Building and Selling in Grand Rapids

After being released from our seed accelerator, things have definitely ratcheted up a notch. Unsure of our future, our team, or even our beds, there was nothing to do but to put my nose to the grindstone. We folded up all the technology, every assumption, put them into black bags labeled “tbd” and loaded them into the cellar. We printed out a simple mockup of a dumbed down theoretical Facebook app. We thought it tested something We were hoping 3 restaurants would give us a shot over one weekend of prospecting.  Day 1, we got 5. Day 2, we got 4 more. Day 3, we started coding. Day 6, we released it. We thought the simple concept would get us into the door with the venues, and it did. But the simple concept didn’t resonate with diners and even though the sharing would have been very organic on Facebook, we didn’t receive nearly the demand we thought we would. We went to all the venues who had given us an opportunity and slipped a Thank You hallmark card underneath their doors and slinked away. In my mind, there were two test tubes, venues and diners. One was full, one was empty. Without chemicals in both, there would be no reaction. So, Alex, Steve1, and I sat there thinking on Day 8 of how we could flip the equation: what it’d take to fill the diner tube, even if it meant burning our venue side. In our subsequent interviews and in-restaurant observations, it was clear the volume of diners wouldn’t be there unless we opened it up to all: groups of 2 and 3 in addition to the big groups restaurants were so interested in (and what we had promised them). Days 9-10 (the weekend) were spent gathering emails and feedback on the diner-side, and when introducing the concept as wide open for 2-and-3 groups too, we didn’t receive a lotta no’s. Day 11 arrived (Monday) and we knew that catering to the diner-side could easily cost us half or more of our restaurant relationships. Knowing we had to get them on board with the new plan to make it even potentially work, we nervously headed in to the first few of them to try and explain our case. You are not reading this wrong, we were laughed out of one of one (Pita House). But! It didn’t come before we “made” them go along with our latest model. Goodness, that was surreal. It turns out, that’s just the way it went. Every single restaurant we went to relinquished their demands for groups of 6+, two of them even upped the ante. Why did they go along with us? Maybe it was our total BS charts with supposed “data”, or perhaps our focus on creating value-add experiences and customer returns instead of asking for margin-cutting groupon/coupon discounts and such. But here’s one thing I know for sure. If they agreed to continue with us a second time, when we’ve delivered nothing, two things must be true. 1. They believe we can help. 2. There exists a need. I’m not saying our current plan is going to work- I’m done making premature proclamations. But, as the very quotable Aaron Schaap keeps saying, “walking in with your pants down” helps.

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