When Todd Arky ’98 joined SeamlessWeb as executive vice president for sales and business development in 2000, he had no sales force. Leaving his position as an associate at Arnold & Porter to join a brand-new startup was a leap of faith. By the time Arky left Seamless a decade later, he was overseeing a sales team of more than 30 people, the company’s geographic footprint had expanded from one city to more than two dozen, and the brand was a household name.
In his post-Seamless career, Arky has invested in and advised numerous new startups. Since April, Arky has been executive vice president for business development at Sharebite, a mission-driven food ordering platform that donates a percentage of every order to City Harvest, New York City’s largest food rescue organization. He recently spoke with us about his latest business venture and how it dovetails with his broader philanthropic interests.
There are obvious similarities between Seamless and Sharebite, but what drew you to this startup in particular?
Until recently I’ve been active as an angel investor and have kept my eye on the corporate online food-ordering space in particular. I knew that the space was ripe for disruption, because ever since Seamless and Grubhub merged, their focus has been almost entirely on the direct-to-consumer business, where they have a lot of very well-funded competition: e.g., Postmates, DoorDash, UberEATS. But Grubhub/Seamless has had virtually no competition on the corporate side, so the price of the service has gone up without a corresponding enhancement of the service.
Sharebite’s focus really started with the incredibly important mission of combatting childhood hunger. Sharebite’s founders set out to build something that works for every stakeholder: newer and better technology that meets the needs of corporate clients, much lower fees for corporate clients, a fair and reasonable fee commission rate for local restaurants, and the core mission, which is what I consider the most important element.
I’ve always admired companies like Toms Shoes and Bombas and Warby Parker for their social entrepreneurship models. One thing I’ve learned is that many corporations struggle to support low-income communities effectively and in ways that are visible to their employees. Every time Sharebite users log in to order food on their company’s account, they see a tally of the meals that have been donated to City Harvest as a result of their company’s Sharebite account. They see the impact that their order is having on people who likely view hunger much differently than they do. We’re leveraging what companies are already doing—paying for employees’ meals—to help benefit society. A typical overtime meal order of $25 results in two meals being provided to a child in need.
How has your previous experience been useful to you in your current role?
The relationships I developed while at Seamless have been extremely helpful. It adds an additional level of credibility when I can walk into a law firm or investment bank and say, “I actually introduced an online food-ordering application to your firm 15 years ago, and now I’m with a company that offers the 2.0 version of that service.”
For most firms, the mission is what grabs them. City Harvest is such a well-regarded organization. Once we show them the platform, explain our approach of treating restaurants as key stakeholders, and talk about the focus on childhood hunger, we get a lot of positive responses.
What other social missions are important to you?
Having lost my dad when I was 12, I am extremely passionate about helping kids who have experienced a major loss. I am a board member and active volunteer for Experience Camps, which provides free weeklong bereavement camps for kids who have lost a parent, sibling, or primary caregiver.
I got involved with Experience Camps after having watched my mother volunteer at Circle of Tapawingo, a bereavement camp for young girls. When she heard that a boys’ camp (Camp Manitou) was going to start a bereavement program for boys, I called the executive director and offered to help out. I volunteered as a camp counselor at our first program in 2009. We hosted 27 campers, and it was one of the most impactful weeks of my life. I was never someone who talked a lot about my loss, but I found myself talking about it all the time with these kids, answering whatever questions they had. I’ve gone back every summer as a camp counselor. My wife has volunteered as a camp counselor, my sister has volunteered, and I’ve brought lots of friends into the mix. This coming summer, Experience Camps will be hosting over 1,000 campers at our five locations across the country.
I also started an online resource as an outgrowth of Experience Camps: The Shared Grief Project. Having seen kids confide in each other, learn from each other, and take comfort in knowing they’re not alone, I figured there had to be athletes and celebrities who lost someone when they were young. I’ve interviewed a bunch of folks: Kyrie Irving of the Brooklyn Nets; Freddie Freeman of the Atlanta Braves; Brian Griese, former quarterback of the Denver Broncos; Rohan Marley, Bob Marley’s son, who I happened to have grown up with; Gabrielle Reece, former professional volleyball player and model; Roberto Clemente Jr., whose father is in the National Baseball Hall of Fame; and many others. We’ve made short videos of them talking about their life, their loss, and lessons they have learned, and giving advice and encouragement to kids living through a similar experience. There are a number of clinicians who use it with their kids, especially those kids who aren’t too quick to talk about their experience. I’ve heard some really positive feedback from clinicians and therapists who say that these videos help to open the door to conversation.
My getting involved with both nonprofits and for-profits with important social missions has happened in a very authentic way, and I'm thrilled to be able to work alongside amazing people to help those who need and deserve it.
This interview has been edited and condensed.
Posted December 13, 2019