SAF alum cooks up a gourmet startup alongside a Michelin-trained chef

 Co-founder and CEO of SPATULA Ian Weng (MAcc '13) shares his career Journey and his venture's secret sauce in revolutionizing the meal kit delivery industry

by Alyanna Versolatto

Image of Ian WengSeasoned entrepreneur Ian Weng (MAcc ’13) began his career at KPMG in audit and advisory services after graduating from the Master of Accounting program. While at KPMG he gained a breadth of knowledge and obtained his CPA, CA designation. Like many University of Waterloo alums, however, he caught the entrepreneurship bug and wanted to create something⁠—so he ended up leaving KPMG to start his first tech startup called ChopChop.

Ultimately, this first venture didn’t pan out—but it inspired him to work for a fast-growing startup to learn about its operations and successes with the goal of founding another venture in the future. When Weng joined Uber Eats, it was only a year-old globally, so he was able to help build the business from the ground up during his three and a half years there, with his final role being head of strategy for the Canadian business. He enjoyed the fast-paced nature of the tech scene and being able to wear multiple hats, however, he was ready for another change, and this time it took him overseas.

In a place renowned for its cuisine, it only made sense that Weng found his foodtech startup idea while living in France. Yet, it wasn’t culinary school that led Weng to Fontainebleau in France, it was the MBA program at INSEAD. Fontainebleau is a tiny town, and Weng was living there during the height of the pandemic when many restaurants were closed. And so, like many students that don’t cook and favour convenience, it left Weng to shop at the local grocery store. He was surprised to discover how high quality and gourmet the frozen food options were—particularly from a brand called Picard Surgelés. And so, he thought, if the French have embraced flash frozen food as a premium option, why can’t Canadians?

With the unfavorable connotations that some Canadians currently have about frozen food, Weng knew his startup SPATULA needed to approach meal kit delivery differently from its competitors and that he needed a high-performing team to accomplish that. Shela Kwong, a Registered Dietician and marketer (also Weng’s wife) helped develop the initial concept and brand, and co-founder Wallace Wong built the culinary side of the business. Wong is a Michelin-trained celebrity chef and provided the expertise and passion needed to create high-quality frozen dishes that are ready in under 10 minutes with just a pan and a spatula.

The School of Accounting and Finance caught up with Weng recently to learn more about SPATULA, his entrepreneurial journey, and his advice for aspiring professionals who have dreams of building a startup.