ARK Challenge: Eatiply Founder Not Your Typical Young Entrepreneur

ARK Challenge: Eatiply Founder Not Your Typical Young Entrepreneur
Eatiply aims to help businesses and local communities.

(Editor's note: This is the third in a series of profiles about the startups competing in the fourth installment of the ARK Challenge accelerator, underway in downtown Little Rock. 'ARK 4' will culminate in its Demo Day, scheduled for Nov. 12 at the Clinton Center, where startups pitch their final products for a chance to win $150,000 in prize money. The series began with Little Rock ventures My Color of Beauty and Acorn Hours.)

David Woodbury isn't typical of the young entrepreneurs you'll find at startup accelerators like the ARK Challenge.

The ARK Challenge, launched in Fayetteville in 2012 and expanded this year to Little Rock, is in the middle of its fourth installment, and Woodbury's LinkedCause is one of seven teams competing for an investment round of $150,000 that'll go the the winner of the 14-week startup boot camp.

Woodbury moved his family from their native Minneapolis to Little Rock to compete in the ARK and grow LinkedCause, which had already launched the TOMS Shoes-inspired Eatiply campaign.

Eatiply is a diners' TOMS. Restaurants that partner with Eatiply -- and Woodbury has already signed about a dozen in central Arkansas -- donate a meal to a local food bank for every Eatiply-designated meal purchased. Currently, Woodbury is working with the Arkansas Rice Depot.

Restaurants partnering with Eatiply include Bruno's Little Italy, Ciao Baci and Stickyz Rock-and-Roll Chicken Shack in Little Rock and Tusk & Trotter in Bentonville. 

Woodbury, 33, isn't typical of aspiring startup founders populating accelerators like the ARK because he's self-funded. A U.S. Coast Guard veteran and former college football player and track athlete at Minnesota-Duluth, Woodbury built a franchise of 32 Verizon stores in the Minneapolis, St. Louis and Dallas areas that brought in annual revenue of more than $10 million.

Plus, he owned a residential security firm in Minnesota that grew to more than 100 accounts, and on a whim purchased a food truck on eBay that specialized in deep fried hot dogs and cheese curds.

Woodbury sold everything in the summer of 2012 -- a "seven-figure exit" -- to further satisfy his entrepreneurial itch and develop Eatiply. Plus, Woodbury and his wife Kimberly had a child on the way (son Cruz is now 2), and he was spending lots of time on the road.

"I just wanted a change of pace," he said.

LinkedCause is the umbrella entity from which Woodbury plans to grow Eatiply and develop other spin-offs such as the water-focused Drinkiply.

"We can make this work with models outside the restaurant industry," Woodbury said. "This can work for any business with a discount model. We can help businesses do good things for people in their communities and also help grow their revenue."

A conversation on a flight from Dallas to Minnesota helped bring the ARK to Woodbury's attention, and now he finds himself raising Cruz in Arkansas, of all places.

Woodbury said if LinkedCause gets funded through the ARK, he might stay and built it in Little Rock, a city he likens to Minneapolis on a smaller scale. The scenery, the emerging startup ecosystem and the strong emphasis on water and the outdoors, evident in the Arkansas River Trail, all appeal to him and even remind him of home.

"If we get funded here, we may stay," he said. "We've really enjoyed Little Rock. We feel at home here."

The Woodburys even plan to attend the Razorback game with Georgia on Oct. 18 at War Memorial Stadium. They want to experience Southeastern Conference-style tailgating on the golf course, an experience that's been described as a blue collar, rowdy version of the Grove in Oxford, Miss.

Woodbury has been forewarned, and remains eager to call the Hogs in October.

For now, Woodbury's big picture vision includes building, growing and selling LinkedCause within five years: "One more exit and I'll be good."

After that, he wants to be the one providing the funding rounds.

"Long term, my goal is to be on the other side of the table and go into venture capital or angel investing," he said. "I want to be able to help out these guys like me."

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