EatStreet founders cook up a healthy menu for success

They have 9,000 sq. ft. of highly coveted office space and a balcony overlooking Lake Monona. Inside, engineers and designers work on laptops at long wooden tables. One employee lounges, laptop in hand, on a long beanbag chair. Couches are grouped around large-screen TVs, and through another door, employees unwind with a game of foosball, Ping-Pong, or just hang out on a comfy sofa. The office chomps through pounds of Swedish Fish candy every week, and consumes lots of caffeine.

This is EatStreet, the fast-growing brainchild of friends and business colleagues Matt Howard, 25, CEO, and fellow co-founders Eric Martell, 25, COO, and Alex Wyler, 24, CTO. The young entrepreneurs became friends in their freshman year at UW-Madison, studying computer science, engineering, or, in Matt’s case, economics and political science.

The EatStreet concept, often compared to the much larger GrubHub, began somewhat unintentionally one day after Martell ordered a sandwich online. When the restaurant’s delivery driver informed Martell that he’d just paid 75 cents extra to order online through a third-party site (Campus Food, at the time), Martell saw an opportunity. Unaware of GrubHub, he discussed the idea with his friends, who agreed to pursue it.

EatStreet, an online food-ordering business, launched in 2010. It provides a one-stop shop for takeout and will produce a website with online ordering capability if a restaurant doesn’t already have one — for free. As of this writing, about 200 area restaurants have signed on, as have 5,000 nationwide. By the end of the year, EatStreet expects 15,000 restaurants online. Each restaurant pays EatStreet a 10% commission on orders placed through the site. College towns are of particular interest, especially in cities with populations of between 100,000 and 500,000.

So why order from EatStreet? In Howard’s words, “You don’t have to worry about being put on hold and you know you can get to the restaurant right away. Also, you have their entire menus online, including featured dishes and all specials. Also, it’s just easier to pay with a credit card, and your card info is stored along with the delivery address for the next time. It’s easy, and you also get tons of different restaurants [in one place] so there’s a lot of variety.”

The restaurants are key to EatStreet’s success. “We want as many orders as possible,” Howard says, adding that restaurants appreciate orders being sent directly into their POS systems. “It streamlines their process.”
Howard, Martell, and Wyler represent the face of the new entrepreneurial spirit. They had an idea, and boy did it stick. Originally named Badger Bites, the business earned a $10,000 top prize and $15,000 in free office space in 2011 after winning the G. Steven Burrill Business Plan Competition at the University of Wisconsin School of Business.

It received an extra $150,000 after the partners completed their first gener8tor class in 2012, and investors tacked on another $2.5 million in Series A funding in 2013. This past April, EatStreet closed on $6 million in Series B financing from investors nationwide.



“It’s exciting,” Martell says, “but we are all very focused on keeping our heads down and getting bigger as quickly as possible. The Internet moves so quickly. If not us, someone else will come along just as we did. We’re always trying to stay on our toes.”

The three co-founders have come a long way since forking over $1,000 each initially, which they more than made up for a year later. “It was the best investment!” Howard said.
They still pinch themselves when they walk into their new space, and they’re still developing their business chops, learning every day from mentors, gener8tor, and new investors along the way. Martell remembers their first two Google searches: “how to start a company” and “how to make a website.”

Wyler, who lives in San Francisco and spends about half his time here, laughs. “It was three dudes who knew nothing about anything. Now, we’re three dudes with $6 million who don’t know a lot about anything.”
Investors would disagree. The co-founders are hard workers who stick to a budget, work a lot, and believe that failure is simply not an option. “We just really want to build a great company,” Howard explains.

A year ago, EatStreet had 19 employees; now it has 36 full-timers plus another 30 part-timers and interns, and everyone gets paid. “Years ago,” Howard says, “I’d be recruiting my friends [to help],” he says. “Now we recruit industry experts.”

EatStreet, Inc.
131 W. Wilson St. #400, Madison, WI 53703

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