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Shy Pahlevani: “A key aspect of maintaining resiliency is being flexible and being willing to change course when something’s not working”

In my experience, resilience means persistence with positivity. And, for me, persistence has always paid off. I believe it is this mindset that has made me successful and helped propel HUNGRY forward.In addition to positivity and persistence, I think you also need the desire to continue despite adversity to be a resilient person. Without this, […]

In my experience, resilience means persistence with positivity. And, for me, persistence has always paid off. I believe it is this mindset that has made me successful and helped propel HUNGRY forward.

In addition to positivity and persistence, I think you also need the desire to continue despite adversity to be a resilient person. Without this, you will fail.

In fact, most start-ups fail because, after the honeymoon period wears off, things get tough. As a founder or leader, you set the example. And if you aren’t modeling a can-do, never-quit attitude, negativity and doubt can start to seep in, which ultimately leads to failure in the long run.

Another key aspect of maintaining resiliency is being flexible and willing to change course when something’s not working. Had we not pivoted our business model from B2C to B2B very early on, we would have likely failed. By pressing restart and committing 100% to pursue what worked, versus an original concept, we eventually got the wheels turning in the right direction.


Shy Pahlevani is a successful D.C.-based serial entrepreneur. After making a name for himself within Washington DC’s burgeoning tech scene, he and his brother Eman Pahlevani founded LiveSafe — a venture-backed leading mobile safety communications platform that crowd-sources safety intelligence. The brothers teamed up with a long-time friend and business partner Jeff Grass to successfully grow LiveSafe into a global enterprise. Over the next five years, the trio would raise more than $20 million dollars for LiveSafe from 3 tech titan billionaire backers and take the brand international. LiveSafe now actively protects more than 2.4 million people across the Fortune 1,000, universities, and sporting arenas.

Later in 2017, Shy, Eman, and Jeff again teamed up to create food-tech platform HUNGRY — the first-ever online marketplace connecting local top chefs with businesses in need of office catering. The company grew quickly from a $1 million dollar run rate to a nearly $20 million dollar run rate in less than 24 months. HUNGRY launched in several new markets in 2019 and today operates in a $65 billion dollar catering market within D.C., Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, and NYC. Notable investors include JAY-Z, Usher, and the founders of Honest Tea & Whole Foods.

Throughout his startup career, Shy has been recognized as one of D.C.’s Top Young Entrepreneurs & Washington Business Journals’ 40 Under 40. Shy currently resides in the Washington D.C. area where HUNGRY is also based.


Thank you so much for joining us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your ‘backstory’?

I’ve always been really big into tech. And I grew up heavily involved in Washington D.C.’s tech scene, which is what originally inspired me to pursue entrepreneurship.

For the last decade or so, I’ve been fortunate enough to work with some great partners on various mission-based tech projects. In 2012, my brother Eman and I founded a venture-backed company LiveSafe — a leading mobile safety communications platform that crowd-sources safety intelligence. Along with our business partner and long-time friend Jeff Grass, we successfully grew that business into a global enterprise. After five years, we raised more than $30 million dollars for LiveSafe and took the brand international. LiveSafe now actively protects more than 2.4 million people at Fortune 1,000 corporate campuses, universities, and sporting arenas.

Fast forward to 2017, we (Shy, Eman and Jeff) again teamed up to create what is now HUNGRY — a fast-growing food-tech platform and first-ever online marketplace connecting local top chefs with businesses in need of office catering. In less than 24 months, the business has gone from a $1 million dollar run rate to a nearly $20 million dollar run rate. We’ve also launched in several new markets and now operate in D.C., Philadelphia, Atlanta, Boston, and NYC. A lot of our expansion is attributed to notable investments from food tech backers like JAY-Z, Usher, Tom Colicchio and the founders of Honest Tea & Whole Foods.

I personally own two patents and was recently recognized as one of “D.C.’s Top Young Entrepreneurs” and was also named to Washington Business Journals’ “40 Under 40” list. I currently reside in the Washington D.C. area (where HUNGRY is also based).

Can you share with us the most interesting story from your career? Can you tell us what lessons or ‘take aways’ you learned from that?

I’ve learned a lot from working with chefs, actually. I find their work ethic and creativity to be incredibly inspiring. And it’s one of the reasons we started HUNGRY in the first place.

One interesting story that stands out to me is about one of my favorite chefs, Evan Walton. Chef Evan is a single father and former executive chef at one of D.C.’s most prestigious casino resorts. Evan was a career chef and passionate about his craft, but restaurant life was taking a toll on him and his family. He needed a change, so he took a chance and joined HUNGRY when we were just starting out.

With HUNGRY, Chef Evan has built an entirely new career path. He chooses to serve only breakfast and lunch so he can prioritize spending time with his daughter. Now, rather than getting home past midnight, Chef Evan is home every day by 1 pm.

To him, the time he’s getting back with his family is priceless. The best part? Chef Evan is making more money now than he was as an executive chef. He’s currently earning anywhere between $25,000- $30,000 a month on our platform!

The biggest takeaway for me personally from Chef Evan’s story is this: even the smallest idea or innovation can have an incredibly profound impact on someone’s life.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

HUNGRY has completely revolutionized the $60 billion business events and catering market. Before HUNGRY, office catering options were boring, expensive and mostly designed to put money back in the pockets of big business.

We’re changing that. Our people-centric platform works directly with chefs — a feat that has never been done before. Now, chefs that aspire to own their own business, build their own menus, and create the food they love can kickstart their dreams with very minimal capital.

For example, a chef cooking out of a virtual or “ghost kitchen” might pay less than $1,000/month for their total overhead with HUNGRY. It’s an opportunity like no other. And by putting money directly into the pockets of chefs — the people who are actually doing the hard work — we’re changing people’s lives for the better.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?

You can’t start or successfully run a business by yourself. And you’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with — so you must have a rockstar team in place if you’re trying to scale.

In my case, I can’t say enough about HUNGRY’s founders and leadership team. I am eternally grateful to those who have supported us from the very beginning and am incredibly lucky to have the ear of some of the world’s smartest investors and businesspeople, like JAY-Z, Walter Robb, Seth Goldman, Tom Colicchio, and Usher. Not only have they been generous enough to share their breadth of knowledge and expertise with us, they’ve also allowed HUNGRY to leverage their personal brands as proof of our success.

Ok, thank you for all that. Now let’s shift to the main focus of this interview. We would like to explore and flesh out the trait of resilience. How would you define resilience? What do you believe are the characteristics or traits of resilient people?

In my experience, resilience means persistence with positivity. And, for me, persistence has always paid off. I believe it is this mindset that has made me successful and helped propel HUNGRY forward.

In addition to positivity and persistence, I think you also need the desire to continue despite adversity to be a resilient person. Without this, you will fail.

In fact, most start-ups fail because, after the honeymoon period wears off, things get tough. As a founder or leader, you set the example. And if you aren’t modeling a can-do, never-quit attitude, negativity and doubt can start to seep in, which ultimately leads to failure in the long run.

Another key aspect of maintaining resiliency is being flexible and willing to change course when something’s not working. Had we not pivoted our business model from B2C to B2B very early on, we would have likely failed. By pressing restart and committing 100% to pursue what worked, versus an original concept, we eventually got the wheels turning in the right direction.

When you think of resilience, which person comes to mind? Can you explain why you chose that person?

When I think of resilience, I think of Warren Buffet. His personal story was always so interesting to me. As I understand it, his late wife was a huge advocate of Buffet becoming more charitable as he continued to succeed. It was her dream to give back and help others. At the time, though, Buffet was less interested in giving away his money and stayed laser-focused on “growing the pot”. After Buffet’s wife passed away due to cancer, he could have very easily given up on his personal goals and even lost sight of his spouse’s dream. But that wasn’t the case.

Instead, Buffet decided to do what he had never done before. He made the biggest charitable contribution in history (a bulk of his wealth) to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To me, this is a perfect example of how maintaining a resilience mindset can have a profound effect on others. Buffet’s donation ended up having an enormous impact on mankind, and it wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t been determined to do something positive.

Has there ever been a time that someone told you something was impossible, but you did it anyway? Can you share the story with us?

All the time! We were told over and over again when we first started HUNGRY that it was impossible to deliver food directly from chefs. We were told no one would ever trust our business model. We were told we would never find outside investors.

In spite of the naysayers, we charged on. We built the business anyways because we knew office workers really did want healthy food made by real chefs. Despite all the adversity we faced, we relentlessly pursue our goals and never gave up on our dream. Now, our customers trust us, sales are growing, our run rate is incredible and we’re making a real difference in people’s lives. It doesn’t get any better than that.

Did you have a time in your life where you had one of your greatest setbacks, but you bounced back from it stronger than ever? Can you share that story with us?

We had a major setback when developing HUNGRY’s first mobile application. Long story short, we lost 6 months of coding work in a single night.

At this point, fundraising was still in its early stages, so our lack of financial backing coupled with this loss felt almost insurmountable. It could have meant the end of the road looking back on it. But our resiliency and persistence mindset kicked in. We knew we had to keep moving forward, and we did, but it wasn’t easy.

It was a painful loss, to say the least, and many stressful weeks followed that setback. But we learned from it. And today, we have a team of eight developers that have successfully created five impressive applications powering the HUNGRY platform. Our entire operation has grown to employ more than 250 people and our technology is powerful, optimized and, most importantly, stored in a way that prevents any future application losses.

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