Upbeat Baggott boosts funding, tweaks ClusterTruck for rollout

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Chris Baggott, the ExactTarget co-founder who launched food-tech startup ClusterTruck this May, has boosted the company's seed-funding round from $1.25 million to $2 million and tweaked its business model.

"We blew by that, so we decided to up it to $2 million," Baggott said in a phone interview this week, noting that the seed round was nearly complete.

"We're rocking and rolling. We've secured office space in Circle Tower where I had Compendium," he said, referring to a software company he ran before its 2013 sale to Oracle Corp. "We're going to move in there probably Monday."

Baggott, who helped build ExactTarget into the marketing software powerhouse that Salesforce.com acquired for $2.5 billion in 2013, said he's confident ClusterTruck will be a billion-dollar company. The Internet-based startup will prepare meals in non-restaurant kitchens, he said, and use software to help deliver them within five minutes of being cooked.

ClusterTruck arrives as the online ordering and delivering industry is heating up in Indianapolis. For now, the space is comprised of third-party companies that facilitate online transactions for existing restaurants. But Baggott said that model struggles with lukewarm food and long-wait times, so he's building a food company that's based on the Internet orderer, not the walk-in diner.

Baggott said he hopes to have the operation ready for business by December.

The company's name comes from a term used to describe a gathering of food trucks. Baggott picked the moniker because he set out to license recipes from popular local food trucks, but that model since has changed a bit.

The company still plans to use recipes from local food-truck operators in some fashion, but it also will develop proprietary dishes. Exclusively using recipes from existing food trucks posed too many complications, Baggott said, including menu redundancy (multiple burger options, for instance) and menu holes (e.g., no participating Mexican food trucks would mean no Mexican food).

"We will have food styles from 12 trucks," he said. "Now, how many of those trucks are going to be real and how many are going to be 'virtual,'" i.e., ClusterTruck's own recipes, "we haven't decided yet."

Baggott said cuisine styles likely will include Italian, Mexican, Mediterranean, and sandwiches. The operation should have at least 60 different menu items. It would add and drop categories as tastes change, all based on data trends.

Baggott said the company has about seven employees, and they'll temporarily work out of Circle Tower building on Monument Circle until the company moves into its first kitchen at 729 N. Pennsylvania St. in December or January.

After establishing that downtown kitchen, Baggott plans to open a kitchen in Broad Ripple and one in Fishers. He eventually plans to have seven in the area. He's also looking to establish operations in Cincinnati and Louisville soon after launching here.

Baggott said Mike Cunningham of Cunningham Restaurant Group, with eateries including Mesh and Bru Burger Bar on Mass Ave, will oversee food operations for ClusterTruck. Robb Green, a Lyft trainer and recruiter, has been tapped to build its food delivery model, which will use contracted drivers.

Dan McFadden, a former senior software engineer at Compendium, is the company's chief technology officer.

Steve Fouty, who held chief financial positions at Compendium, Exact Target, and Emerging Threats–all of which experienced successful exits–is ClusterTruck's part-time chief financial officer.

"I've never been more excited starting a business with such an amazing dream team," Baggott said.

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