Lean startup · Failure

How do you approach your last attempt?

Lucas E Wall

January 13th, 2016

My team and I have decided to give our project until mid-year.

Let's say June 30th. During the last three years, we tested several business concepts and had not, either, generated enough traction, or found (as of today), profitable ways to scale them fast.

Our primary area of focus is the restaurant and food & beverages industries. We expect the solution will apply to the retail industry, as well. We concentrate on these industries because of the amount of data produced on a daily basis. Every location dispensing food and drinks has a POS system and each item produced and sold is recorded.

We have interviewed, during the last year only, more than 150 individuals within the industry and have accumulated a wealth of knowledge that is invaluable. We are still developing, testing, and demoing, a solution to a fascinating problem, you can get a grasp of it on our website (roichecker.com), but I'd like to repeat it here.

Most restaurant operators struggle with inconsistent foot-traffic at some point. Other players speak of the challenges of anticipating customer behavior. Those are two faces of the same coin, one expressed from the Operations point of view, the other one from Marketing, per industry definitions. We believe we can make valuable contributions towards solving the problem by creating a layer of knowledge so far unseen in the industry.

One of our major roadblocks so far is talking to potential customers with the right level of decision-making ability. It has been challenging to get quality and volume within the timelines of a startup. We are active on LinkedIn, we have networked and continue to do so, but any advice on how to create these conversations is welcomed.

How do you approach your last efforts to make sure you did everything? We are not going "quietly into the night" and want to make sure we give these last weeks everything we can.


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Todor Velev Managing Partner, EEI Network

January 13th, 2016

Lucas, probably what is missing is the bridge from promise to results. Basically, it is not clear what you are doing and how this will help any food & beverages place.

Probably you should talk to 2-3 places you know, and ask them to apply your methodology and record the results. It might be tricky for a restaurant to disclose its numbers, but if you can publish two-three case studies (before and after your involvement) in terms of traffic, average purchase per ticket, repeat clients, etc., etc., and what was the return on hypothetical investment in your services, you will get traction. And if your three case studies can cover different segments of restaurants in terms of turnover, type of service, location, etc., this might be a very good prove of concept.

Having in mind that impact measurement should be mid-term (not only the first month after implementing your system / suggestions), June seems a bit early to give up J.

 

Michael Barnathan

January 13th, 2016

If you're "giving it until" a specific time, you've probably already decided it's not going to work. I'd recommend taking a step back, figuring out the fundamental issue or incorrect hypothesis that has been preventing it from gaining traction, and adjusting your efforts to fix the issue / create something that you think will be sustainable.

If you're approaching the venture from a position of despair, you're not going to be successful. Success takes time.

Don't get depressed. Just find the right course correction, test it out, and keep going. That's how you win! No one ever said entrepreneurship was easy - but it's worth it :)

David Albert Founder & Principal at GreyGoo

January 13th, 2016

I think your website could use some love. It's a nice design but as a restaurant operator I don't get a sense of your product's value proposition. You're telling me what the challenge is (driving guests) but not how your product can solve the problem. Restaurant operators, as I'm sure you know, are extremely busy people and they need to understand your value proposition in the first 3 seconds of hitting the site. As it stands, I have to scroll 2/3rds down the page to read the solution.

When I get to the solution, I'm lost. What? It sounds like techno-babble. Tell me how it fixes my problem--driving more guests to my location(s). Restaurateurs don't care about the "Kaiburr algorithm" they care about how your technology helps them.

Ultimately you end with "Get a demo" but to be honest, I have no idea what I'm getting a demo for. Is it just analytics? Is it actionable analytics? Is it analytics that then provides recommendations?

Sorry for the tough love--I've worked a lot with restaurants and food operations in my 20+ year career so I know how insanely tough it is to get decision makers in that industry to pay attention to you--you have to immediately tell them how you're going to solve a huge pain point, then they'll listen.

Michael Brill Technology startup exec focused on AI-driven products

January 13th, 2016

Definitely agree with Michael... maybe you spend this time thinking about doing something different rather than better. Try to build excitement into a pivot instead of grinding through the last months.

I suppose it's possible that your problem isn't getting enough conversations with decision-makers, but I doubt it... it doesn't seem like you'd be so keen to flush your company because you're not good at lead gen. That's a solvable problem.

You may get some great feedback here, but I'd recommend investing in knocking out a deck that gives plenty of context and describes the problem as you see it and sit down 1:1 with folks with product management experience (or see if you can grab a small group from FD and do a google hangout) and really ferret out the issues and ideas. I'm always surprised what outside perspective can add *if* they have enough contextual data. 

Karen Leventhal

January 13th, 2016

 As a caveat, I don't know that restaurant industry. But as a non technical person often trying to assess technical products for my business, I find there is often too much technical language and I'm not sure what that means for my business. Your landing page has so much information. As a layman, I think it could be tightened up. . From your website, I'm gathering you provide analytics to help restaurants increase profit by understanding their customer behavior? 

Pat LaPointe Growth Driver in Marketing Analytics, Data, and Technology

January 13th, 2016

A few earlier comments touched on this... but there are significant differences between the four main restaurant segments in terms of who buys what and why.  Independents tend to be very unsophisticated and just want you to tell them what to try next. Small chains (2-5 locations) are smarter and more interested in analytics, but tend to lack the resources to do much other than alter social media - so your insight-digging needs to be presented in a way that is relatable to their executable options; still tends to be owners doing the buying. Mid-size chains (up to 100 locations) will likely have some data/analytics expert either on staff or on contract.  Tend to be very interested in things like this, and have $ to play with, but need lots of hand-holding to figure out what to do and to validate better outcomes. Very important to have a clear and sufficient services bundled into the offering for those mid-tiers.  Larger (national) chains have whole internal departments that spend their times doing precisely such analysis.  If you have truly built a better mousetrap algorithmically, be prepared to prove it within 5 minutes of getting in the door, because you're talking to very technical buyers.

So the answer to your question of how to get in to the right decision-makers starts with being clear about who your ideal customer profile is and then refining your value proposition to appeal to that type of buyer.  Once you do that, there are several good ways to get to decision-makers in each segment. 

Vijay MD Founder Chefalytics, Co-owner Bite Catering Couture, Independent consultant (ex-McKinsey)

January 13th, 2016

Quick look at your site, I don't see a WIFM (whats in it for me) as a potential customer. 

It's great that you understand there's a complex problem, but I don't see anything that says that you can actually do anything about it in a way that would be specific to my business model (e.g., QSR vs. diner vs. fine dining).

Rob G

January 13th, 2016

Lucas, 
1. what does your team look like? 
2. How did you decide to target the restaurant market first... notoriously difficult market to penetrate. 
3. can you give us your 1 sentence value proposition? 

Shobhit Verma

January 13th, 2016

Man, I can relate with you so much. 
Without getting into the details, I can tell you that I know the internals of a very similar startup which has several million dollars in funding and yet from my perspective are not doing very well.
It is not a good problem to work on. If the loss of opportunity cost is high, pivot.
I can talk details on phone if you wish. 

Michael Beddows Digital Marketing-as-a-Service: Helping Marketers Increase Customer Acquisition, Retention & Expansion

January 13th, 2016

Hi Lucas, I feel your pain. The first thought that comes to mind is - have you considered partnering with companies that have relationships with the right level of decision makers? You know your industry better than I do, of course, but I can think of several companies that might just have those relationships: Yelp, Seamless, Foursquare, Zagat, OpenTable. My bet is those companies must be looking for new revenue streams. Some of the best companies have succeeded at the brink of defeat. Hang in there, Michael