Recently we got to catch up with David Bloom, cofounder and CEO of Ordr.in. During our interview he introduces us to Ordr.in and shares with us some lessons from the early stages of starting their company. Ordr.in is funded by Google Ventures, a venture capital investment arm of Google and was part of Techstars.
Tell us what your company is all about.
Ordr.in is an open platform for restaurant ecommerce. Our APIs and other tools make it easy for anyone to build a food ordering app or integrate food ordering in any existing site, app or device. Our mission is to power generations upon generations of new restaurant commerce solutions.
How did you come up with the idea for your company?
I used to run the restaurant business development team at American Express. My job was to get tens of millions of people to spend more with restaurants. Ecommerce was part of that but my only options were to promote a bunch of local online food ordering site or chain restaurants. The amount of opportunity in the space is crazy but there are very few tools that would help me take advantage. So I recruited my co-founder/CTO Felix Sheng to this amazing mission to build Ordr.in. He handles the crazy technical challenges and I focus on the business.
Can you walk us through some of the early stages of starting Ordr.in?
We had a vision for the company but had to educate a lot of people. There were no models in our industry to follow, no way to say we are X for Y. In the beginning I called everyone I could think of and asked “If we can do this would you participate?” Every time they said yes I sent them a contract. The more people said yes, the more confident we got in our plan. Of course one day a huge customer said yes and suddenly we really had to deliver. We thought that we were on our way but that first customer wound up being just a (super important) step on the journey. We had to keep engaging customers, listening and iterating. Only now, two years later, do I really feel like we are where we should be.
You were part of Google Ventures, how have they helped you? Why Google Ventures?
Why Google Ventures? Why not! They come with terrific prestige and teams of experts that help the portfolio with everything from design to hiring to engineering. They’ve been great supporters. Plus when we introduce ourselves as a Google Ventures portfolio company people pay attention.
What was it like going through TechStars?
TechStars was an amazing experience. Access to smart people in every field, terrific feedback and the right kind of pressure to succeed that helped us focus even more. So many doors opened for us. And the alumni experience is powerful- many engaged people to call for ideas, intros or references. I can’t say enough about it. But I also don’t recommend it for everyone. TechStars is an intensive, feedback-driven experience. If you are not the kind of team that thrives on feedback and pressure, don’t do it. Do what you think is right for your company.
What progress do you hope to make in the next year?
We are on track to having the largest online food ordering network in the country- more restaurants in more places than any other source. We are immensely proud to have done this without a sales team. Between growing our restaurant network and launching new ordering tools we expect a huge year in 2013.
Any do’s / don’ts when trying to get funding?
Don’t go into business to raise money. Raise money to stay in business. You do this by building a business you can’t stop thinking about, that you absolutely must see come to life. Don’t start by wondering what will get investment. That’s a terrible plan. Totally inauthentic. Good investors will sense that and run away.
What advice would you like to give to an entrepreneur thinking about writing their first business plan?
Start with a belief, something you really care about, and then keep making it simpler. The more complexity, the more opportunities to fail. And talk to people until you can communicate it so easily that they get as excited as you are. That’s when you know you’re on to something real. But don’t worry about an elaborate business plan. Just identify the market, the drivers of that market and why your approach will matter to customers. And then build it.
What were some mistakes that you learned from?
The biggest lesson we learned was that no one will “make” your business. New clients, nice press, a spot in an incubator…all are great but nothing will assure your success. From the beginning we had a philosophy that we could make mistakes but not fatal ones; that things might take longer to hockey stick. We kept our burn rate low and never assumed big revenue would save us. It kept us alive through lean times so we had time to figure things out. I am so glad we did that!
A massive thank you to David for taking the time out of his busy schedule to put down some awesome answers to our questions. We look forward to catching back up with Ordr.in next year to see how things are going. You can also follow them on twitter!
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