David Bloom is the founder and CEO of Ordr.in. Along with his four coworkers, David is building an API that lets anyone build a food ordering service on any app, site or device – they are already partnered with American Express and Wyndham Worldwide, in addition to a range of startups and other businesses. Ordr.in was previously at Dogpatch Labs, and as of last week are working in a new office as part the of the TechStars program. David spoke to us about the restaurant industry and being part of start-up incubators, also providing some great advice for aspiring entrepreneurs.
Can you explain Ordr.in in your own words?
Ordr.in is an API for online food ordering and restaurant information exchange, we link together online food ordering services and restaurant around the country, organize all the data in a consistent format, give developers and corporate clients tools to build their own food ordering system from this consolidated network.
Did you have a “light bulb” moment or a particular inspiration that gave you the idea for Ordr.in?
I have been doing restaurant industry work for a number of years, starting with a job running restaurant business relations at American Express and later running operations for a food ordering website. In both jobs I experienced first-hand how fragmented and inefficient the restaurant industry is. I don’t remember a “light bulb” moment, but I’ve spent plenty of time with colleagues complaining and thinking about alternatives to the status quo. I finally decided to stop thinking and start building.
You’ve worked at a bunch of restaurant industry-related companies – where does your interest in food and restaurants come from?
I actually wound up on the Amex restaurant industry team by chance, but it turned out to be a great industry. It’s huge – more than $600 billion – it’s hugely relevant to the way people live and its interesting. People like food and talking about their experiences with food. You put those together and you have three things: big, interesting, and relevant. The industry also hasn’t changed business model in a long time, it has lagged, and here was the chance to change that model in some regard.
After coming up with the idea for Ordr.in, what was the first step in getting the company off of the ground?
Some startups take the stealthy approach but I really did the opposite of that. I talked to people I trusted in the industry, getting perspective and ideas, vetting my concept. As I got smarter about what I wanted to do I expanded the circle of people I shared with. Then started to try and test the sales potential, got verbal commitments and at some point realized I had a business. I did a lot work before starting the actual business.
How has the product changed from how you first envisioned it, what type of reassessments have you been forced to make?
I think in the beginning, we expected everything to go faster. But when you want clients like American Express, the sales cycle is quite slow – they don’t easily partner with startups. Our early success was amazing but hid challenges. We wasted time chasing false positives. Our core business remains but we’ve rearranged the product pipeline and been much more aggressive about finding new ways to monetize our assets.
You guys were at Dogpatch labs before and now you are working at TechStars, can you tell us about your experience being part of these well-known incubators?
We began working from home, then moved into Dogpatch lab and now are at TechStars, for like a week or so. Different incubators do different things. At Dogpatch, we got the chance to sit side-by-side with other entrepreneurs, working with those people and building off that energy. Dogpatch was an awesome place to get started and organize the company. We expect Tech Stars to be much more structured with a heavily caffeinated set of expectations. Just different experiences for different points of our development. The reputation of an incubator is nice but reputation won’t build your business for you.
What are your daily responsibilities?
I have a spiral notebook with a list of to-do’s. Sometimes it gets totally out of control! But basically everything boils down to three things: knowing everything we can about our customers and markets; making sure we don’t run out of money; and gathering the best possible team to help me. And of course, I do pretty much everything other than code.
What do you feel is the best part of running a startup?
The pure creativity of it all. We’re building something that doesn’t exist and we think it could be huge. That element of it provides a ton of adrenaline.
What do you feel is the worst part of running a startup?
The unbelievable oscillation of emotional highs and lows. In a single day I can go from “oh my god, we’re gonna make it,” to “oh my god, no we aren’t.” That happens in a matter of minutes. It happens every week, and its tough to swallow. And for a guy like me that is married with kids it can be doubly tough to drag my wife and kids on this ride. I spent a big chunk of my wife’s birthday dinner on the phone resolving a customer problem. That felt crappy, to say the least.
What tips might you give to someone thinking of starting a company? What are some things to avoid?
Running a startup is hugely consuming and it is very hard for anyone to understand what it is like if they’ve not done it. Be sure to have amazing support- personal and professional- close to you! More practically, I wish I had understood how connected every decision is. For instance, your choice of programming language is a technical choice but also hits HR, product and economics. It is important to understand how all decisions can affect each other.