Written by: Felicity Spiers
At the start of 2014, I quit my government funded job in marketing for education with 400+ staff members and went to work for Mobi2Go, a SaaS (software as a service) startup with 4+ staff members. No, I am not insane, and yes, I stand by my decision 100 million percent. Let me tell you why.
Mobi2Go provides online and mobile food ordering software for hospitality businesses, and in August 2014, we officially processed over $100 million dollars in orders for our clients. For only three incredibly fast and roller coaster years in business, that is quite the achievement. So how did we get there? And what does it mean?
Gather around the fireplace friends. It’s time to share the story of Mobi2Go and the $100 million club. The e-true hollywood story of startups.
I’d heard successful startups, even if wildly different in concept and scope, shared some commonalities:
Within my first few days of starting here, I knew I was on to something good. Things just happened. There was a buzz. And a beer pong…. I mean, ping pong table. Later, I learned this “buzz” was not in fact a buzz, but what our founder and CEO Tarik Mallett calls “the hustle”.
There is a kind of romantic, cool vibe attached to the notion of a startup, and it’s easy to fall for the hype. People hear the word “startup” and think of Uber, Spotify, Pinterest. While there is definitely some “cool” in startups and I want you to know that I straight up love my job (I’ll talk about that later), the reality is startup life is very, very hard work. There is uncertainty. Risk. It’s not about swanning around, attending functions to talk about how you’re part of the startup club. It’s all about the hustle.
Chuck, Dachshund number 1 and the unofficial Mobi2Go mascot.
Tarik Mallett is Mobi2Go’s CEO and founder. He owns two dachshunds, is staunchly in the Apple camp, and is a vegetarian. I also highly suspect he does not sleep.
When I first met Tarik, I asked him about startup life and the advice he’d give to other budding entrepreneurs. He simply replied:
“Don’t get caught up in the hype. Hustle like a mo-fo.”
And that’s Tarik. Probably one of the only CEO’s you’ll ever meet who also mops our bathroom floors. Still think startups are glamorous and cool?
Tarik started his professional career as a Manager in the cyber crime team at the very corporate and well known PwC, but his entrepreneurial spirit and background in hospitality started at a much earlier age.
Tarik grew up in the hospitality environment. He worked in his parents cafes in his teenage years, but on the side he would print out bridge scoring sets and sell them to his grandparents friends. He set up a dating website, aptly named secret liaisons, when he was just 16. He also created a website called NZ Flats while completing his Degree in Accounting and I.T at Victoria University of Wellington. These were the tell tale signs of an entrepreneur in the making.
“I was never going to be in corporate for ever. I lasted six and a half years longer than anyone thought I would.”
The GRPTXT license plate still proudly sits on the office mantlepiece.
Tarik first got the idea for Mobi2Go when he took a trip to San Francisco to work on some fraud cases.
He came across a company gaining traction in San Francisco at the time called Dodgeball. Dodgeball was founded by Dennis Crowley, who later developed Foursquare, and Tarik saw some potential to bring this exciting new technology over to New Zealand. The reality was NZ wasn’t ready for this technology yet, so Tarik built an alternative platform more suited to the New Zealand market. It was called GRPTXT (group text), a group SMS messaging system for bars and restaurants wanting to send out last minute specials to their customers via text message.
Pretty soon, restaurant owners were saying how great it would be if customers could text in their order for beer. Tarik knew text wasn’t the right medium for this service, but he knew the solution to the problem they were describing. Online and mobile ordering.
Online ordering was being delivered well on a global scale to the retail industry by the likes of Shopify at the time, but no one was providing the same functionality and level of service for the hospitality industry. Tarik remembers their initial pain points:
“Online and mobile ordering was what the hospitality industry wanted, but the only option in those days was a custom build. It was too expensive, too technical – in the too hard basket. The customers we wanted to work with also wanted their brand to stand out and not risk being harmed in a portal site.”
And that’s how Mobi2Go was born. Mobi2Go would allow the hospitality industry to let their customers order online directly from their own branded website at an affordable monthly cost under the SaaS model.
Mobi2Go started business with three flagship clients. HELL Pizza, Wholly Bagels and Habitual Fix. The reputation has grown and today we have clients in 257 cities across the world. Our clients range from 60+ store franchises to single store bakeries. Big names like BurgerFuel, Pita Pit, Pizza Hut Delivery Ireland, La Porchetta, Burger Wisconsin, Mexicali Fresh, to your cool emerging locals like Bird On A Wire, Mt Vic Chippery, Pizza Pomodoro and Iku Sushi. They are all unique and we work hard to help them stand out and maintain their identity. We love them all.
Dion, Tarik, Rob and Chris celebrating another new client live with online ordering.
Over the past three years, we have generated over $100 million dollars in online and mobile food orders for our clients collectively throughout the world. This is a killer example of online and mobile ordering technology having a positive impact on the whole quick service restaurant and hospitality industry. It is also an example of technology making life easier for the modern consumer like you and me. We’ve come so far from texting in our beer orders. Tarik summarises it nicely:
“We’ve created something that people are using on a day to basis, to help businesses strengthen and grow. We’ve got clients that have had to take on extra staff to deal with the new success. We’re generating jobs and helping with efficiencies.”
It’s this kind of stuff that gets you out of bed every morning. Aside from the emails from Ireland at 2am, of course. This $100 million dollars symbolises so much more to us than just money. It’s creating something out of nothing. Growth. Relationships. Hard work validated. A product customers love using. An idea that worked. It’s the tip of the iceberg, and we’re ready to get to the next level.
Friday night drinks spent checking out Saturn’s rings on Oculus rift.
Everyone gets frustrated with corporate jobs from time to time. There’s structures, policies and procedures. Startups don’t force you to conform to a set of rules and you can go in your own direction, which is part of the allure.
But it’s also true there are ups and downs with startups. Tarik agrees the roller coaster cliche is fitting:
“Startups are a constant battle for survival. with a corporate job you’re guaranteed a pay day. With a startup you’re not. There’s no guarantee you get to come back next week. But that’s what keeps it interesting. ”
So, are startups cool? I suppose it all depends on your definition of cool. I love my job. I get to wear whatever I want. I have flexible hours. We blast rad office tunes all day through Spotify. Tarik surprises us with treats on a weekly basis. I am not constrained by processes or office politics. I get to try new ideas and learn something new every day. I am working with insanely smart people who solve the unsolvable problems. I am helping to spread the word about an amazing product and service that people are using in 300 cities throughout the world, and that excites me. I think that’s pretty cool.
And I’m looking forward to joining the $1 billion club.
Felicity is Mobi2Go’s marketing and brand manager and content creator. She writes about online ordering and hospitality trends, tips, client success stories – basically anything to help restaurant owners understand online & mobile ordering and grow their businesses. Connect with Felicity on LinkedIn or email her directly: email@example.com