Software Executive Magazine

OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017

Software Executive magazine helps software executives grow their businesses by showcasing the business best practices of our readers, executives from established and innovative software companies.

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M A I NT A I N I N G M O M E NT U M A H E A D O F T H E W A V E When a surfer pops up too early on the crest of a wave, it's difficult for them to get over the "lip" and ride the mo- mentum down the face of the wave. More often, jumping on a wave too early results in the wave's imploding be- neath the board. That's analogous to tech trends, and it was a certain risk for Splick.it. The year 2008 was early days for the online ordering concept. Consider that the iPhone wasn't invented until 2007, and few of the 70-ish percent of internet users at the time considered their PCs a likely tool for ordering food. It was awfully early to be launching an online ordering app. Of course, in those early months, it might have been generous to call what Taylor was building an "application." "We bought a bunch of used Blackberries and distributed them to a few restaurants in town, so we could text them our orders in advance," recalls Taylor. "Some of our friends in Boulder heard about it and began using it, and that's when we realized the idea had some legs." To be clear, in 2008, Taylor's "order entry solution" was merely an idea. That didn't stop him from taking the concept to the International Coffee Festival that year. "That show is where we launched our product," says Taylor. "The only problem was that we didn't really have a product." Still, his Blackberry- and SMS-based vapor- ware won him Best of Show at the event. "That's when we started to get real serious about this space," he says. S H OR I N G U P E A R LY I N V ESTM E NT Getting serious meant hiring development talent and raising some capital, but in those early days the latter proved challenging. Skepticism from the institutional lending community steered Taylor toward private eq- uity and his own bootstraps. "It's tough when you're treading ground nobody's ever covered before, and people are looking at you cross-eyed," admits Taylor. In 2010, the company managed to close a $450,000 round of VC funding, albeit in the face of adversity. "As recent- ly as 2011, I had the CMO of a pretty good sized restau- rant brand ask me why anyone would want to order a sandwich from their mobile phone. We don't hear that anymore, but that's what we were working against in those days. We were evangelizing something that we believed would happen but hadn't happened yet." Where no die has been cast, Taylor's best advice to software leaders who find themselves in a similar sit- uation is to ride the coattails of success in an adjacent space. "We would clip and disseminate articles that he past two years have been quite a run for Rob Taylor. Splick.it, the online ordering software company he founded in 2009, acquired Onosys in May 2016. In March of this year, the company added the 310-site restaurant chain Penn Station East Coast Subs to its already impressive client roster, which also includes Outback Steakhouse, Carrabba's Italian Grill, and Boston Pizza. That big win coincided with a comprehensive relaunch of the Onosys brand, a fresh start for a company that's gained a reputation for stay- ing a half-step ahead of the trends. Fresh starts aren't new to Taylor. He spent the first half of his career in retail brokerage, working sales for then heavyweight E.F. Hutton before landing executive management positions at Paine Webber and Smith Barney. "Moving from sales into management was the first major career revelation for me," says Taylor. "I liken it to playing basketball in junior high and high school. When I was younger, I always played center. By the time I moved up to high school, I wasn't the tallest kid on the team anymore, so they moved me to forward. Same game, but a whole different perspective of the court it's played on," he says. His brokerage management experience served him well. Taylor earned a reputation as a turnaround special- ist, finding success breathing new life and profits into struggling branch offices. In that capacity, he honed a skill that he would draw on years later when founding a B2B hospitality software company of all things: a knack for recruiting talent from competitors in his space. His ability to pivot would also serve him well. In 1998, a then 38-year-old Taylor nearly died when he fell into an icy river and suffered a heart attack while duck hunt- ing. Though his doctors advised a long hiatus — his heart lost about 25 percent of its pumping power as a result of the attack — Taylor jumped back into the high- stress brokerage industry a mere four weeks later. Five years later, at 43 years old, Taylor suffered anoth- er, albeit milder, heart attack. "It was at that point that I started thinking about doing something else," he says. Taylor walked away from brokerage and spent a few years independently consulting small businesses and startups, helping them raise capital and get off the ground. Then one day in 2008, he was inspired to launch a startup of his own. "I was waiting in line at the coffee shop that I went to every morning. Every morn- ing I would order the same thing from this coffee shop, and every morning I would wait in line to place that or- der," he explains. "It occurred to me that this was a sit- uation technology should be able to solve." Not being a technical person, he called up those aforementioned recruiting skills and set to work. T 21 SOFTWAREEXECUTIVEMAG.COM OCTOBER/NOVEMBER 2017

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