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Ready, Set, Food!

USC Marshall-aligned startup gets funding from Shark Tank's Mark Cuban

February 04, 2020
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A Marshall-aligned startup has gotten some attention from sharks.

The Shark-Tank, actually. From investor Mark Cuban specifically.

Daniel Zakowski, CEO of Ready, Set, Food! and his team of Marshall alumni, physicians and scientists managed to wrangle an invite to appear on the show, and were able to garner a $350,000 investment from Cuban himself.

"Most of these funds will go toward educating parents about how to prevent food allergies," said Zakowski.

Food allergies remain one of the thorniest issues in parenting. While more than 250,000 babies will be diagnosed with a food allergy, most parents don't realize there is established science behind one option to prevent them.

According to new guidelines from the national Institutes of Health (NIH) and America Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), there is clear evidence that small, measurable, increasing amounts of possible allergens--think eggs, milk and nuts in particular--can prepare very young children for those foods without triggering allergic reactions.

However, as any parent knows, getting babies to eat a measurable amount of anything is impossible.

Zakowski started the company in an attempt to remedy that.

Ready, Set, Food! came up with the solution—quite  literally—of creating  powders of common allergens that can be mixed with either breast milk or formula to start children early on the path to avoiding food allergies.

Both pediatricians and the marketplace see promise in the approach. Ready, Set, Food! has more than 500 pediatricians, allergists and physicians to validate its solutions.

Indeed, all of the founders of Ready, Set, Food! are parents of children under the age of 2, and have all used the product, said Zakowski.

Cutting through the noise to get invited onto the popular Shark Tank show proved as challenging as fighting food allergies, however.

“Apparently two doctors and a business guy don’t know how to make a compelling video, so we went through many rounds of audition videos before we were invited to pitch our company to the Sharks,” he laughed.

In the end, we were thrilled with the outcome and the fact that Mark Cuban really believes in the mission,” said Zakowski. “We’re really glad he gets it.”