One out of every five. That’s how many New York City children experience hunger each year.
When they first learned that statistic, Mohsin Memon ’14 (above, left) and Dilip Rao ’17 (above, right), now business partners, couldn’t stomach it. “Hunger is an issue at all ages,” Memon says. “But for children, it bothers me especially, because they can’t do anything about it.”
So Rao and Memon decided to be the ones to do something. Along with friend Ahsen Saber, they launched Sharebite, a mission-driven food-ordering platform, which donates a portion of its sales to City Harvest, one of New York City’s most prominent hunger-relief organizations.
Similar to the popular online food-ordering site Seamless, Sharebite is tailored more for businesses, allowing its corporate customers to order delivery from restaurants. The company then donates a percentage of each order’s food and beverage total to City Harvest, which collects leftover food from restaurants and distributes it to soup kitchens and other community food programs across the city. For every $25 spent through the platform, Sharebite is able to donate enough to help feed two children facing hunger in New York.
Though individual customers can use Sharebite, most of the company’s business comes from law firms, investment banks, and other employers who pay for meals when workers stay late. In this way, says Rao, Sharebite is also helping companies address a growing demand from employees that their workplaces be socially conscious. “Today’s workforce wants more than just a paycheck,” he says. “They want their company to embody a higher purpose, and they want their work to be inspiring and impactful.”
Making an impact was something Memon and Rao had aspired to for a while. Each volunteered for City Harvest and wanted to innovate ways to support hunger-relief efforts. When the two met, Rao was still recovering from an experience he’d had a year earlier: he was struck by a car while crossing the street in Manhattan. The doctors weren’t sure he would survive. During the long recovery, he recalls, “I had to reassess what I aspired toward. I wondered, If today was the end, what value would I have brought, and what problem would I have helped solve?” Rao was also troubled by the number of New Yorkers who regularly go hungry. “In New York City, one of the richest cities in the world, you have this inequality that continues to manifest itself in the worst way possible.” He wrote his Columbia Business School application essay about starting an impact-oriented company, then continued developing his business plan while in school.
In 2015, Rao was a first-year student and Memon had recently left the private equity world to work full time on Sharebite. He returned to an entrepreneurship event at the School looking for pilot users when he met Rao. They quickly realized they wanted to do something similar and joined forces.
Rao and Memon began meeting regularly to work on Sharebite, eventually joining the Columbia Startup Lab. In 2017, they received an investment from the School’s Lang Fund, which invests in startups by recent Columbia Business School graduates. “We attribute a considerable amount of our early success to Columbia and its support network for aspiring entrepreneurs,” says Rao. “We wouldn’t be where we are today had it not been for those resources.”
In addition to donating to City Harvest, Sharebite regularly contributes to national hunger-relief organizations. In total, Memon and Rao estimate Sharebite has so far helped donate over 270,000 meals to people in need. They recently expanded into Washington, DC, and are looking to further expand to other major metropolitan areas.
Both say they hope that by helping to alleviate hunger, Sharebite is also addressing broader societal issues of inequality. “If children are food insecure, they become academically uncompetitive, which has other societal ripple effects,” says Rao. “We believe that by helping reduce childhood hunger, we are helping tackle inequality at the root cause.”