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A Carroll County startup that has created an oven out of “The Jetsons” that remotely cooks dinner while you’re at work hit its $25,000 Kickstarter goal in just one hour and now plans to start shipping its first products to customers.

Eldersburg-based Celcy increased its Kickstarter goal to $250,000 after the successful fundraise on Sept. 13. The Kickstarter will fund 100 pre-ordered Celcy units for customers in early 2024 and produce extra units for influencers and chefs, co-founder Max Wieder said. The company has raised $400,000 since its founding in 2018 from the Maryland Technology Development Corp. (TEDCO), W Ventures and other investors. The company will be manufacturing Celcy in Baltimore through a partnership with Harbor Designs and Manufacturing.

The Celcy combines a freezer that stores pre-made meals and an oven to cook the food within one appliance. The unique device came about from founders Eddie Holzinger and Wieder making fun of expensive ovens and inventing outlandish features that could justify the high price. After several hours of ribbing, the duo realized their experience at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Lab could make some of those outlandish features into a reality.

“A friend of ours oven died and he was ranting at us for hours about what oven he should get, like a $1,500 oven with Wi-Fi,” Wieder said. “ I said, ‘Why spend $1,500 on an oven with Wi-Fi? If you’re going to do that, you might as well get a built-in freezer and robotic arms.’ That was the lightbulb moment.”

The device tries to blend the convenience of the microwave with the quality of home cooking. A microwave can reheat frozen meals very quickly but the texture and flavor often suffer. A traditional oven gets better results and achieves better texture, but takes time and set-up labor like preheating the oven and loading the food manually into the appliance.

To use the Celcy oven, the user first loads several pre-made frozen meals into the Celcy’s freezer. When a customer is at work or lounging around the house, they can send a command to the device through a mobile app to schedule when they want a meal to be cooked. For example, a customer could tell the device to make sure a meal of pad thai is ready by 5:30 p.m. when they get home from work.

The device will automatically move the meal from the freezer into the oven and cook it with several techniques, ranging from air frying and broiling to the standard heat from convection cooking. The different techniques mean Celcy can achieve better quality than a microwave. The connected freezer and remote cooking technology make Celcy stand out compared to other smart devices like the Tovala oven, which can’t remotely start the cooking process without a customer manually loading in the dish and scanning a recipe code.

A Celcy meal can take the oven an hour to make since it uses traditional cooking technology, but the ability to program a meal in advance makes up for the additional cooking time, Wieder said.

Wieder believes the oven will appeal to young, single people who do not have the time to cook but also do not want to spend money on constantly ordering takeout. To appeal to that demographic, Wieder is trying out ways to offer low-cost options. The appliance has a sticker price of around $700 but Wieder plans to offer the product as a subscription where a customer can purchase a Celcy for $50 as long as they commit to buying 15 meals a month for six months. The average price for a Celcy Meal is $12, significantly less expensive than a meal delivered by Uber Eats or DoorDash.

Celcy is working with several meal companies such as Fat Choi to curate meals for the oven. Wieder eventually wants to build Celcy into a more versatile tool by letting users cook food at home through chef-created recipes tailored to the Celcy’s abilities. The initial focus on pre-made meals is intended to make the product as immune as possible to customer error in the early stages of the launch to build trust in the underlying technology.

“If you put something in your oven and you burn it, you don’t go ‘It’s my oven’s fault.’ You blame yourself,” Wieder said. “If Celcy burned your meal because you put in the wrong temperature or cooked your meal wrong when you programmed it in, you would blame Celcy. We have to start with the pre-curated meals so we build trust first.”

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