Fridge No More is about to disappear.
It was nearly midnight on a cold late-winter night in Brooklyn, and there was little movement inside the failed startup’s once-bustling grocery-delivery hub. But Pavel Danilov, the CEO of Fridge No More, couldn’t resist the urge to clean up.
It could be the muscle memory he developed after working 16 hours a day, seven days a week, for the past two years. Or maybe it’s the faint hope that a buyer will swoop in at the last second and save the 15-minute delivery company that he and his fellow Russian co-founder, Anton Gladkoborodov, thought was their ticket to success in the US
For the next hour, Danilov ignored the fact that every banana, bread and bag of chips around him would never make it to the customer’s door. Although his 450 delivery workers have made their last run, he continues to move groceries to their proper shelves and make sure refrigerators are properly closed. “It doesn’t really make sense,” said Danilov, looking back on the low point in March. “I don’t want my store to look like trash.”
As the tech industry’s downturn worsens, a growing number of startup founders who thrived during the boom of 2020 to 2022 are facing a new sense of panic and insecurity. “In the next 20 months, 50% to 60% of all early-stage companies will go under,” General Catalyst managing director Niko Bonatsos told The Information’s Kate Clark recently. “It would be a very sad state of affairs.”
Many of these company founders may soon find themselves navigating a dimension of entrepreneurship that receives less attention than successful success stories or explosive scandals: the desperate last moon looking for a lifeline; the waves of anxiety and frustration that hit as the thin hope for salvation fades; and, possibly, the awkwardness of settling into a new job where they are no longer the boss.
The story of Fridge No More’s final days, told here for the first time, provides a glimpse into this unfortunate reality for founders who believe they’ve hit the next big thing, only to discover that their businesses are more vulnerable to threats than they are. thought Danilov and Gladkoborodov created a product that customers loved, and they watched profits increase for months.
But little prepared them for what came next, with investors pulling back on funding and the era of easy currency recession in the rearview. It’s a story that’s been repeated many times in tech’s boom-and-bust cycle: the story of founders who arrived late to the party.