Last night, Tabbedout took home the prize of hottest showcasing startup at our Tech Cocktail Austin mixer. Perhaps it's because the problem they're trying to solve – the hassle of paying bar tabs – is so common.
Imagine this: it’s 2 am, and it’s time to pay your bar tab. Maybe you’re a little tipsy, and ready to stagger home and drop into bed. Maybe your friends are yelling at you to hurry up, because the party’s just getting started.
Either way, elbowing up to the bar, finding a bartender to grab your check, and trying to calculate a tip – not to mention splitting the tab – are just annoying enough to ruin the party mood. Tabbedout is changing that, in over 1,100 bars and restaurants across the country (including T.G.I. Friday's).
The Tabbedout app’s core function is paying and splitting bills with friends. On top of that are some other features – getting deals and checking out your purchase history (12 Heinekens, 10 burgers) – but payment is the main attraction. You only have to enter your credit card details once, then select a tip and pay and go. Flagging down bartenders not required.
Below, founder Rick Orr talks about mobile payments, free beer, and why Tabbedout is like a shot of Jameson.
Tech Cocktail: How do you keep your team motivated at the office?
Rick Orr: Our product is unique in that QA [testing] means loading the latest build and going to a nearby bar to make sure all is well. For us, free booze has been a great recruiting tool and motivator.
Tech Cocktail: What keeps you motivated on the hard days?
Orr: In my humble opinion, Tabbedout is playing a key role in a space that is putting its “dent in the universe.” People will soon think of their phones as the obvious way to pay everywhere – what better place to start than bars and restaurants!?
Tech Cocktail: What’s the weirdest way someone has used your product?
Orr: Not so weird really, but I love when folks use Tabbedout to buy a round for a friend in another city by joining their tab. Bachelor parties, graduation, etc….pretty handy trick.
Tech Cocktail: What’s the most encouraging sign of success you’ve seen so far?
Orr: Ha, maybe that folks can buy drinks across the country for one another with our app. Somewhere along the line, folks are going to recognize, en masse, that this is much much cooler than dealing with plastic.
Tech Cocktail: Why should I use your product, in 140 characters or fewer?
Orr: No one likes waiting for their check at a bar or restaurant – Tabbedout solves this today and rewards its users with free beer!
Tech Cocktail: What’s the best and the worst things about starting up in your city?
Orr: One of the biggest challenges to changing the way the world pays is getting in front of the owners, GMs, and staff at over 500,000 bars and restaurants. Austin is uniquely local, so by starting Tabbedout here, we enjoyed a distinct advantage in being able to get to decision makers, local entrepreneurs themselves, easily. Furthermore, Austin is a city that works hard to take care of its own; as such, when we met with local business owners, even in the earliest days of our product, they were eager to help and more open to taking a risk on us than, perhaps, larger cities might have been.
Tech Cocktail: If your startup were an animal, which one would it be and why?
Orr: Tabbedout would be my German short-haired pointer, Casey – she can climb trees, which has to be useful for a startup, too, right?
Tech Cocktail: If your startup were a cocktail, which one would it be and why?
Orr: Shot of Jameson. No frills, just straight to the point – pay with your phone (hiccup)!