4 startups in, UW senior has no plans to stop building
Jack Pawlik, 22, and his partners launched his fourth startup this month — drip, a mobile app similar to Starbucks’ but focused on local cafés.
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That spring, Pawlik says, the team was able to raise a couple million dollars in venture capital funding, the company’s CEO became a Thiel fellow, and EnvoyNow received an additional investment from the Founders Fund, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm investing in companies building revolutionary technologies. “We spent the summer out in San Francisco living in the stereotypical startup house where we worked/lived,” recalls Pawlik. “It was pretty glamorous — we slept on mattresses thrown on the floors and then moved tables in during the day. We went on to get acquired by JoyRun that next fall. We probably did every single thing wrong that we could have over the course of the company, and it was a total crash course in the startup world.”
Shortly after, Pawlik helped launch two nightlife startups. He co-founded LineLeap with three others, which partners with busy bars that get lines out their door. The platform sells fast-pass tickets that allow customers to “leap” the line. In the last two years, the LineLeap team has partnered with bars in 15 cities, and the young company won last year’s Transcend business competition in Madison, as well as other business competitions on other campuses.
Following the success of LineLeap, Pawlik saw an opportunity and launched a complimentary product called Cork Drinks, an app that provides bars and restaurants with a way to offer a subscription to drinks for their customers. Cork Drinks is now live in three cities.
“To scale the company, I converted the passenger seat in my 2005 Acura TL into a bed because we didn’t have the money to spend on hotels every night,” notes Pawlik. “I drove between markets signing on new partners, sleeping in my car, and using a Planet Fitness membership for my high-class ‘amenities.’ We call it the ‘Salesmobile.’”
Between LineLeap and Cork Drinks, Pawlik has been through a lot of the Madison startup ecosystem and participated in both MadWorks and gBETA. “It’s pretty cool to see Madison providing all these resources to startups. I never set out to start all of these companies, but these great ideas kept popping up that had the potential to piggyback on each other, and I fell in love with the process of building an early-stage business.”
With all of his ideas, Pawlik saw a similar concept working well elsewhere and adapted it for a broader marketplace.
LineLeap was an idea that Pawlik and his partners saw working at one bar in Michigan. “We had this network built out from EnvoyNow and thought we would be able to use the same model to expand quickly,” he explains. “With Cork Drinks, I was working on getting LineLeap established in New York and saw a company doing similar drink subscriptions. The thought was similar to use the network we had built with LineLeap and add this on as a complimentary product.
“The idea for drip slowly transformed from being a similar subscription option as Cork Drinks into more of the mobile ordering platform it is today. The more we looked at Starbucks and how much success their app has had, the more we figured that these were tools local cafés should have access to, as well.”
So far, what Pawlik is doing is paying off. While EnvoyNow was acquired, the other three startup businesses are profitable at the moment, though Pawlik notes almost all profits get reinvested into growth at this stage. “I’ve gotten pretty good at embracing the ‘lean’ lifestyle, trying to live and work as cheaply as possible (i.e., the Salesmobile).”
In order to balance the early growth and success of the businesses with his busy college schedule, Pawlik has had to make some other sacrifices, as well — namely on how he spends his “free” time. “[But it’s] never felt like I’ve been making sacrifices because working on these startups is something I really love to do,” he explains.
“I like building things. It’s one of the most rewarding processes to see something you built out in the world and being used, and hopefully I am lucky enough to keep doing it.”
- The app is available on both Android and iPhone.
- To order, a customer uploads money onto an in-app card, selects the café they want to order from, selects the menu items they want, and then pays through the app. The order gets sent to a tablet at the café and once the order is ready, the user receives a notification on his or her phone.
- The reward system gives two “beans” for every $1 spent at any café on the app. Once a customer reaches 100 “beans,” they can redeem them for a free item of their choosing.
- Implementation for a coffee shop takes 10–20 minutes. All the café needs to do is set up the tablet that drip provides them and then input their menu into the app. There is no up-front cost or monthly fees for a café to use the platform.
- A café does not need to change its POS system. Drip is a separate addition that integrates easily.
- Drip provides all first time customers with $1 off their first order at a participating café.
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