Distributors are essential to the fabric of the restaurant industry. But while the front-end of this industry has a well-established digital presence, the back end of this industry continues to operate without modern (if any) software as it moves $250B of volume per year. 

For the past several years, Pepper has been laser focused on bringing the 25,000 independent food distributors in North America online. Today, the company is announcing their Series B led by ICONIQ Growth. We’re honored to have invested for the third time, after leading the initial seed financing in 2019, and then joining the board during the Series A round. It’s been a pleasure to be on this journey with close friends at Index and Imaginary, both of whom are also investing in the Series B. 

Pepper’s core solution is a white-label ordering app for food distributors. As distributors move all their restaurant interactions from offline to digital order management and invoicing solutions, Pepper becomes critical to how these businesses operate, and has demonstrated a powerful ability to attach new revenue streams. From payments, to sales enablement, and now an embedded advertising product, Pepper’s layer cake of product lines has enabled independents to compete against the big names. And it shines through in the data – the engagement and stickiness with distributors is outstanding. 

One of the joys of the venture job is to see friends who were exceptional in one context, stretch and grow to be even more exceptional in another. I’ve seen this happen twice with Pepper’s founder and CEO Bowie Cheung. As colleagues fresh out of college at Bain, he always left his mark as the type of understated-yet-aggressive talent who had the clarity, adaptability, and velocity to be a rare generalist athlete. So when he joined Uber as a GM and helped launch the initial UberEats business, it was no surprise that he quickly built a reputation as a secret weapon. 

When Bowie was debating leaving Uber with a rough idea for a business around food distribution – an area where he had hard-earned insights – I jumped at the opportunity to partner with him. 

When we invest in vertical software, we look for teams with one foot deep in the industry, and one foot in technology. Seeing the Pepper team and product become a ubiquitous, beloved name in the foodservice industry, then translating that empathy to software that these customers need, has been uniquely impressive. And the excitement about the roadmap ahead is higher than ever – from further buildout of their retail media (ads/insights) product, to rich product content management, and their AI sales enablement product. 

Pepper is well on its way to creating an industry-defining vertical software business. We are delighted to continue to support this team on their journey to modernize one of the largest and and most overlooked sectors of our economy. 


Mike Duboe

Mike brings a growth-focused mindset to early-stage investments in commerce, marketplace, and vertical software businesses.

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