Online grocery Weee's Larry Liu on delivering in a pandemic

This undated photo provided by Weee Inc. shows Weee founder Larry Liu. Virtual grocery shopping became more popular during the pandemic lockdowns, and Weee, a startup focused on Asian grocery delivery, was no exception. (Weee via AP)
This undated photo provided by Weee Inc. shows Weee founder Larry Liu. Virtual grocery shopping became more popular during the pandemic lockdowns, and Weee, a startup focused on Asian grocery delivery, was no exception. (Weee via AP)

Virtual grocery shopping became more popular during the pandemic lockdowns, and Weee, a startup focused on Asian grocery delivery, was no exception.

Its founder, Larry Liu, came to the U.S. from China as a young engineer nearly two decades ago. He said he started the company because he was dissatisfied with the selection available from local Asian grocery stores and by long it took to reach them from his home.

He spoke with The Associated Press about how the pandemic affected grocery delivery, the company's expansion goals after it recently raised over $300 million and how Weee's customers saw then pandemic coming long before other Americans. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Q: Why did you start Weee?

A: In the Bay Area where I live, it took me 25 minutes to get to the closest Chinese store, and it took us two minutes to get to a mainstream supermarket. Asian markets were relatively harder to get access to, and also the shopping experience is not great. They're usually very crowded, and the assortment is usually pretty old. A lot of the (brands) were actually from the 80s, when most of the stores were set up in this country.

Q: What was the effect of the coronavirus pandemic?

A: We have a lot of Chinese immigrant customers, so the pandemic actually impacted our customers psychologically before everybody.

Q: What was that psychological effect?