Feastly, a startup that connects diners with chefs offering unique food experiences outside of restaurants, is announcing that it has raised $1.25 million in seed funding. We first wrote about the company in April, describing it as an "Airbnb for dinner." Basically, it's a site where chefs (who need to be approved by the Feastly team) can offer things like this four-course, Tuscany-focused focused meal in Chicago and this pie-cooking class in New York. Co-founder Noah Karesh told me that that since Feastly launched last year, its chefs have hosted "thousands" of meals for "tens of thousands" of customers in San Francisco, Washington DC, New York, and Chicago. He also said that with individual chefs making up to $60,000 annually, some of them have actually been able to make a living on Feastly alone. And others have used it as a platform to build a following and then launch their own restaurants. For diners, Karesh argued that Feastly is a good way to access hard-to-find cuisines (such as Malaysian, Guatemalan, and Macanese) and to try tasty food that accommodates unusual dietary restrictions. But he also said it's not just for foodies — it's also a way for people to feel connected. "I have this vision of a person with 5,000 friends on Facebook eating alone," Karesh said. He added, "When you go to a restaurant, you don’t know anything about the food. When you have ... context around something, that gives what you’re doing more meaning." The company previously raised funding from Tim Draper, Mike Walsh, Scott and Cyan Banister, Lisa Gansky, Adri Capital, and others. The new seed round comes from The Westly Group, founded by investor and politician Steve Westly. Karesh pointed out that the firm, which is known as a cleantech investor, has also backed food startups like Good Eggs and Revolution Foods. Feastly recently added a $1 million insurance policy protecting cooks in cases of food illness or property damage. Insurance has been a big concern for peer-to-peer marketplaces (Airbnb, for example, recently rolled out $1 million liability insurance on top of its $1 million Host Guarantee in case of property damage), but karesh said P2P food startups haven't offered anything like this before. Over the summer, Feastly hired Leigh Goldstein as its chief operating officer. Goldstein was most recently CEO at sports startup Exiles, and he's also served as director of product at StubHub and director of global shipping at eBay.
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