“Prior to January 2014, Eat was purely an idea,” says Nezar Kadhem, founder of the Eat app, a platform to discover restaurants and reserve your table online.But when they pitched the idea to Tenmou, an angel investor company in Bahrain, things started to get more serious.
“We had pitched Tenmou that Eat would solve problems for both restaurants and consumers, and had the potential to become a scalable 2 sided marketplace,” explains Nezar. “Tenmou wanted us to utilize their funding to build the initial version of our product, then reach product-market fit. Without market fit, it would be very difficult to raise more money.
“By March 2014, we had closed the round with Tenmou and started full-time. We decided to focus on reaching product-market fit for our table-management system first.”
“We got some traction,” says Nezar. “We were able to sign Monsoon and Mirai in Bahrain, as well as the Four Seasons. The Four Seasons was a big account and helped us prove market fit as we had to compete with Global competitors, including OpenTable. We came back to Tenmou with the confidence that we had reached product-market fit, and that really helped us raise our second round By May of 2015, we had 70% of the restaurants in our desired portfolio using our B2B solution and app.”
“You always have those first movers, or early adopters,” Nezar explains. “You have to really pinpoint who you want as an early adopter. It’s a very small number of users. Once you onboard them, you have your semi-early adopters, and that gap grows. Then you have your critical mass and your super-late followers. Each phase has different requirements. Our super-early adopters—they were the ones who saw the real value.”
To expand, Eat looked to Dubai. “All of the global 5-star hotel chains and celebrity chefs are there. We had to be there,” says Nezar. “You had to pivot the app to find that sweet spot where people are coming to the app, sticking with it, and using it. We burned through all of our initial injection of $300K. Most of it went to the product. The next $500K that we raised went to sales, commissions, and onboarding of restaurants.”
Eat recently completed a $2 million investment round through Bahrain-based Pinnacle and 500 Startups, bringing total funding to date to $2.9 million.
“Today, we have over 600 restaurants in our portfolio, and continue to make improvements to our business model,” explains Nezar. “We see a bright future. We just have to keep working as hard as we have been. We have to stay hungry.”
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