How Berkeley alumni changed the food-delivery game

Caviar food delivery service

Food-delivery apps weren’t new when Jason Wang, BS 09, and four co-founders launched Caviar, so differentiating themselves from the likes of Seamless and Grubhub was crucial. Their solution? Offer a curated assortment of restaurants with loyal customer bases (many exclusive to Caviar), invest in professional photography for every dish, and prioritize restaurant partners, for whom there were no commitments, no monthly fee, and no delivery infrastructure needed. The formula worked. Caviar became profitable in the first six months and earned a seven-figure annual revenue the first year. Just two years after launching, it was acquired by Square. Here, how Wang and his co-founders—Richard Din, BS/BA 08 (electrical engineering & computer science/economics); Shawn Tsao, BA 11 (architecture); Andy Zhang (former Berkeley student); and Abel Lin—quickly turned Caviar into a sensation.

Caviar's four Berkeley co-founders
Caviar’s four Berkeley co-founders: (left to right): Andy Zhang (former student); Jason Wang, BS 09; Richard Din, BS/BA 08 (electrical engineering & computer science/economics); and Shawn Tsao, BA 11 (architecture).

July 2012

Caviar launches in San Francisco, offering weekday lunch to companies. The co-founders start with just a few restaurants (like Ike’s Place, HRD, and Nick’s Cripsy Tacos) and do deliveries themselves for a few months, then hire couriers from Craigslist. Food messengers keep the $10 delivery fee and part of the gratuity, with the balance (and food surcharges) going to Caviar. Eventually, Caviar expands to 30 restaurants in SF. In year one, they focus on improving just two metrics: orders per week and revenue.

March 2013

Service opens to the general public (it had been invite-only for individuals).

November 2013

Caviar launches in New York City and Seattle with 15–20 restaurants in each locale.

January 2014

Caviar has 10 full-time employees. About 40% of customers are corporate, accounting for 65% of revenue.

July 2014

Now with $15 million in venture capital and 40 employees, Caviar launches in Los Angeles, bringing its total penetration to seven cities (also including Boston, Chicago, and Washington, D.C.). The company’s order volume has grown more than 500% year over year.

August 2014

Square acquires Caviar for $90 million in stock. Wang stays on as CEO until August 2016.

January 2015

Wang makes the Forbes 30 Under 30 list in the food & drink category.

February 2015

Six months after acquisition, Caviar triples orders, expands to 15 cities nationwide, and more than doubles employees, to 100+.

August 2019

DoorDash acquires Caviar from Square for $410 million.

Sept 2020

Wang is again honored by Forbes, this time as one of 10 game-changers who have appeared in 10 years of the Forbes 30 Under 30 list.