TabbedOut’s New CEO on Startups, Hollywood, and What’s Next for the Company

February 1, 2012

3:00 pm

TabbedOut, the free mobile payment app, has a new CEO with big plans for the company.  Paul Fiore is replacing co-founder Rick Orr, who will stay on as Executive Vice-President.  If you haven’t heard or used TabbedOut, it lets you pay a bar or restaurant tab in real time from your iPhone or Android.

Fiore is a bit of a startup veteran, having successfully co-founded and then sold a company for a nice, healthy, makes-one-jealous 10 figures to Intuit.

I had a really fun conversation with Paul about startups, Hollywood, and what’s in store for TabbedOut.  Here are excerpts from our conversation:

Tech Cocktail: How did you land at TabbedOut?

Paul Fiore: Well, I have been in the financial/technology industry for more than 20 years.  WAY Back in 1995, I thought of an idea for a startup on a plane to Ireland from LA.  (My brother had won a bartending contest sponsored by Guinness, and he took me.) I had been trying to figure out how to do PC banking for a software company, but I couldn’t find any elegant solutions.  While on the plane, inspiration for Digital Insight struck.

Digital Insight was only possible because of the growth of the Internet. We launched, did an angel round, then got VC-backing, then issued an IPO, and then we were acquired by Intuit.  It was great to be part of the web revolution.  Now we’re in the mobile revolution, and the Starbucks app made it clear that mobile payments were here to stay, so it’s great to part of the next technology wave.

I had heard of TabbedOut and was fascinated by the ties they have with vendors – if you build hardware and software systems, you are not used to dealing with consumers directly.  They decided to do a consumer-facing interface, and that partnership is very powerful.

Tech Cocktail: Why the organizational change?

Fiore: Rick recruited me.  They found they were in a great spot and needed to expand the team to get to the next level. It is really great to have someone on board who has been where you want to go – you can avoid the trial and error of getting to that point.

Tech Cocktail: How will this big change in leadership impact the company’s direction?

Fiore: I want to see this to be a tremendous success, so we’ll be ramping up to sign up tens of thousands of merchants in our target market – hospitality-related businesses where you can open up a tab.  We feel we have the right product for the right industry at the right time.

The key to our growth is the close partnerships with POS companies at the venues.   We have 70% coverage right now – we have a direct sales force and a lot of incoming requests.

Tech Cocktail: Can you tell me about your new Beta Offers feature?

Fiore: Sure! We already have a split-the-tab feature in the app so friends can divvy up payment.  Beta Offers lets a 3rd party split the check with you.  So brands can have, inside the app, their own tab to promote their product and offer a discount.  We tested it in Austin and are rolling it out in the rest of the country.

Tech Cocktail: So, after the sale of Digital Insight, did you stay on board for a while and then join TabbedOut from there? 

Fiore: No, actually, I came from Green Dot.  Right after I sold Digital Insight, I was living in LA.  When you sell your first company and you’re in LA, you tend to find yourself in the movie business.  I met the screenwriter of the movie “Waiting,” which is about waiting on tables – a right of passage in Hollywood for sure – and I ended up executive producing it.

Then we made a sequel called “Still Waiting” and my wife and I had cameos in it.  In one scene, my wife says, “There’s a fly in my soup” [she made it into the movie trailer – see minute 1:30 below]. I was in a dream sequence a waiter was having – more of a nightmare really – speaking gibberish.  It was a really fun experience.


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Monika Jansen is a writer and editor who is happiest pounding out blog posts, newsletters, website content, and other materials. Follow her at: @monikacjansen

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