SaaS Founder Interview with Carson Goodale, Co-Founder of FanFood
Tony Zayas 0:02
Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of the tech founders show. It’s Tony Zayas I’m flying solo this week, and before we dive in and introduce today’s guest, I just wanted to remind everyone that we have an exciting event coming up, I’m gonna put the link on our screen there, but we’re doing the tech throwdown 2021. We’re actually 29 days away. It’s coming up here at the end of September. It’s this Greater Cleveland partnership, Tech Tech Week. This throwdown is an opportunity for early stage SaaS and tech, tech device and startups to pitch their their business. We’re giving a giveaway, some awesome prizes, which include professional services of sorts, cash, and more. We have an exciting panel of, of made up of a number of founders who have had great success with their businesses that can be you know, offer some outstanding insights, we’re really looking forward to this. We’re gonna actually open the day off with one of our shows our Wednesday show, as always, the SaaS founders show, we’re going to open it up the beginning of the day, we’re going to be doing things throughout the day, but it’ll be an evening, you can take a look at the site to learn all about the the events, we’d love to have you join, just to watch for those of you who’d like to participate, throw your hat in the ring, practice pitching, get out there and maybe win some exciting prizes, and whatnot, we’d love to have you so please reach out, take a look at the website and look forward to the event. So with that out of the way. I’m excited about today’s guest, we have Carson Goodale, he’s the co founder and chief strategy officer at FanFood and FanFood is a mobile ordering app for stadium concession stands. Carson founded fan food as a sophomore at the University of Iowa as an app for bars. And now years later, fan food has served at 300 plus venues worldwide. So pretty exciting growth there. And yeah, sights here on the Hawkeye. So I’m excited to have a fellow Hawkeye here on with with me on the show. So Carson, welcome. Thanks for joining us.
Carson Goodale 2:17
Hey, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. It’s cool. It’s cool to see another Hawkeye. Alright, yeah,
Tony Zayas 2:22
for sure. For sure. So just to kick it off, Carson, I gave I read the description, right what FanFood is, but tell me what about the app? How do you explain
Carson Goodale 2:31
it? Yeah, well, so FanFood is an app that allows fans at sporting events to order concessions directly from their seat. And then depending on the venue, they can either get it delivered directly to them. Or they could order it for Express pickup. So they’ll order it, they’ll get a notification when their order is ready for pickup, bypassing any long, annoying, frustrating lines that you probably have experienced in a stadium environment. So
Tony Zayas 3:00
that sounds like something that would originate at Kinnick Stadium. So pretty cool. So I would love to hear what’s the origin story? Like, how did you come up with the idea? Was it I think you’re the co founder rights? Or was it a group of you two of you? Yeah, you know, tell us the story we’d love to hear.
Carson Goodale 3:17
Yeah. So like you said, University of Iowa. My sophomore year, I was at a bar with my buddies, this probably will come as no surprise as a fellow IO guy. But yeah, complaining about a crappy bar experience I was having super crowded as I’m sure you can imagine, one have the ability to get a drink without having to, you know, navigate through a crowded bar. So I said to my buddies, wouldn’t it be great if I could order a drink off my phone, have a server bring it to us rather than us having to navigate this bar. And I think like, you know, there was a lot of back then a lot of excitement with off premise last mile delivery companies with GrubHub Postmates kind of, you know, taking this on demand convenience Academy, and really running with it. And, you know, we pivoted into sports, really, because I felt as a fan. That was the biggest problem that we you know, wanted to solve was waiting, you know, in long, annoying lines. And so that was the the original thesis was to start there. Start small and grow our way up. So,
Tony Zayas 4:26
Really cool. So you have that idea. You’re sitting there discussing it with your body and probably writing on a bar napkin. How did you take? What did that journey look like from that idea? To diving deeper into it? I would even love to hear kind of what did that look like as you guys thought, hey, we’re I think we might be on to something. And then when did you get to the point to say, alright, let’s actually build this thing.
Carson Goodale 4:50
Yeah, no, no, it’s funny. So it’s actually one of my buddies who is at the bar texted me and he goes, Hey, instead of going out tonight on a weekend in college, Do you want to eat? And I remember a brother, he’s like, do you want to burn the midnight oil? And you know, take this idea, put it on paper and see, you know, what we could actually do with it. And I’m like, that’s cool. Well, he, you know, he had no desire, actually, to continue the project after college. And, you know, but it was interesting, because I remember that we got together, we started like talking about, you know, the idea. At the time, the University of Iowa was, there was a new department of entrepreneurship. And there was an extra curricular kind of community that was focused on supporting entrepreneurs with ideas to start, you know, businesses. And so one of my natural next steps, our next natural next steps was to get involved in that extra curricular kind of entrepreneurship club, the start to learn from people who’ve been there, done that. And so we got assigned a mentor pretty early on, to help us kind of navigate how do we take a business from an idea into, you know, a viable concept. So a lot of in the early days, when it was still a bar drinking app, we would go to every bar at the University of Iowa, we would sit down with the owners, and the managers, and you know, learn if this would be a valuable tool that they would implement at the bars, we would set you know, we’ve gotten when we made that decision to pivot, we were getting a lot of customer feedback from venue operators, we did a lot of surveying of fans, just to try to collect as much data as possible before taking the jump into building out some software, because it can get pretty expensive and time intensive.
Tony Zayas 6:44
So it sounds like you did a lot, the groundwork the research, all that stuff up front before diving into development, which happens sometimes sometimes it’s another way it’s backwards and validating the product afterwards. So I think you, you know, probably did it the right way. I would love to hear a little bit more about you said you met someone. And that mentorship. That’s a theme that we see so frequently on this show talking to founders, you know, just how important mentorship and communities tapping into people who’ve been there that you can learn from? What did that look? How did you find that person? And what did that relationship look like?
Carson Goodale 7:25
Yeah, no, I was super fortunate. So I got like, kind of paired. The community that I was a part of the extracurricular community was called, like, the founders club or something. paired me with a mentor. And they said, you know, we based on what you’re building wanted to build, we feel like this person would be a good fit for you. And so they were really helpful in making that introduction, and then helping establish kind of a regular cadence, which I think is important in the early days, because you don’t really know what you’re learning, right? It’s more of like a retrospective thing. Or like, oh, he gave some really good advice back then, you know, or I learned this from him back then. You know, and then so he was Ben O’Connor, one of the cofounders of higher learning technologies came out of one of the more successful technology companies that come out of the state of Iowa. And funny, he actually dropped out of college, his last year in dentistry, school dentistry school, to pursue a, you know, a technology company. And I remember one of the key pieces of advice he gave me in the early days, he said, Carson, if you’re serious about doing this, after I you know, you graduate, you got to go full time with it. And my whole thought process back then was you know, I studied finance. Got it. That’s where I got my degree and, and I just knew that this idea from a fan perspective of skipping lines and ordering stuff to your bone would be a thing. And I didn’t want to look back in five or 10 years and ask myself, What if right? What if I could have been that that person to go and invent it? And so I took his advice, and went all in.
Tony Zayas 9:06
Really cool. I would, I would love to hear what the original product that MVP. What did that look like when you guys first put it out there?
Carson Goodale 9:19
Not a sexy product, that’s for sure. It was a so just focusing on Express pickup. So my co founder who I actually met through the entrepreneur club, while pursuing a very similar problem that Stanford was looking to solve for the ability to stay seated in a in a stadium environment, place your order from the stand and get notified when it’s ready for Express pickup. So we stay hyper focused on creating an Express pickup Lane kind of experience that was the easiest to kind of solve for. And we were fortunate to pilot it at my partner’s High School. So that was cool. So as a very basic MVP, it was a downloadable app on iOS and Android. So I’ve been time there were like the React Native technologies that you can build one language. And it would, you know, and it would, you know, allow you to download both iOS and Android as opposed to building out, you know, languages for each individual. So we kind of allowed us to save some costs, in the early days, get a product out, that could accept the payment, you know, create a menu, accept the payment, and some basic communication to let them know that the order is ready for pickup. And then we had to create the technology on the back end, the order management system, to actually receive and fulfill those incoming orders are just like, how do we make this processes? Very easy as possible? So that was original MVP?
Tony Zayas 10:51
So how did you work to build build it out? From there from you have that point, you have that MVP? You know, it’s a it’s a minimum viable product? It’s something that’s simple, basic, you’re getting it out there? How did you start to build the product out? What did your team look like? Like, who was actually doing the development? I think you said that you had a finance degree. And so you’re not attacking? Technical, you know, technical founder, or so? It sounds that way. Who did you rely on? And how did you develop the software?
Carson Goodale 11:25
Yeah, no. So the, you know, it’s actually kind of crazy, crazy story, and a lot of crazy stories, with entrepreneurs, I’m sure. But the first attempt at it was a miserable failure. Actually, we had, I got introduced to a buddy who was at a different college, who was, you know, trying to build a business that help entrepreneurs build apps. So we met with this guy, and he’s like, I can absolutely do this for you. He made an awesome presentation with some wireframes gave him the vision. He said, it’s gonna be 10, you know, 10 $15,000, or like, Okay, I’m, that’s a lot of money. But I, I’ve been working being from Iowa. My first job was at age 14 bussing tables. So I’ve always worked throughout, you know, it’s not a good amount of money saved up, co founders had some money saved. So we use some, some savings, scrapped it together. And long story short, never made it to a production environment, it was cash in cash out, the end result was some nice wireframes. And so that was a really big setback during college and a lot of money that is wasted. And something about me, I’m a pretty persistent guy. And one of our college professors was also an entrepreneur, built apps and had a whole development team and goes, you know, I can help you guys get an MVP out pretty quick and pretty inexpensively. And so we kind of pivoted, we took those, you know, at least that’s the framework that we’ve, you know, that we had presented, and then we, you know, use him as a resource. And then he had a team and overseas. And we built it, and we’re able to actually get get a volume, minimal viable product. But in the early days, too, and after that second attempt, my dad has built an exited to software kind of companies on the sides. And early days, he built a side business. And then another one that was more geared toward like a Groupon kind of website years ago called town wild. But so he had to, you know, you a little bit of a software background. So he would, he was actually very helpful in the beginning days building out helping build out the infrastructure and managing the product with these overseas, you know, developed because I don’t know, I am a non technical kind of background. So it’s actually very helpful in the beginning. So it’s kind of cool to work with my dad is
Tony Zayas 14:01
cool, does he? So Is he part of that support network? Is he someone you go to, you know, to bounce ideas off of to get advice from suggestions, that type of thing.
Carson Goodale 14:13
Definitely, in the in the early days, he was, you know, very, very helpful and had a lot of cool idea that’s like, where we could take this and we executed on some of those ideas from, you know, building out, when we started to do intake delivery services. He was very helpful in actually building out another piece of our platform, we call it the runner app. So the ability for a runner to manage those NC delivery orders and have it all synced up so we could track you know, how efficient people are delivering who’s who’s actually delivering in a timely fashion who’s not being able to communicate what average delivery times and times look like. So, all of that type of stuff. You know, he was very much involved with in the beginning. stages, and I was very helpful today, you know, we have new mentors, you know, as you grow professionally. And as, as the creator, my career kind of taken off, there came a point where it was in the best interest, you know, to, you know, go on, you know, you know, kind of split the family and professional ties, because, you know, you start to raise some money, you start to grow out a team, you know, he had another full time job. So, you know, there was a point where we both were like, okay, you know, helped you get to this, the starting point, now, now, it’s on you to kind of take it to that next level. Yeah,
Tony Zayas 15:39
that’s pretty cool. That’s something that we’ve seen quite a bit. It’s just, you know, the different ways people look at working with family, we’ve had co founders on who are husband and wife, we have people on set, I would, I would, I would never get my family involved. Eric there as being pretty interesting. Yeah. I’d like to go back, just rewind for a little bit and go back to talk about that first attempt, you said it was a miserable failure. What do you think the lesson learned? Like? Why did things go off the rails, you never got to, you know, the product being delivered there? What happened in that instance?
Carson Goodale 16:24
You know, you know, naive a little bit, I think I got really excited by what I saw, without probably vetting or doing my due diligence on the fact, you know, back and I think I trusted, you know, because it was a warm introduction from a close friend that I grew up with, I think I just trusted that relationship rather than verifying. You know, are they actually good at what they say that they’re, they, you know, are doing? And so, you know, my lesson learned is trust, but verify.
Tony Zayas 17:01
Yeah, there you go. In And along those lines, how has that helped you, as you move forward, or move more forward since then, to what are some of the things that you do to do just that to verify those parties you’re working with, you know, vet them out?
Carson Goodale 17:21
Well, from a, from a development, or, you know, technical perspective, it I mean, even to this day, it remains a big challenge, because I’m non technical, like, I can speak it a little bit, you know, be dangerous, but I’m not, you know, I have to really have, you have to rely on good a good team, like, we have a really great we could probably get get into this a little bit later. But when we closed our first seed round, our lead investor, was very helpful in bringing our now who is our CTO on, and he’s just been tremendous to work with. And, you know, it’s someone who is both a great technical leader and executioner. That makes sense. So not afraid to get his hands dirty in the early days, and actually build and develop code, as well as you know, support where we want to take it. And I think that’s like important in the early days, someone that can kind of do a little bit of both, but we’ve been, so there’s that. And then, like, we’ve implemented like, kind of processes to hiring, you know, processes to actually vet you know, the people that we are bringing on from a technical perspective to verify the skills that they say that they have. So that’s good.
Tony Zayas 18:43
Yeah. No, that’s, that’s helpful to talk a little bit about that the funding aspect. So how long? How long did you run with the the app, just bootstrapping it? And when did you get to the point of, like, knowing that you needed to get funding? Or that that was, you know, the desired path? Because a lot of times we’ll talk about that? When is the right time to look for funding? And how far do you want to take something, but you know, bootstrapping, right, there’s a lot of questions there for a lot of folks who are early in the game, so I’d love to get your take on that and kind of hear what you guys did.
Carson Goodale 19:22
I mean, it like, you know, I would probably have done it a little bit differently, you know, looking like looking back at it, I probably would have tried to, you know, extend the runway as much as possible, especially in the early days, like try to do everything as cheap and inexpensive is possible in the early days. And, you know, as a first time founder to, you know, I always felt that we need this feature and that feature and this feature and I’m very much product, you know, driven with a lot of ideas, but you know, really asking yourself, do you really need all of those features? To validate, you know, product market fit in the early stages. But, you know, when I, so when I graduated college, I moved into dad’s basement for seven months, pursuing it full time. And, you know, trying to onboard new accounts, you know, execute some partnerships, because you know, Mike area, despite the fact that I got a finance degree, you know, as a founder, kind of geared myself towards more of the sales and marketing, you know, areas of focus for me, that’s kind of where you had to build my initial skill set. And so after seven months of in dad’s basement, I remember, okay, if I, like how do I take it to this kind of this next phase, like, if I really want to take it to this next level, in my mind, I want it to go to a city where that I could leverage resources, build my own connections, and network with people that get it really helped me take it to that next level. And so what we did was I made the tensional decision to move to Chicago, partnered up with a group called bunker labs. So it’s a nonprofit that helps that trends, validate their ideas, to see if that, you know, turn it into a business. I have a little bit of a background in military too. And so you know, they were in the 1871 incubator there in Chicago had an office. And so that was kind of my excuse to get up there. And when we did, we did a launch party as well, to kind of announce, hey, this is who we are with fan food. And we were and we initiated kind of like a family and friends around to funding during that time. And so we were able to secure a little bit of funds from that perspective. And then shortly thereafter, we did an equity crowdfunding raise, and then as well as raised some money from angel investors, kind of all kind of, you know, combined for those next, you know, probably one to two years. Yeah, that’s alright. Two years, is how we kind of got funding on that front.
Tony Zayas 22:15
So what was your experience? And going through that, you know, we hear a lot of times that, you know, raising, doing fundraising, you know, being out just the networking, the pitching, full time job. So how did your role What did it look like, during that time, when you guys were looking to secure more funds.
Carson Goodale 22:34
Um, I mean, it’s still part of the, my job description today. I’m actually like, my time right now is spent on, you know, raising funds, you know, and connecting with investors that align with the, you know, our thesis and their thesis explore, but to get fed, and kind of just go down that process. But really, it’s like, it’s very similar to sales, you know, what I mean? You got to learn how to be a good good salesman, I remember early on, when I was with the bunker labs, they put on a kind of like an accelerator one day a week, they’d bring in classes, they would eat and try to, you know, you learn new skills, and one of the classes was about storytelling. And so that, you know, really learned how to how to pitch your company, and the structure of which, you know, to pitch it so that it’s compelling. And it’s captivating. And I got partnered up with the person that actually gave that presentation to learn more, because, you know, he in in early on, they helped, you know, with creating an investor deck and the materials and how to tell a story and talk about what matters. But I think it’s a very much underrated storytelling.
Tony Zayas 23:54
Yeah, I don’t know if you heard at the beginning, I was mentioning We’re actually hosting a Pitch Night event. It’s the tech con at the tech throwdown it’s towards the end of the month, in September. So we were going to have you know, some startups that are going to be pitching. If there’s any of those people that are tuned in gonna be watching this, what tips would you give to them based on what you learned? You said storytelling and you know, set seems like something you know, you kind of enjoy doing? What are some you know, what is the one tip you would suggest? Yeah,
Carson Goodale 24:25
sometimes it can get can be exhausting, but my tip is to keep it simple. And I’m sure a lot of the people listening into this call are familiar with the gentleman by the name of Simon Sinek he gives a great TED talk on why how what and framing your kind of pitch that way so, yeah, why do you exist as a company start there? How do you deliver against that? Why and then ultimately, like what What are you building? So it’s like, you know, a fan food we exist because we want to create the ultimate fan experience. How do we deliver that through online and mobile ordering? But what is it an app for fans to download at sporting events to get concessions delivered to their seat? So it’s like just a frame of thinking, that’s really concise, that allows to get your point across. And then, you know, let the investors just ask as many questions as possible.
Tony Zayas 25:29
Yeah, that’s, that’s great advice. Really appreciate it. I love that, that talk by Simon Sinek. And then I’ve also heard of the idea that there’s different types of learners and some, you know, everyone has a different style. And the people who are one of those types is the why learner and that’s the person who the first thing they need to know is why otherwise, if you don’t tell why they’re tuned out, and they’re not interested, the other people that are the what learners how learners, though, wait, they’re further along in the process. But if you and everyone’s interested in the why it’s not may not not be the most important for everybody, but those why learners, you lose them. So I love that. I use that whenever I present because I think I’m actually why learner. So I get that if I don’t get the Why am I really good tip there. So that’s fantastic. And I appreciate you sharing that. Now, I would love to hear what just with the nature of the app, you know, how do you? How do you guys? And again, because you’re interested in you’ve been relaxed, as you said on the marketing and sales side of things, you know, how do you differentiate yourself from the grub hubs of the world? And the other solutions that are out there that might be similar, but definitely different?
Carson Goodale 26:45
Tony, do you with me?
Tony Zayas 26:46
Yeah. Are you there?
Carson Goodale 26:48
Yep. A liitle bit of break up.
Tony Zayas 26:50
Okay, no, no problem. Am I back now?
Unknown Speaker 26:53
Tony Zayas 26:53
Okay, I was I was just asking, you know, with the grub hubs of the world, and the other. I don’t want I may not be competitors. But let’s say alternatives, different solutions that might sound similar, but you’re actually offering something pretty unique. How do you differentiate in that marketplace? Because, you know, from my standpoint, you know, I know it only casually, it seems like a fairly crowded space these days. So how did you address that? And how do you guys keep that differentiation? You know, how do you maintain that?
Carson Goodale 27:28
Yeah, so I think with the with the traditional, kind of third party delivery companies, the easiest way to think about it is you have off off premise versus on premise. So off premise off premise being, you know, you’re at your house, you want to order from a local restaurant, and the grub hubs and the Postmates of the world DoorDash is facilitates that last mile delivery. So providing the actual staffing, to, you know, make that fulfillment possible, right to your doorstep. With fast food, we’re more of a, you know, a technology platform, in the sense that all the ordering is on on premise, although we have the ability to order ahead before an event. All of our technology is geared toward, you know, streamlining that ordering process, Day of event, from, you know, a concession stand, and building the technology to just streamline that operation and make it as efficient as possible. So that’s a key kind of differentiator, just kind of the the overall, the business model is a little bit different. And then I think like we have a pretty unique niche in the sports and live entertainment space, targeting venues from high schools and minor league sports and colleges and things like that. That, you know, is a little bit different in that regard. Yeah, those are some some key ones, I could probably go on for forever, but you know, I’ll get boring for the Listen, that’s
Tony Zayas 29:13
great. No, and my next question was actually going to be about, you know, the target audience and it sounds like, you know, those, those events are, is that who you’re targeting? Is it or is it the consumer, the user? Or is it the venues that are or is it dual?
Carson Goodale 29:30
You know, I it’s a little bit of dual part of our venue success team does work with our, the operators, the venue operators on an activation strategy is very hands on and that approach from providing, you know, personalized or customize on site graphics to recommending certain social media campaigns or how to activate it, you know, digitally or embed you know, our webapp into there, you know, the athletic directors website, or, you know, the sports team website. And so I think we’re as helpful as we can beat, you know, some of our technology, we have the ability to create promo codes to incentivize users to use the technology. But, you know, our focus is very much on the b2b side, firstly, you know, that the more that they’re bought into the technology, the better of the adoption, and to your first question about target audience, we had a target audience, you know, being the the venue operators, you know, last year was a little bit of a challenge a little bit, lot a bit quite painful at times. And, you know, when our business relies on large event gatherings, and the pandemic kind of happened, that initial target audience change pretty quickly to a new target, in order to continue to bring cash flow in. And so, you know, we had to get really creative and quickly pivot, new areas of focus, to keep the business moving forward.
Tony Zayas 31:09
But did that, and this is like, become a standard question that we asked, you know, how did the pandemic affect the business? And in your case, right, it’s live events that you guys are serving? So, you know, as a founder, what was going through your head when venue started shutting down and you, you realize, like, wow, like events are going to be indefinitely suspended? What were your thoughts? And then, how did you regroup to figure out, hey, where are we going to go?
Carson Goodale 31:43
first thought is, you know, I didn’t want to believe it. At first, you know, I was one of those that were like, you know, oh, this pandemic, it’s not gonna, you know, it’s not gonna do that, I want to believe right. But quickly found out that I was like, you know, we’re, we’re asked to put you right, and, yeah, but again, I think part of my personality is I’m a pretty persistent, pretty persistent guy. And, you know, maybe there’s some of the, you know, military warrior ethos in me that just never refuses to quit or give up. And wanted to figure out a way that, you know, in what we were building to, you know, I think it was contactless one of the biggest trends in the, in the sports and entertainment space was taking venues cashless pre pandemic. Well, you know, now, it’s a, you know, the technology that we were building was very much supporting that trend until, like, when the pandemic happened, I was like, Surely there is a way to continue to persevere through these times. And so, one of the key things that we did was focused on driving movie theaters, it’s pretty much like one of the only events you as a consumer could go to. And so we had some early wins in the driving space until I came just focus a lot pretty heavily during that time, and ended up getting probably 15 20% of that market in a really small period of time. And, you know, today, it’s a very nice business, you know, for the company, and you know, adding a lot of value for for folks that are actually going to drive in movie theater, they can stand their car, or their concessions get notified when it’s ready for pickup some are doing the delivery to car to which is an even better experience. But that was a really good pivot for us. Other areas that we went into on the hospitality side, where Hotels and Resorts started to see some early wins on that. So you know, whether you’re using a QR code for room service, inside your hotel, or you’re at a pool Cabana, or at a beach front, there’s different use cases that are being leveraged today, through our technology to streamline that ordering process, you make it on demand for the consumers there. So they don’t have to wait for a server to come by every 30 minutes to place your order. It’s, it’s streamlined, and it’s contactless. So although in the short term, you know, it’s we’re supporting social distancing. We’re supporting contactless solutions and it makes fans and guests feel safe and makes them feel comfortable but really, we believe long term there’s a there’s a silver lining for the business, especially accelerating a lot of the fan behaviors around mobile ordering and adoption.
Tony Zayas 34:44
Really cool. I bet if I if I would have told you a couple years before let’s say you launched your business that you would have this you know technology that’d be serving drive in theaters and we’re going to hot didn’t necessary thing you probably would have told me I’m crazy. You’re right. That’s pretty funny.
Carson Goodale 35:02
And it was like, you know, we had no, it’s a huge like, one of the biggest milestones today was when we close signed my, you know, the first term sheet for, you know, a real investor group, you know, our first seed around when I signed it, like, I’ll never forget that day it was it was very memorable. And that was literally quarter one, or, you know, January of 2019. And so like, if you think about it, you know, we close your sign the term sheet, you don’t close, you start building up your team, like, that’s gonna take, you know, three to six months. So if you really, if you think about it, you really started to grow the business, and then the pandemic kind of, you know, slap us in the face a little bit. And so it’s a fast track to getting an MBA, let me tell you that, but not an ideal scenario for any founder that’s looking to, you know, pursue their their dreams. But I think, definitely one that allowed us to execute a lot of creativity, allowed the team to kind of come together and figure out how we continue to move forward and innovate and some of the things that, you know, we’ve been able to do during this time, and the customers we’ve been able to help and continue to have value for, you know, are, we, I think the whole team just feels very fortunate that, you know, we’re still here today. You know, we had we, like many companies that face the pandemic, we had to downsize as well, pretty significantly, so that’s always painful to go through. But, you know, it’s, it’s been a crazy, crazy roller coaster ride, that’s for sure.
Tony Zayas 36:45
Yeah, so as a founder, or co founder, you know, you guys are the leaders, and you have these employees who, like everybody else, like you at the same time. Everyone’s nervous, everyone doesn’t know what to expect, you know, last year? How did you? How did you instill confidence in your team and, and keep people you know, focused on, you know, moving forward and building out a great product? And, and, you know, calm their fears? A little bit?
Carson Goodale 37:17
Um, that’s a really good question. You know, I think, especially, you know, with the pandemic, we also transitioned to a full, like, you know, remote, kind of, like a lot of companies did, right. So, I think one of the things that, you know, my co founder, and I, like, did a good job of early on was just being transparent with everybody, like, the whole team, like, here are the challenges, and maybe, I don’t know, maybe too transparent. But here’s, like, you know, here’s what that’s current, you know, even coming down to like the cash burn, right, on a monthly basis. And it’s like, we have to figure this out, you know, otherwise, that means that we have to reduce the team size, and it’s like, everyone, especially in the early days, are, you know, invested in what we’re doing and the team and, you know, very, very solid team. And so we were, I mean, even on the sales front, we had SDRs, that were originally responsible for booking appointments that we quickly pivoted to, hey, if this is a market, you have an opportunity, you know, close it. So we did, we tried to empower the PR people as much as possible to figure out what the best plan forward would look like. But knowing that, you know, in the military, when they say, No plan survives first contact, and so like, I think we increased, you know, our, our communication to the team, and we’re just as transparent as possible. And trying to be as helpful, right. I think like, one of my strategic priorities in quarter one of 2020 was to initiate a Series A round of financing didn’t quite make it look like okay, probably not going to be the most productive use of my time, given, you know, where our core customers are based during this pandemic, with no really future outlook of when it’s going to come back. So it’s like, where’s the best use of my time? How can I be as helpful to the team itself, kind of, instead of focusing outward, kind of focused on, you know, inward with our people and just kind of came together as a team to figure it out. And I think the team did a tremendous job. We added over 220 new venues during the pandemic, and it was actually for us still considered a growth year in revenue year over year from 2019. A lot of regrets and as a success, thank
Tony Zayas 39:55
you. Yeah, I mean, that’s, that’s a very impressive achievement, especially having to figure You’re that out, you know, figuring out what that pivot is. And so yeah, I mean that that’s fantastic. A couple times now you’ve you’ve referenced your your military background, and I would love to hear, you know, do you feel are there any traits that the military instilled in you? And the reason I asked this is because that, that have have parlayed into your role as a founder and heading up a company. The reason I asked is that I know quite a few entrepreneurs who have a military background, and I typically see that manifested in a few different ways. I would love to hear just your thoughts on that.
Carson Goodale 40:37
Yeah, without a doubt, I would say the the skill sets that I learned and developed during my time in the military, and the mentorship that I received from leaders that I have some of the most utmost respect for come from the military traits that I want to emulate. Right. So I would say definitely, there’s been a handful of skills that I feel like translate well to entrepreneurship. And I think it even goes to the to the very ethos of you know, the the warrior ethos that you learn all the way back into basic training. Right? They are always play submission. First, I’ll never accept defeat, I’ll never quit, I’ll never leave a fallen comrade. And you learn that, you know, day one, when you’re going through basic training. And I think the military, I mean, you embody, you kind of end up embodying that. And I think a lot of those ethos are very translatable into entrepreneurship. Right? I will always place Mission First, why do you exist as a company, we talked about assignments enough, I mean, that right there, I will never accept defeat, I’ll never quit, it’s like, a lot of the I feel like with entrepreneurship, the easy, it’s like the the easy part of starting isn’t starting a business, or is starting a business, the hard part is just being consistent with it over time, right. And just in that, that progress like that, that’s like the hard part about it, and just never giving up. And so I feel like some of those ethos, it’s like when the pandemic could have could have easily given up, could have easily given the time. And, you know, I didn’t want to do that I didn’t want to, you know, I take my job and the people like, very seriously, and I, you know, wanted to not have to, you know, let people go, if we could do something about this situation, if we can, if it’s in our control, then like, we should execute that. Other things too, like I pretty structured kind of person. So that’s probably that’s probably from the the military side. I was I wasn’t listed for a little bit and then commissioned as an officer. So, you know, I think of when I’m, you know, as I think about the organizational chart, I think there’s a lot of takeaways and in principles that I’ve learned in terms of, like chain of command and communication. And there’s also some things that, you know, I’ve learned that slow, you know, the process of innovation down a bit, and there’s some things I can take away that I didn’t, you know, you know, think was good for a startup in the early days. So I think I’m very much. Yeah, progressive in that in that regard.
Tony Zayas 43:34
That’s pretty cool. That’s, yeah, that’s on par with a lot of the others I’ve seen is there’s there’s some of those, you know, traits that are at least amplified even further there. With that military experience. I would ask, you know, you mentioned that also, you know, kind of the wherewithal and resiliency that you have as a trait. Is that something that you were, you’ve always had, because that is such an important trait, as an entrepreneur and a founder, is that, you know, always figuring out a new way forward, or is that something that’s grown over time? Obviously, probably your military experience, certainly helped pull that out. But I would love to hear if that was something developed over time.
Carson Goodale 44:20
I think it was, I think a driving motivator for me too, for a while was just like, proving people wrong. You know, I played I played high school sports. I played basketball. I played football. I ran track for a little bit. And I remember like, my junior year of high school, I didn’t or my sophomore year, on the football team, I didn’t really play at all so I didn’t go out in my junior year. New coach comes in and says Carson, you know, we’d like you to join the team. I because I you know, throughout my sophomore junior in high school, I continue to work Workout lift weights, matured a little bit, and I continue to work hard. Coach asked me to go out, I’d go out, and then you know, my senior year end up starting on both offense and defense. And I think like, So to your question. You know, when you ask that as an interview, you know, for, that’s where my kind of my mind went, like way back even. Man and so so maybe, maybe, but I definitely think that it was amplified, you know, through the military. Definitely. Really cool. AB?
Tony Zayas 45:39
Yeah. It’s kind of like a muscle right you, the more you engage it, the stronger guts. So we call
Carson Goodale 45:47
this instant muscle is probably just gold.
Tony Zayas 45:51
Yeah. That’s a common one for the entrepreneur. Bulging persistence muscle. Gary, I’m just to shift gears a little bit just to talk about the product. You know, we talk a lot about, we like to hear from, from founders about now that user feedback, what is the process that you use to collect, collect, capture, understand, you know, what your users experience is like, and then learn from it, to build out a roadmap that makes sense and help prioritize what feature sets you’re going to work on? How do you guys go about that process?
Carson Goodale 46:30
is really, really challenging, especially when you have someone like me, who has a million and a half different ideas? And so like, how do you prioritize? You know, with our sales team, for example, Hey, we just lost a deal because we didn’t have this integration, or we didn’t have this feature. And then, you know, we’re communicating with our venue partners. Hey, you know, we love your product right now. We think it’s great. It would make our life a little bit easier if we built why unrelated to the first example. So it’s like, you know, in the early days, what should you prioritize? Should you prioritize to get more deals, you know, to sales, you know, to give, ensure that our sales team is getting every opportunity to not close a deal? Which revenue in the early days, very important, it always is. versus, you know, that feature? Yeah, it’s a nice to have for our customers, but do they really need, you know, really start to challenge I think, you know, something that, you know, we’ve over time, as our processes have evolved. One thing that we do do a really good job with is on the venue success side, we connect with the venue partners that are leveraging the platform, on a day to day basis. We follow up with them after the first event, after the first week, we monitor the data. And if there’s any inflection like any increase, big increase, jump or decrease in jump, we’re like, why is that and we really hone in. And so we were very active in getting feedback. With our venue partners, we’ve set up a system to leveraging our CRM, we have automated emails that go out every month and quarter that collect feedback to to collect the Net Promoter Score and things like that. So I think our process on the b2b side is pretty solid. I think where we could do a better job is on the on the b2c side. So how do we start to be more of an advocate for the, you know, the customers of our customer, so to speak, and, and how do we start to prioritize certain features and functionality to make their lives a little bit easier, but really, like, when we started, the mission of fan food was at the very beginning, how do we make that ordering process at the end of the day, is as simple as possible and easy to use. Because, like we don’t, like we just want the fan to enjoy, like every single moment and experience, that’s why they’re there. That’s why they paid a lot of money to be there in the first place. So if we can make a great product with a great user interface, make it as you know, sexy. You know, hopefully that can at least solve the problem of waiting in line and then that’s kind of like how we how we think about it and then it goes down to like, what are the resources like what’s your budget, what can you afford? To execute against against your your kind of product roadmap, but you do hear it all the time, right with Amazon and basil as they’re testing big testament to success is, you know, a customer, you know, prospective customer first approach to everything that they build and you know, there there definitely comes a point where that that should absolutely become the priority for you. It is a judgment call it kind of kind of a gut Calling early days and figuring out what how to do it just kind of depends on like, where you’re at as a company.
Tony Zayas 50:07
Yeah, for sure. Oh, that’s, that’s all, all good thoughts. To that point, it’s there a lot of times, it’s never a simple decision to make as far as which, you know, what do you do to make to make this group happier that group and like you said, it’s, it’s a judgment call. And that’s where you got to go with your gut, you got to have good mentors, you got to have you know, your, your overarching, you know, big vision in mind and, and make your decision that way. So now that that’s fantastic. I would like to hear just briefly, before we get to our last couple of questions here and wrap up. From a marketing standpoint, what have you guys done? What’s been the most, you know, successful thing you’ve done channel tactic? Whatever that might be?
Carson Goodale 50:52
Yeah, no. So very much again, like our, you know, we’re our current team sizes. When our resource allocation looks like, the priority for our marketing is very much on the b2b side, you know, as as the company continues to grow, as we get more resources, you know, we see ourselves opening up more of a b2c kind of team to kind of really focus in on on driving those activations on an event by event basis, as well as maybe like some Co Op, you know, you know, marketing or brand partnership kind of integrations, but our priority right now is on the b2b front. And so where do we see our successes? I think, again, it goes back to consistency over time. You know, our, is $1, who’s our head of marketing, has done a just a tremendous job of figuring out learning what the, you know, what the community that follows fan food today, what do they engage with, we double down on that, it’s very much still product driven. So we are continuing to push out new features on a monthly basis. So we have a nice little strategy of communicating with our customers, partners community about new products and new features and how that adds value to our customers. That’s awesome. But like, we’re very, very active on on all social media platforms, from Twitter, to LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, so you know, it’s daily daily content is being pushed out. And we have a very healthy mix of blog content creation as well. So, you know, the data that we are collecting, what about, you know, venue? A, is so much more successful than venue be wired? Why are they making so much more money? Why are their fans placing more orders? Is it the menu? Is it their pricing strategy, like what? So, you know, read a point, now, we’re starting to kind of collect a lot of this data. And so we’re trying to combine it with creating positive customer testimonies with compelling data points to expand that reach to our community to try to help, you know, garner more b2b leads for the sales team. And so I think, because of that whole kind of our whole inbound marketing strategy, and our consistency with social over the last probably two years, has resulted in us, you know, getting organic leads pretty consistently filling out forms to learn more about our product requesting a demo, you know, and kind of now, it’s, it’s pretty organic, we have really great SEO because of that, because we’ve been consistent with, with the content that we have created. And so that’s kind of like where we’re at right now. You know, and we can be the more folks that, you know, can hear about us, and, you know, and that’s kind of how we’re approaching it. So.
Tony Zayas 54:00
Yeah, totally, totally follow that. And it’s funny, because that message that you’re preaching of consistency, it’s kind of a secret to the universe at times, but it’s not, it’s never, it’s never sexy, but it’s that incremental gains with consistency over time, and just sticking with it. But fantastic to hear that you guys are getting those results and organic inbound leads and all that. That’s, that’s excellent. We’re just about out of time. But I would like to hear, you know, what is the roadmap look like? What’s the what do you have in store for the next 12 months?
Carson Goodale 54:39
Oh, good question from a product perspective. Yeah, overall
Tony Zayas 54:42
product, you know, any other thing that you’re, you’re thinking, what’s it what’s new and exciting coming in the next next 12?
Carson Goodale 54:52
Yeah, no, I think that I think I was saying a little bit earlier, the, you know, there’s still a little bit of concerns with the whole Delta variant. All right. And potential impacts that may have on the sports and live entertainment industry concerns of events getting canceled Are you know, so we’re kind of still, I don’t want to say we’re on pins and needles a little bit, but that is still remaining a concern. And on the flip side, it does reinforce the need for certain kind of contactless technologies like, fan food. So we’re, we’re focused on, you know, over the next 12 months is whatever systems that our venue operators may be used to point of sale, for example, how do we make that integration is seamless as possible for them? You know, so point of sale integrations are a big one. And I think, you know, creating better loyalty with our, with the customers with event goers, so to speak. And then I think, longer term, because we’ll see, and once you start to get in the world of like integrations and, and prioritizing that, you know, that’s pretty time and development intensive. But where I see it going, fanfic, going more broadly, is a new kind of Jenner. And it’s kind of sounds like funny, but it’s like a new generation of commerce, right, like what Spotify or Shopify did to websites, I feel like we’re doing for event kind of commerce. And so although today, we’re very, we’ve gotten really good at an f&b Creating like an FMB. Lane. You know, we have the data to support that we can help our venues make more money, streamline their costs, you know, there’s some cost saving, so make their business more profitable, and deliver a better customer experience. How do we start to look at where those integrations can take us. And so it kind of lends itself to this whole idea of owning the entire digital journey. So from the moment someone purchases a ticket to booking their parking in advance to booking their concessions, in advance or merchandise in advance, the more that we can get people to plan and do stuff in advance, the better that the venue operators can be at predicting inventory requirements, staffing requirements, which is a huge issue still right going on right now. And like, it’d be really cool to just say, hey, like, I’m going to go to my seat and my I’m going to get a shirt t shirt, you know, jersey and my concessions delivered in the first half. And it’s all done, it’s all but the fan behavior, it’s going to take a little bit of time to get get their integration requirements in creating that whole ecosystem with the partners that do exist in the space, that’s going to take a little time. But I think that’s where we’re headed. And hopefully, it is a better experience in the long run for the customers and venue operators. So
Tony Zayas 58:07
that’s outstanding. He started off by saying that it might sound a little weird, but I think big ideas that you know, kind of change the game. Always do. So super exciting and really cool stuff that you’re up to. Before we before I ask my last question of the day, where can people go to find out more about fan food about you know what, you guys see what you guys are up to?
Carson Goodale 58:33
Yeah, well, my name is Carson Goodale, you can find me on LinkedIn, I’m pretty active on on that front. A lot of my time today is spent on the sales marketing partnerships kind of front, I like to be involved on that regard. And so connect with me, if you’re interested in like, you know, having a conversation, shoot me a DM and I’ll probably respond you can visit our website at www.FanFoodapp.com. To learn more about our platform and in on there, we have all of our case studies, blogs and things like that, if you’re interested in some of the the content and how we’ve helped, you know, our venue operators add value. Yeah.
Tony Zayas 59:17
That’s fantastic. And then just to wrap up, you know, this is a question we like to ask all the founders that come on, it’s, you know, if you were to go back in time, to prior to that, that, you know, having that idea sitting there at the bar, having this concept and then deciding to you know, figure this out and turning it into a business. If you were to have sit down and have coffee with your former self. What one piece of advice would you give to yourself?
Carson Goodale 59:45
Yeah, no, I learned this. We brought on our president to help them the day to day operations back. Last year later last year, we got burned out that as an entrepreneur, so deadly It’s important to prioritize mental health and prioritize yourself first. But what I learned from him, and he really, really harped on this is to write, write everything down. And I think like, it’s like, yeah, that that makes sense. But like, I think the more you can write stuff down, the better that you can become at communicating ideas, you develop that skill set. I think that is really, really important just to write everything down, write your plans, write just everything. You have an idea, great, write it down. Because if it’s important to nuff for you as an entrepreneur to write it down, it’ll be important enough for someone else to take the time and read it. So I think that’s just a really important like message is to like in the early days, like, write your stuff down. And also, I would say keep it simple by focusing on just one KPI. Like, whenever you define a success, focus on like, just one KPI and monitor progress off of that one KPI and don’t overcomplicate it, because that’s where you start to kind of go down in this, this hole and you know, it gets challenging to prioritize certain things. So keep focus with one KPI and write stuff down.
Tony Zayas 1:01:21
Really cool. Well that this has been fantastic. Carson, I really appreciate your time today. For those of you tuning in, I just highly recommend you go check out its fan food app calm. Is that correct? Yes, sir. And it see what Carson and the team are up to Carson again. Thank you so much for tuning in. Thank you for joining and we will see you again next time. Take care everybody.
Carson Goodale 1:01:48
I appreciate it.
Tony Zayas 1:01:48