From Industry Pioneer to Helping LGBTQ Entrepreneurs: How Bryan Janeczko Turned Dark Times into Impact

Crunchbase Spotlight is a series that celebrates diversity and inclusion in entrepreneurship, venture capital, and tech by profiling people of color, women, and individuals who identify as LGBTQ.

Bryan Janeczko, Crunchbase SpotlightWisconsin. Home of the Green Bay Packers, the Harley-Davidson Museum, the largest production of dairy products in the U.S., and birthplace of serial entrepreneur Bryan Janeczko.

Janeczko is the founder of Gro, a free tool to help aspiring entrepreneurs start out smart.

Prior to Gro, Janeczko pioneered an entirely new industry that has completely redefined how consumers purchase food and started a nonprofit to help LGBTQ founders get started using his own experience as an entrepreneur who happens to be gay.

How Janeczko got to where he’s at today is a story of dark times, sacrifice, and taking risks. To tell this story, we first have to go back in time.

From London to Wall Street

Janeczko’s business career began in London where he interned at Meryll Lynch studying finance after graduating from Marquette University in Milwaukee.

After a year at one of the top wealth management firms and in one of the leading financial services hubs in the world, he decided to put his newfound experience to work back in the U.S. He packed his bags and bought a one-way ticket to New York where he would find himself on Wall Street eventually joining financial services juggernaut, Morgan Stanley.

Despite climbing the corporate ladder, like many entrepreneurial-minded people, Janeczko felt his ambition to start an online business constantly tugging at him. As fate would have it, a close friend, Mark Newhouse, had the same ambition.

Together, the duo decided to take the plunge and start a business. The question was: what kind of business?

While at Morgan Stanley, Janeczko had a status quo shattering idea. Drawing inspiration from his interest in health and his travels across Asia learning about eastern cooking and philosophy, he came up with the idea of creating a company that provided fresh meals with the convenience of online ordering. As the co-founders iterated on the idea, Newhouse came up with the idea of creating an online business that delivers meals directly to consumers to make it easy for people to eat healthy.

If this sounds familiar, it’s because companies like Blue Apron and Sun Basket use the same business model.

Keep in mind, Janeczko was at Morgan Stanley in the early 2000s. On-demand food delivery companies past and present didn’t launch until years later.

Needless to say, the co-founders had an idea they both believed in and that the market hadn’t seen before.

NuKitchen was born.

Pioneering the Online Meal Delivery Industry

Launched in 2004, NuKitchen was the first direct-to-consumer meal delivery company focused on providing healthy meals freshly made, which paved the way for the online meal delivery industry we know today.

While being first to market certainly had its benefits, it wasn’t an easy journey.

Life as an entrepreneur is hard. The ups and downs of running a business can take a toll mentally, physically and financially. Janeczko describes his personal experience as “The darkest days of my life.”

He found himself living in a rent-stabilized apartment and selling everything he had, including liquidating his 401k, just to keep NuKitchen afloat in the early days.

However, years of sacrifice and learning on the fly would soon pay off.

In 2007, the company caught the eye of billionaire Peter Thiel. Despite market uncertainty at the time, NuKitchen was able to raise capital with Thiel leading the round.

With enough runway to focus on growth, the NuKitchen team set out to look for a distribution partner that could help them expand their network and sales capacity.

In 2008, Janeczko met the perfect partner to help them scale their distribution; NutriSystem–a provider of weight-loss products and services. That same year, NutriSystem acquired NuKitchen in a multimillion-dollar deal.

For Janeczko, brighter days were ahead.

Helping Entrepreneurs Start Out Smart and Grow

With a successful exit now added to his resume, Janezcko spent the next 10-plus years starting new ventures and using his experience to help aspiring entrepreneurs along the way, including:

  • Co-founding StartOut, a nonprofit with over 15,000 members that focuses on helping LQBTQ founders get started.
  • Founding Wicked Start, a self-paced e-learning platform that automated the process of starting a company.
  • Working with Founder Institute as director of their New York location advising new startups.

Now, more than ever, entrepreneurship is a career path to which many people are drawn. This is especially true when unemployment is high as is the case during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Janezcko’s latest venture, Gro, was built to help aspiring entrepreneurs start smart by learning from those who have walked the path. Partnering with successful entrepreneurs and industry experts, Gro’s free online resources can be used by anyone who wants to turn an idea into a company and learn all the nuances that go into it–from raising capital to developing a business plan.

With a mission of helping entrepreneurs dramatically increase the success rate of their new businesses, Gro’s learning management system has an opportunity to fuel entrepreneurship education on a global scale.

To cap off over a decade of highs and lows as an entrepreneur, Janezcko joined former NuKitchen investor Peter Thiel on Business Insider’s list of the top 23 LGBTQ people in tech.

  • Originally published May 20, 2020, updated May 5, 2023