Venture Capital: Kalanick, of Uber Fame, Buys $130M of Real Estate For CloudKitchens Startup

October 21, 2020 | News, Venture Capital

With $2.7 billion from the sale of his stake in Uber, Kalanick has enough financial firepower to own his ghost kitchens.

You could call it providential timing, but Kalanick’s CloudKitchens startup received a huge boost from the Covid-19 pandemic. With restaurants out of business, or temporarily shuttered, shelter in place diners had no choice but to order food for home delivery. Ghost kitchens, which let out space for cooking to food-for-delivery businesses, particularly in cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, and New York, suddenly witnessed a surge in business. (Wall Street Journal)

Kalanick in an own-not-rent mode

Travis Kalanick, the founder and former chief executive of Uber (NYSE: UBER), has been a low profile acquirer over the past two years of properties suitable for use as ghost kitchens for his new startup. These include warehouses, closed restaurants, even auto-body shops.

The Wall Street Journal gleaned from a painstaking review of property and corporate records that various entities linked to Kalanick’s CloudKitchens startup have spent over $ 130 million on the acquisition of more than 40 properties in about two dozen cities across the U.S.

Kalanick’s business model appears to be somewhat different from his rivals in the trade. Where start-ups such as Virtual Kitchen Co., Reef Technology, and Kitchen United usually rent properties for their cloud kitchens or enter revenue-sharing deals, Kalanick goes for the riskier owned-property option.

Understandably, his extensive property bets could pay off handsomely in the event of a turnaround in real estate values. However, he may not be too worried on that count given his own deep pockets as well as the recent $ 400 million investment in CloudKitchens by the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund.

Further, he has access to millions of dollars worth of loans from Goldman Sachs (NYSE: GS) for funding his property acquisitions.

Ultra low profile

However, what is striking is the length to which Kalanick and City Storage Systems, CloudKitchens’ parent company, go to keep their property acquisition streak away from the public eye.

It may be that Kalanick likes his privacy, or wants to keep the competition in the dark about his expansion plans.

Notably, CloudKitchens does not reveal the locations of its kitchens on its website or Google Maps. It also tells its employees not to name the start-up in their LinkedIn profiles.

Often, even commercial real estate brokers working on the firm’s property deals do not know its identity.

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