The Upside of Disruption: Swipeby – Right Place, Right Time, Right Team

Our second Upside story is largely about right place, right time, right leadership – all of which are key ingredients for startup success. Founded in 2017 by Carl Turner as an undergrad at Wake, the company was originally launched as tinder for food concept.

With investor input, the company pivoted to its current business model in May of 2019. Swipeby turns any restaurant into a virtual drive thru with fully automated experience for customers and restaurants. B2B2C rev share model.

Swipeby aggregates menus with category and global word search on mobile devices and makes the ordering and pick-up process a delight.

The pandemic’s effect on the restaurant industry and the behavioral economics of consumers has been a perfect storm for the company for obvious reasons but it’s to Carl’s credit that the company was ready to catch the wave.

In first two weeks of the stay-at-home restrictions, order volume increased 4000%. The average week over week increase is currently 50%-100%.

Swipeby’s customer base has grown from less than a hundred restaurants in NC to over 6,000 restaurants in 20 states. The average restaurant is booking $500 – $3,000 per day through his system.

“Going to the Startup Grind Global conference two years in a row has a lot to do with why we were prepared to expand so rapidly,” says Carl. “We met a lot of founders and investors that had experience scaling companies like ours into a national brand.”

Before the Covid 19 crisis hit the US, Carl was laying the groundwork. Since his family is from Germany and the virus spread in Europe before here, he had advance insight into how the virus was going to affect the restaurant industry.

“We’re scrappy and we took some financial risks”, adds Carl. “Covid brought new investors and some that dropped out. Closed a lot of funding when we needed to go live.”

“We formed partnerships and launched a national guerilla PR campaign. We got picked up by QSR, a publication that reaches 70,000 restaurant owners the weekend before the national Covid emergency hit,” he continues. It’s the perfect example of making your own luck, not waiting to be lucky.

Swipeby now has three FTE’s, seven outsource developers, and four part time business development employees. The company is growing rapidly and anticipates reaching break-even before the end of the year.

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