Deal Dive: Bagels with a schmear of venture capital

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I’m a bit of a bagel snob. I once baked bagels overnight with the crew at Better Bagels for a profile on its founders back in college. I occasionally bake them at home and still go to my childhood bagel shop, Abraham’s, practically every time I’m in New England. I keep a sesame bagel from Feltz Bagels on my desk.

Bagels carry a certain nostalgia for me. I have core childhood memories of driving to Abraham’s with my dad and sister, picking up a dozen bagels, and ripping apart a fresh one to share on the drive home.

So when I saw that Popup Bagels, a mom-and-pop-looking bagel shop chain, raised venture capital, I was like . . . what? Isn’t this literally what small business loans are for? Popup Bagels raised an $8 million Series A led by Stripes, with participation from Habitat Partners and Tastemaker Capital.

Sure, BetterBrand, a startup that makes high-protein bagels with suspiciously low amounts of carbs, recently raised $6 million in venture funding. But they are an e-commerce food tech company, and that has VC written all over it. Not a place to go buy a bagel in person.

Popup Bagels’ founder Adam Goldberg sees it differently, though. He told TechCrunch+ that he’s not interested in ever taking on debt — good luck with that — and venture capital makes sense because Popup has strong demand, runs a lean operation and is looking to grow rapidly. Two of the backers — Stripes and Tastemaker Capital — have experience scaling food startups, too.

“When you are disrupting an industry, and have something that is new and exciting, and people are stoked to try it, it is great to have capital to roll out fast and it is also great to have smart people behind that capital,” Goldberg said. “We turned down a lot of people who wanted to write a check that didn’t really help. Stripes has experience in doing these roll-outs.”

Taking a closer look, some of that definitely rings true.

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