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The smartphone will be the remote control for your life

Source | LinkedIn : By Noah Glass

After six months of prototyping, I finally found the courage to give an investor a demo of a minimum viable product (MVP) version of Olo in early 2005. I demonstrated how a customer could build a simple coffee order on an early Nokia smartphone running wireless application protocol (WAP) and send that order over the air to an online laptop running our web-enabled software. I hit the “Order” button on my smartphone’s tiny screen and the order flashed on the laptop a split second later, sounding a ping. The investor was impressed. He told me that, if I had the conviction to quit my job and withdraw my admission to Harvard Business School – that is, to eliminate all safety nets and Plan B’s – he’d back me with a $500k seed investment. I knew it was both the right time for the idea of digital ordering and the right time in my life to take the leap and go for it. “I’m in,” I said. The investor smiled and told me a well-timed joke about an entrepreneur who jumped out of an airplane with a backpack filled with nothing but silkworms, hoping that they were overachievers.  

That investor was Founder Collective’s David Frankel, who went on to seed Uber. When Bloomberg News asked him about his investments in Olo and Uber, David explained that the two companies fit a similar thesis of his: “the smartphone will be the remote control for life.” David and I were lucky to see this potential for the smartphone long before iPhone and Android took the US market by storm. David was born and raised in South Africa and I had the good fortune of living in Johannesburg throughout 2004. There I saw feature phones becoming a critical technology for enabling the unbanked population to get a bank account and move money. I saw Nokia and Microsoft smartphones enabling Internet access in a nation with far less landline infrastructure. And I saw apps built upon Symbian and Windows Mobile, enabling incredible new capabilities on these web-enabled and location-aware devices. I came to feel that these devices would hold the key to reshaping the way in which American consumers conducted everyday transactions like ordering coffee, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. David saw it, too.

Amazon.com and the larger model of e-commerce that consisted of buying something online and having it shipped to you from a warehouse was one thing. But what if you could buy something from a local store and have it prepared exactly to your liking and just on time, so it was hot, fresh, and ready when you showed up? For mainstream restaurant categories like coffee and burgers, the order couldn’t be shipped from a warehouse. An online order placed from a desktop wouldn’t cut it. You’d need to be able to trigger that order at just the right time and pick it up immediately, so that the order was in peak condition. Our goal was to take the ordering and payment process out of the hands of the cashier and into the hands of the consumer to forge a faster, more accurate, and more personal experience. In other words, we were turning the smartphone into a remote control for food.

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