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26-year-old spent $15,000 on pizza—and turned it into more than $1 million in revenue: ‘The ROI is insane'

Source: Antimetal

How do you turn $15,000 into $1 million? Buy a lot of pizzas.

That's how it worked out for Matthew Parkhurst, co-founder and CEO of New York-based tech startup Antimetal. The company was ready to emerge from its beta phase, and Parkhurst wanted to make potential clients aware that Antimetal even existed.

So, he bought them lunch.

On April 4, the 26-year-old sent out more than 1,000 pizzas — from local pizzerias in New York and San Francisco —  in boxes adorned with his company's name and contact information. Any pies unable to be delivered were donated to delivery drivers, all of whom received tips of "a couple of hundred bucks per driver," Parkhurst says.

Antimetal spent roughly $15,000 on pizzas, packaging and targeted delivery to potential clients, venture capital firms and even tech influencers with large social media followings.

It worked: Roughly 75 of the companies that received pizza have become Antimetal clients, Parkhurst says — creating a bump of more than $1 million in annualized net revenue, according to documents reviewed by CNBC Make It.

"Obviously, the ROI [return on investment] is insane on the revenue side, compared to what we spent," Parkhurst says. "And, it was really great all around, I think, because we got to support small businesses."

A tastier version of a cold email

Antimetal's business model relies on helping other startups save money on their cloud infrastructure costs. If your business spends $50,000 per month on Amazon Web Services, you can pay Antimetal $599 per month to find inefficiencies in your AWS plan and reduce that cost, the company says.

Parkhurst's target customer: any tech company that spends a lot of money on cloud services. "We have one of those products that's really easy to sell. It's like free money, to some degree," he says.

But every tech CEO, venture capitalist or influencer receives a lot of emails. Rahul Sonwalkar, CEO of San Francisco-based data analysis startup Julius AI, says he vaguely recalls seeing the name "Antimetal" in a cold pitch he'd received, and promptly ignored.

Then, pizza showed up at his office. While eating the unexpected lunch with some of his employees, Sonwalkar checked social media platform X and learned that Antimetal was "the talk of the town," he says.

Paul Klein, the founder of San Francisco-based tech startup Browserbase, has a similar story. He'd heard the name Antimetal, but had no clue what the company did before receiving his company's pizza, he says.

Both startups got in touch with Antimetal, signed up for its monthly subscription service and say they'll stick with it as long as it continues saving them money.

"As a founder ... there's a lot of noise. So the fact that he did something interesting basically snapped me out of just automatically ignoring the cold [messages]," says Sonwalkar.

Pizza wasn't the only option Parkhurst considered, he says. He wanted a viral moment that got people talking about Antimetal, which ruled out branded swag — too easily forgettable. Champagne was also ruled out: too expensive.

Even the $15,000 Antimetal spent on pizza represented "pretty much the entire marketing budget" for its launch, says Parkhurst. The results easily exceeded his expectations, he adds.

"There's literally no bad press out of this [to my knowledge], which is extremely rare. I think whenever you do anything on that scale, someone finds something to be pissed off about ... Nobody was mad they got the pizza."

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