Mira Award wins helped establish ClusterTruck as a tech innovator
Prepared food delivery disruptor opened its sixth new market in Kansas City yesterday
When Trailblazer Award winner Chris Baggott revealed to Gerry Dick of Inside INdiana Business two years ago that his next entrepreneurial venture was going to revolutionize prepared food delivery, I can admit that I was skeptical.
I’m not sure why I doubted it; Chris’ track record speaks for itself. The self-described “failed dry cleaner” may have struggled in the 1990s, but as co-founder of ExactTarget (acquired for $2.5 billion by Salesforce) and Compendium (acquired by Oracle), he’s earned his position over the past 15 years as one of Indianapolis’ leading entrepreneurs.
Following deep dives into farming and food service with Tyner Pond Farms and The Mug restaurant in his hometown of Greenfield, Ind., Chris launched his revolution with co-founder and CTO Dan McFadden in 2016 — ClusterTruck.
ClusterTruck is delivering restaurant-quality (locally sourced) food faster than anyone else can by using technology and data to streamline the whole process. The company’s innovative approach to on-demand delivery improves on virtually every recognized food-service industry standard.
“A lot of people don’t think of what we do as a technology company, and the fact is that none of what we’ve done is possible without amazing software from our team,” Chris said in an interview with Inside INdiana Business after receiving the New Startup of the Year Mira Award. “And to be recognized as a software company is what we really care about and it’s just really special.”
Interestingly, it was at the Mira Awards gala that Chris first met Rob Greene, who now serves as vice president of development and logistics for ClusterTruck. The serendipitous encounter led to the pair sharing ideas about how to harness a gig-economy business model to improve food delivery, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Indiana is an easy place to do business, there’s tons of talent and people here are game for anything,” Chris said. After launching ClusterTruck in Indianapolis 15 months ago and expanding to Bloomington last spring, the company is now operating kitchens and delivering its diverse menu of prepared meals in Columbus and Cleveland, Ohio; Denver, Colo.; and just yesterday launched operations in Kansas City, Mo. ClusterTruck has rapid growth plans fueled by millions in venture capital investments that will land even more “kitchens of disruption” in 10-20 additional U.S. cities by the end of 2018.
Here’s more from my conversation with Chris about what ClusterTruck gets out of talking part in the annual Mira Awards program and what the awards mean to him personally.
Did ClusterTruck experience some immediate gains after winning a Mira Award?
Chris Baggott: You know a lot of good things have happened to us since the Mira Awards, which were less than a year ago [nine months]. The Miras were like a whirlwind for us. I mean, a big part of what we gained benefited the ClusterTruck team itself with an overall swagger, confidence and pride.
We were a pretty small team in April and we brought everybody to the awards gala. I think we had two full tables, so 20 people. Now, we just did a payroll for our largest payroll ever with over 200 people on the ClusterTruck team.
If you think about how that expands as we continue to build this enterprise with hundreds of remote employees who get more distanced from our corporate headquarters here in Indianapolis, we really have to engage them and get them excited about what we’re doing. From our kitchen managers to our line cooks and drivers alike, we need to help them to internalize our technology story, and winning Mira Awards for Best New Startup and Innovation really reinforces to the people we’re recruiting that they’re making the right decision joining us.
What does it mean to you and your team to be Mira Award winners?
I’ve been around a long, long time relative to the technology community — before TechPoint was TechPoint and the Mira Awards were called the CyberStar Awards. I recall David Becker getting an award at the very first time I attended in 2000 or 2001 and making being a Mira Award winner one of my own personal goals.
I’m very fortunate to have been a Mira Award winner and nominee a number of times with ExactTarget and Compendium and now with ClusterTruck, and it’s incredible every year seeing how much the community has grown and how important the economic impact of technology is to the state of Indiana. The Mira Awards are one of the main times every year that everyone is listening and watching the tech community and it’s great to see how many people are participating and how many successful companies are a part of this awards program.
What is it like hearing your company name called out from the stage at the Mira Awards gala?
Our marketing slogan for ClusterTruck is “TruckYeah!” This year, when they called out our name as the winner and the presenter said “TruckYeah, it’s ClusterTruck,” everyone just loved that and it was a great moment for us. It’s just so fun to have a technology company focused on the consumer after so many years of business-to-business companies and products and to recognize that our brand is really resonating! People love the product, they love the service, they love what we’re doing with ClusterTruck and having all of this come together this way at the Mira Awards is just really rewarding for our team.