- A small New Jersey ice-cream-truck company has been hounded by VCs since its 2020 founding.
- Scream Truck recently announced a $2.2 million seed round led by Centre Street Partners and Intek.
- The company seeks to be a modern take on the trucks that have long lumbered through neighborhoods.
Despite a terrible January for the public markets, venture-capital funds are still overflowing after their record-breaking 2021 and are looking for private businesses to invest in. Some of them are getting creative, thinking beyond the cloud, Web 3.0, or the metaverse.
The company has been hounded by VCs since it was founded in September 2020, its president, Jason Black, told Insider.
“We talked to probably a dozen VC investors, and honestly, a few wanted to write larger checks than we wanted to raise at this time,” Black, who started his career as an associate at Goldman Sachs, said.
What appealed to investors, according to Black, was a modern take on the colorful, boxy trucks that have lumbered around neighborhoods for decades. Instead of a loud jingle blaring from speakers, Scream Truck texts users to notify them a truck is on the way and allows them to preorder confections from their smartphone. Popsicles and ice-cream bars are replaced with customized sundaes and Ghirardelli milkshakes.
“We’re not just serving the same thing that’s been served for the past hundred years on a truck — we’re really taking it to the next level,” said Eric Murphy, the company’s founder and CEO, who previously had a long career in marketing, most recently as senior vice president of experiences at Condé Nast.
“I think the technology combined with a premium experience, premium product, and the chance to be able to scale this nationally was the most appealing thing for all of our investors,” Murphy added. “The concept is really bringing the ice-cream truck into modern times.”
With no marketing budget, Murphy says Scream Truck now boasts more than 18,000 households who sign up for its alerts. It operates five trucks — painted in hot pink — servicing 14 New Jersey towns, and its software directs drivers where to go on a particular day based upon demand. To keep the experience special, trucks usually visit an area no more than every few weeks.
“The beauty is that if we don’t get enough response from one neighborhood, we can go to another neighborhood,” Murphy said. “Ever since day one, we have sold out every single route that we’ve created.”
Scream Truck and its investors are betting that the texting ice-cream truck is not merely a pandemic novelty.
“We are excited to help Scream Truck scale their business by creating an even better user experience and utilizing technology as never before in this space,” Abie Cohen, a general partner of Centre Street Partners, said in a written statement.
Scream Truck is about to roll out a sixth truck and is eventually planning a fleet of more than 100, expanding far beyond New Jersey.
“I think VC investors saw something that resonated where it could work in every suburban market in the United States,” Black said.