Startup Fuel

Perky Jerky Now Powering the Startup Scene

Perky Jerky may no longer have the caffeine of two Red Bulls, but it has startup appeal.
perky jerky Perky Jerky Now Powering the Startup Scene

TAKE IT AWAY, PLEASE.

Perky Jerky has no preservatives, no nitrates, and uses all organic components for its marinade. The “world’s first performance-enhancing meat snack” also happens to be soaked in guarana, a berry that contains caffeine, which gives the jerky a distinctly speedy kick and also makes it taste a bit chemical-y. Unsurprisingly, it’s popular with the energetic personalities that populate the startup scene.

WeWork Labs resident and founder Jesse Middleton was envious upon seeing on Twitter that Perky Jerky had sent Betabeat a sample batch:

Perky Jerky, founded by two tech entrepreneurs, Brian Levin and Matt Keiser, has been making its way around the startup scene. “Entrepreneurs that are successful in one industry, I’m a believer, can be successful in other industries,” Mr. Keiser told Betabeat.

But how does the jerky get to the startups? It’s available in 25,000 stores, Mr. Keiser said, including GNC, Walmart, Walgreens, Home Depot and 7-11. The company also sells its product at wholesale prices to startups, as a kindred sign of support. Bessemer Ventures senior partner Rob Stavis, who is an investor in Perky Jerky, likes to send jerky care packages to Bessemer companies including Zynga and Yext. And of course Ben Lerer, seen munching the snack on Betabeat’s own web series The Pitch, is a fan.

First, Thrillist discovered Perky Jerky and included the snack in its newsletter. Then, the Perky Jerky cofounders happened to both be in New York (the company is based in Denver) when someone at a Thrillist-sponsored party tweeted about the snack. “There was a party on a boat that Thrillist was throwing,” Mr. Keiser recalled. “We grabbed a bag of jerky, headed over to the boat and crashed the party.” He was able to talk Mr. Lerer into investing in Perky Jerky and his other startup, email ad platform LiveIntent, at the same time.

Perky Jerky suffered a setback when its product had to dial down the caffeine and the caffeine-centric marketing in order to comply with U.S. Department of Agriculture regulations, which specify that manufacturers can’t add caffeine to food in order to make it stimulating. Perky Jerky had to change its marketing from “CAFFEINATED MEAT SNACK” to “FLAVORED WITH GUARANA.” “We prefer not to use the ‘c’ word when we call it an ultra-premium food,” Mr. Keiser said. “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has determined in its great widsom that foods are not allowed to be fortified with caffeine.”

Still, the jerky is buzzy enough to be popular with founders and coders who keep long hours. It’s also buzzy in a marketing sense, with the kind of Twitter-fueled, viral hype startuppers really appreciate. The company has created a “Jerky Suit” to which 800 bags of Perky Jerky can be affixed with Velcro. Blogs can’t stop writing about it. Our favorite headline goes to Geekosystem: “So Hey, Caffeinated Beef Jerky.” Runner-up goes to Maxim, for “Jerky Boys.” We’re surprised Perky Jerky didn’t spray the crowds at SXSW with its “nickel bags” and win Breakout App. Perhaps it’s because the company is on a startup budget.

Though Mr. Keiser argues that Perky Jerky is a “healthy functional food, instead of chips and energy bars,” Betabeat found the snack terrifying. It tastes like beef jerky soaked in Red Bull, which was literally the first recipe, and it made us feel wayy too racyy on top of our customary two cups of coffee before noon. But because it was still beef jerky, and beef jerky is great, we couldn’t stop snacking on it. We still can’t. We have seven bags left after passing them around the newsroom. COME TAKE THEM AWAY.

Follow Adrianne Jeffries on Twitter or via RSS. ajeffries@observer.com