Yale Law ‘19) started Umi began with a simple idea: Home Cooking, Delivered. But now Umi was experiencing turbulence and flagging. With funds running run out from his venture capital raise, Tawil had to confront the reality that Umi was possibly unviable, and that he might have to wind up operations. He had founded Umi in 2014 as a law student at Yale. After raising an impressive amount of capital, Tawil had launched Umi in Brooklyn in March of 2016.
Now in December of 2016 after yet another month of disappointing results, Tawil began to compose an email to his investor group to lay out options for what Umi should do next. As he began to type, Tawil leaned back in his chair and thought about the Umi journey and the numerous choices he made to move from idea to embryonic enterprise. Tawil thought that he made every possible right step and decision for an aspiring startup entrepreneur, even if he was inexperienced in food service, technology, and startups. Tawil had tested his concept locally in New Haven in multiple iterations to assess viability. He won and participated in a summer fellowship at the Yale Entrepreneurial Institute — a key opportunity to incubate the fledgling project — with cash to deploy. He attracted talented early employees and co-founders with technology and food credentials to supplement his own lack of experience. He smoothly raised $1.3625 million in venture capital, in an oversubscribed round, from early-stage investors led by BoxGroup, a distinguished New York-based investor.
Tawil twisted every decision over in his head. What perplexed him was that it seemed like every choice was indeed the right choice. Umi actually looked like a startup cliché — it checked every box. Tawil was puzzled by what had gone wrong. Was it the delivery strategy — the “last mile” conundrum? Was it the pricing strategy, at approximately $15 per meal? Were the partners — Gary, Debbie, and Dwayne had appeared so ideal at the time — the wrong people? Was it the competition in Brooklyn or, as hard as it was to conceive, the idea itself?
Tawil leaned forward to jot out his investor communication. What exactly should he communicate and how?
Suggested Citation: Khalil Tawil and A. J. Wasserstein, "Khalil Tawil and Umi (A)" Yale SOM case 19-022, December 28, 2019.
Keywords: Food, Two-Sided Market, Cooking, Dining,