One of my favorite roller coasters was the Batman and Robin ride at Six Flags Great Adventure in New Jersey. The ride was first introduced the year I was graduated from the University of Rochester in 1998. It was the first roller coaster I had been on that started off by shooting out the riders from the station with rapid acceleration. It was a prototype for a Linear Induction Motor propelled ride, the same technology that will soon play a role in Hyperloop operations. The experience was vastly different from other coasters I had been on which typically started out slow, followed by a large, drawn out climb. These traditional coasters gave the riders time to prepare for what was coming and creates a build up of anticipation. Not Batman and Robin... once that ride started it was adrenaline pumping excitement right from the launch. This last week, it became clear to me that running JUICER was going to be more like Batman and Robin, and not like the others.
Then Versus Now
I've been thinking about why this feels so different. My last company, Regatta Travel Solutions, developed an innovative reservations platform for hotel websites (a booking engine). Since the company was bootstrapped, I wasn't able to hire my first employee until after an entire year. Our product was arguably the best on the market in terms of functionality and we backed it up with personalized customer service. But it was a crowded space. There were already dozens of booking engines available.
That made it a hard sell:
- Hotels were impressed by the functionality but not enough to switch from a well-established incumbent solution.
- Moreover, hotels were overwhelmed by an entire universe of technology vendors promising to help them.
- When I launched the company in 2010, the industry was stable and there was no real compelling event.
JUICER feels unlike anything I've ever done before. I end each day asking myself "what is happening here?" (in a good way).
- Dozens of restaurants have started sharing full transaction data with us
- The largest restaurant groups in the world are talking to us about how to get involved
- Restaurant owners and CEOs want to see our investor materials
- Talented and accomplished people are reaching out to join us
Why does this feel so different?
I've read many articles about how the most successful CEOs surround themselves with people who are better and smarter than they are. I understand why. Working with Drew Patterson and Marco Benvenuti has been an exciting learning experience, and it gives me a lot of confidence that we can tackle anything together. It gives restaurants and technology providers in the industry the same confidence. This week, we confirmed our new COO and this person is going to take JUICER to a whole new level. Just one of the many causes for celebration this week.
We've received such a warm welcome from the entire industry. It's an extremely difficult period for restaurants and it's nice to see the stakeholders in the industry coming together to figure out how to weather the storm. Restaurants have realized that the world has changed and that their future survival depends on greater efficiency including technology-driven automation. It's clear that many restaurant groups, industry experts and technology providers all see the potential that dynamic pricing has and the role that it can play in the recovery.
Once you feel the g-force of the Batman and Robin roller coaster launching you out of the station, there's no turning back. You've made the decision to get on this ride and it's going to be one of the most fun and scary experiences you'll ever have. This week one of the largest restaurant groups in the country agreed to partner with us and to share data with us to help strengthen our algorithm. Separately, we had advanced discussions with two forward-thinking restaurant groups that believe so much in what we are working on that they are bringing their technology partners to the table to help make it happen.
These are the inflection points when you feel like everything is coming together. It's momentum, and it feels like a strong tailwind pushing you toward a successful outcome. We have now taken money from investors. As a CEO I take that extremely seriously. We have to stay focused, continue to build out this incredible team, and most importantly build trust with all stakeholders through transparency. Oh, and please keep all hands and feet inside the vehicle at all times.