“It’s 10% idea and 90% implementation. Having a great idea does not get you to the finish line. It’s all about the implementation of that idea.”
When you think of the culinary industry, chances are technology isn’t at the forefront. As more and more become open to adopting technological advances, emerging segments begin presenting highly lucrative opportunities for culinary entrepreneurs. Segments such as “food e-commerce” or “food analytics” are quite literally growing stronger by the day. Whether companies are streamlining inventory management, connecting buyers and suppliers, or in the case of BlueCart, doing all the above, we are in midst of exciting times.
For Konstantin Zvereff, co-founder and CEO of BlueCart, he worked tirelessly with co-founder Jagmohan Bansal to build an award-winning mobile app that streamlines the procurement process between restaurants and vendors. With the company gaining attention from Forbes, Entrepreneur Magazine, and CBS to name a few, not only have they achieved entrepreneurial success, but Konstantin knows a thing or two about building a successful culinary tech company. And that’s why we decided to catch up with him and glean some insights and instruction.
In our interview for the December Issue of Entrepreneurial Chef Magazine, Konstantin shared the highs and lows of entrepreneurship, the full story behind BlueCart, how they built a strong team, and the one key thing you must do every step of building a tech company to ensure you’re heading in the right direction.
For now, here’s a brief snapshot of Konstantin’s advice, in his words, for anyone looking to start a culinary tech company and trying their hand at culinary entrepreneurship.
From Idea to Implementation
The problem we identified was broken communication channels. We saw managers, chefs, bartenders at restaurants and venues who were spending hours using the phone, faxes, emails, or multiple websites to communicate with their suppliers. What was fascinating is they would have to repeat this task over and over again every single day. And it’s not a process that gets easier over time either.
On the other side, you had suppliers managing orders that were coming in through the phone, faxes, emails, and sales reps, and they were trying to aggregate and make sense of all the information flowing back and forth. As a result, there was a tremendous amount of error, human error, and data entry error. We set out to streamline everything by using BlueCart as a procurement platform.
The first version of BlueCart was actually designed by myself, and I didn’t have a technical background. It took about a year and a half to get a minimum viable product.
We created a very basic version of what we envisioned the product could be and put it in front of customers to see how they would react and begin the learning process. We wanted to know if they would use it or if they thought it was valuable. Based on that feedback, we then started adding complexities and sophistications to the product for it to have richer functionality.
Advice for Starting a Culinary Tech Company
The hospitality industry is literally one of the toughest industries when it comes to technology, for a number of reasons. Number one, the industry has razor thin margins. Any mistake from an operator has a very big price to pay. Number two, the industry is filled with individuals who work a tremendous amount of hours and have high-pressure jobs. As a result, you have people who have very little patience for distractions.
In that sense, entering or infiltrating yourself into this industry is extremely complicated. There are hundreds and hundreds of tech companies in the hospitality space that have gone out of business. Both because of the customer acquisition cost and not being able to effectively solve a problem.
When someone has a potential solution, they have to do a tremendous amount of research and ensure their solution adds significant and tangible value to the operators. Otherwise, there is a higher risk that it will have a negative consequence for everybody. Doing effective research, and ensuring you present your product to users as soon as possible to get feedback, are absolutely key.
We’ve come across many platforms started by people who believed their network within the hospitality industry guaranteed a certain level of success. But they miss the point because even their own network is dealing with very thin margins. Ultimately, you have to ensure a good product market fit because that is imperative for anything to succeed.
Advice for Entrepreneurs Before They Leap
Both Jag and I discovered something really important, it’s the 90/10 rule – 10% idea and 90% implementation. Having a great idea does not get you to the finish line. It’s all about the implementation of that idea. Every other day we hear somebody who tells us, “I had that idea!” Well, everybody has good ideas, but it’s all about implementation.
Being committed is the next big thing. You want to make sure that when you’re in, you’re all-in. Everybody should know you’re fully committed to the success of this endeavor. If people believe you have doubts, or that you’re not fully committed, it’s going to reflect on your team’s performance. It’s going to reflect in the way people support you. It’s even going to reflect in the type of advice people give you. If people know you’re fully committed, that you have everything invested into this thing, the advice and support they’re going to give is very, very different.
Recipe for Entrepreneurial Success
Number one, get customer feedback as soon as possible – that’s absolutely critical. Number two is to have a very good support network. It does not need to be just financial support. It can be friends and family for moral support.
As a startup, highs are very high, and lows are very low, so in that sense having a support network that can provide some even keel and support is imperative.
Finally, something that I always tell my kids is, “Stay focused and never give up.” Those are two things that I think are very important when you’re starting your own company.
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