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Jack Johnson helps entrepreneurs Beat the Q

Monday, 4 March 2013 | By Michelle Hammond

start-up-profiles-adamAn incident at a Jack Johnson concert is one of the reasons why Adam Theobald and best mate Scott Player decided to set up Beat the Q.


Launched in August 2011, Beat the Q is an app that allows people to order and pay for food and beverages remotely so as to avoid waiting in long lines.


The business is based in Sydney but has more than 120 outlets across the country.


Theobald talks to StartupSmart about how he came up with the Beat the Q concept, partnering with PayPal, and why Beat the Q is unlike other payments start-ups.


What inspired you to launch Beat the Q?


It was a reoccurring need, or frustration rather, that kept presenting itself to me as one big opportunity.


The two moments in time that stick out, when I think back, include another hurried morning rushing to get to the city for a meeting.


I was in need of my morning coffee and as I hurriedly approached my local café, I noticed a long queue while simultaneously realising I had no cash on me – both problematic as I couldn’t be late to my meeting and it was a cash-only café.


I just kept driving without coffee in hand, annoyed and thought, ‘I need to fix this’.


The other moment was a bit more comical. Scott and I were at a Jack Johnson concert, and we’d been waiting in the food line for 45 minutes.


When we eventually reached the counter, three young girls pushed in front of us. Disgruntled, we bargained with them, letting them go behind us instead. They agreed and moved back one space.


I then proceeded to order 25 chicken burgers for all those in the line behind me and the group of girls. You should have seen the look on the operator’s face! They loved it.


I then sold them to each person in the line for a couple dollars extra – they sold out in a matter of minutes. This was when it really hit me that there is a big market for convenience.


How did you fund the business and what were your start-up costs?


To get things off the ground, BTQ was fully self-funded.


Scott and I pulled from personal savings and knew we’d need to quickly look to external funding to expand and grow the business.


Basic start-up costs to get the company set up, and key initial tasks, was roughly $10,000.


From there we focused on developing our minimum viable product for beta testing and began raising funds, initially from friends and family and then investors.


How many staff do you have?


Today we have seven full-time employees and more than a dozen part-time contributors. We are really lucky to have a highly dedicated and switched-on team.


How do you promote the business?


As a small start-up business, we mostly rely on our awesome customer base and cafés to spread the word about how easy it is to use BTQ. Our customers are truly amazing.


I’m often humbled by the feedback we get online and via the app about how it’s making their life easier, from their morning commute to the afternoon office coffee run.


And the same goes for our café partners. They talk about how BTQ has increased customer loyalty due to the convenience and ease of use.


Beyond that we use a variety of avenues to promote and market the business.


We are active on social media, including our Facebook and Twitter, and have a great partnership with PayPal that allows us some co-branded promotion opportunities.


What are your revenue projections for 2012/13?


We don’t disclose revenue projections publicly but have an ambitious goal in place for 2013 and are focused on expanding to new markets, increasing the number of participating cafés and, of course, the amount of customer app downloads and usage.


Bur moreover, my big audacious goal for 2013 is to be able to give back a week of productivity to all of our users.


How is Beat the Q different from every other mobile payments start-up?


We do not operate like other payments start-ups. We have a small niche; we’re focused on the ordering aspect of the purchasing cycle.


Payment is crucial to Beat the Q but we have elected to rely on the expertise of our global payments partner, PayPal.


Our focus is on delivering a synchronised and efficient ordering, acceptance and fulfilment system. It’s not a ‘Buy now and ship later’ model like the typical website ordering system.


We are delivering a sub 10-second ordering and payment solution in a marketplace where vendors have no more than five seconds to receive that order and move on to keep pace with their business demands.


And it’s working. For example, Beat the Q orders are up to 700% faster to serve than traditional orders.


What’s the biggest risk you face?


As with any start-up, one of the biggest risks we face is failure but we aren’t going to let that stop us. And initial numbers indicate we are tapping into an unmet need in the marketplace.


Where do you see the market heading?


We see customers becoming more and more impatient. People are time-poor and they want to get in and out quicker but they aren’t willing to lose quality – of service or product – for this to happen.


Is there anything you would have done differently?


In hindsight there are a lot of things I would have done differently. But that is part of being a start-up.


We made some mistakes along the way – from less than perfect hires through to bad product decisions.


But you make the call, do your best with it, review and change direction. It’s about being nimble and willing to admit when you made the wrong decision and act quickly to course correct.


We’re always learning and always evolving. That’s part of what I love about being an entrepreneur.