Sydney gourmet food marketplace ChefPrep is in administration, 7 months after rebranding as CoLab after acquiring its Melbourne rival

- April 4, 2023 3 MIN READ
ChefPrep/CoLab cofounders Elle Curran and Josh Abulafia
If you’re after some gourmet food at a discount over Easter, CoLab’s new administrators, EY, are offering 30% off the marketplace’s best sellers until 11 April – 5 days after creditors will meet in Sydney to hear more about the financial status of the business this Thursday.

The meal home delivery marketplace, which raised $3 million in a Seed round backed by Artesian Ventures, Yellow Brick Road chairman Mark Bouris, Yaniv Bernstein and others, less than 12 months ago, was handed over to administrators Morgan Kelly and David Kennedy of EY last week on March 27.

Founded in May 2021 by Elle Curran and Josh Abulafia, following a $1.25 million angel round, the Sydney startup is an online marketplace offering more than 1,500 products, from frozen, ready-made versions of their best selling dishes from 150 Melbourne and Sydney restaurants, bars and cafes, as well as artisan pantry products, fresh produce and wine.

In August last year, ChefPrep used some of those funds to acquire its Melbourne likeness CoLab, and rebrand under that name.

CoLab Group currently employs around 16 staff and 2 directors in offices in Sydney and Melbourne.

Abulafia said at the time that they planned to expand nationally, supplying meals in Canberra, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Perth as well as regional NSW and Victoria, alongside ambitions to launch internationally within 12 months.

Curran said at the time that the business had a customer base of nearly 30,000 people.

The pair had been seeking fresh capital, but like others in the grocery space, failed to attract the investors needed. Startup Daily understands CoLab has also been in discussions with potential purchasers of the business.

EY Restructuring partner Morgan Kelly said they’ll take the startup through the sales process.

“Following stabilisation of the business, we are conducting an urgent expression of interest campaign to determine whether a strategic fit for CoLab can be identified,” she said.

 “The current environment is challenging for startups, but the voluntary administration regime is designed to maximise the chances of a business continuing to exist. We intend to explore all options for CoLab and its stakeholders, and will keep everyone informed as the administration progresses.”

 Curran and Abulafia said they believed the business will find new life under new owners.

“After a recent funding round fell through, the business was in acquisition discussions with a number of businesses and EY was appointed as administrators to manage the sales process and to assess options for restructuring the business,” they said.

“We appointed EY as administrators when it became clear that we were unable to continue acquisition discussions on the current runway. We have been working closely with EY throughout the process and we are confident in their ability to achieve the best result for the business, employees and creditors.”

In the meantime, CoLab continues to trade, offering a range of incentives and discounts to customers.

Fine print at the bottom of the CoLab website says:

“Morgan Kelly and David Kennedy of Ernst and Young (EY) were appointed Administrators of ChefPrep Pty Limited (Trading as CoLab) and Co-Lab Pantry Pty Limited (All Administrators Appointed) (the Group) on 27 March 2023. The Administrators have assumed control of the Group’s affairs and have taken possession of its assets. This includes seeking proposals for an urgent recapitalisation of the Group or the purchase of the Group’s business and assets. At this stage, the Administrators intend to continue to trade the Group on a ‘business as usual’ basis. If you have any questions in relation to the voluntary administration process, please contact us directly. We thank you for your ongoing support.”

The first creditor’s meeting will be held in Sydney on April 6 at 11am according to documents filed with corporate regulator ASIC by the administrators.

Not the first

It’s been a torrid 12 months in the food delivery startup sector, starting with the collapse of Send in May 2022, less than 12 months after launch.

That was followed by rival Voly in November, after burning through $18 million in a Seed round led by Sequoia Capital India supported by CoLab backer Artesian Capital.  The brand and database were subsequently acquired by northern NSW meat delivery service Our Cow, and relaunched in February this year.

Deliveroo pulled out of the Australia late last year after losing $33 million in 2022.

Meanwhile, Milkrun is fighting for its life, cutting costs and staffing in a push to break even after struggling to raise fresh capital. Milkrun had raised $75 million from Tiger Global in a Series A in January 2022,