Center Image: Kim White Photos
Snacking with NatureBox
A friendship formed in E Tower sprouts business success in San Francisco
Ken Chen ’06 and Gautam Gupta ’07 first met as neighbors in E Tower, a Babson residence hall where all 21 students are actively developing business ideas. Ken and Gautam quickly became good friends, bonding over everything startup related. Now, 10 years and several career moves later, the two friends run NatureBox, a popular snack home-delivery startup.
Ken and Gautam were eager to go into business together before the idea for NatureBox was even hatched. “It started with a simple desire to work with one another,” says Ken. “I’ve always respected Gautam and couldn’t pass up an opportunity to work with him.”
Both Gautam and Ken started their careers in traditional corporate jobs. When they started NatureBox, they built a rough website over the course of a weekend and received their first 100 orders before they even had products ready to ship.
“For our first several months, the boxes and bags we shipped were all being packed at our apartment using office supplies we’d cobbled together,” says Gautam. “Ken and I were roommates and even shared a car—it was such a fast-paced, crazy time.”
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By all accounts, NatureBox has been a big success. Headquartered in the Bay Area, the company raised $18 million in Series B funding in 2014 and, according to Ken, has created more than 200 jobs. “The Babson network has been immensely helpful,” says Gautam. “I’ve built NatureBox with a Babson classmate and we’re proud to have two other Babson classmates on our team and countless friends who have advised and invested in the company.”
Mentors and contacts also have played a big role for Ken. “Ever since my first job out of college, every career move has been driven or connected by a Babson alum or classmate,” he says. Despite being 3,000 miles away from campus, Ken says the passion for Babson is as strong in San Francisco as it is in Boston.
“The campus in San Francisco gives us an opportunity to meet with visiting faculty and staff who act as a bridge between everything happening in Boston and out here,” says Gautam. And, for alums who are new to the Bay Area, Ken says there is an instant Babson bond.
Bright Days Ahead
Running NatureBox has taught the co-founders a lot about business. “One of the things we debated in the beginning was the value of bringing in senior executives—we weren’t sure if expanding the team would negatively impact culture or if the high salaries would be worth it,” says Gautam.
“I’ve since learned that building a great company is very hard, and you need as many experienced people as you can get.”
Ken’s biggest lesson has been about taking the long view. “Make every decision by asking yourself What is the best thing for the company six months from now?” Often, he notes, that answer differs from what might be best for the company today.
The co-founders see a bright future for NatureBox. “We’ve been fortunate and lucky to be building a great business,” says Gautam, “but I hope that we are still just scratching the surface of what is possible at NatureBox.”