Last year, I wrote about Entrée as an up-and-coming student startup in Austin, TX. Since then, they’ve pivoted from their original idea and are now focusing on creating an order-ahead service for restaurants.
“Entrée lets you order ahead from the best food trucks and restaurants by texting, using Facebook Messenger, or messaging us on Slack,” said Sid Gutta, Entrée’s founder.
The Original Idea
In the spring of 2015, Entrée presented their original product at Longhorn Startup Demo Day. The team had developed a new point-of-sale system for the food service industry, hoping to make restaurants more efficient. They ran a pilot program with a few clients in Austin, but by November, they found that Entrée didn’t have enough features to compete with existing solutions. The cost to match the competition was huge.
“I debated pouring more money into the product, but after speaking with several advisors and other entrepreneurs who spent time in the restaurant tech space, I decided we [had] to shift our focus,” Gutta said. “Restaurants, like all businesses, care about their bottom line and anything we build should directly increase profit. We decided to center Entrée around increasing orders and bringing new customers to the restaurant directly.”
Instead of making the in-house experience better, Entrée shifted focus to outside the physical boundaries of the restaurant. After some thought, the team decided to quickly prototype a service to allow customers to order via text message. In early April 2016, they tested it with students at the University of Texas.
“The team wanted to get the test out there as soon as possible and some components weren’t ready,” remarked Gutta. “We didn’t advertise the test run until 11PM the night before.” Despite not being properly prepared, Gutta felt that the team found a huge amount of insight. “It was incredibly useful in terms of testing the product and understanding where we fell short in terms of marketing.”
By the end of April, Entrée had five merchants enrolled in its service.
Over the next year, Entrée plans to add restaurants outside of Austin. “My personal goal in the next year months is to have new merchants be able to sign themselves up on our website,” Gutta said. The company also mentioned they’re focusing on adding more food trucks to their service.
Entrée faces intense competition from existing apps such as GrubHub, Mr. Delivery, Eat24, and Postmates. These apps take the ordering experience a step further by offering delivery to the customer. Only time will tell if Entrée can succeed in this highly competitive space.
For Future Entrepreneurs
Siddharth Gutta also had some advice for people considering founding or joining a startup.
“Nearly everyone, myself included, does not have enough experience at first to run, build, or manage a successful startup the first time around,” Gutta asserted. “I failed my way through several projects and iterations of Entree (probably still more to come) before I really learned what I need to be doing.”
Gutta recommended founding a startup during college (when the risks are lower), or working at a startup with more experienced entrepreneurs.
“There is so much to learn by working for experienced entrepreneurs and experiencing how a successful startup operates,” Gutta remarked.
His last piece of advice? Stay objective to make the right decisions. “Groupthink happens often with any startup,” noted Gutta. “You want to be in a startup where you can voice your ideas and opinions at any time.”