Today’s Notable Young Entrepreneur is Coastr Co-founder Brady Fletcher, whose restaurant industry loyalty CRM system is all about filling venues with the right people on any given night. Here’s where he sees his company in five years…
Elevator Pitch: Describe your job in a nutshell.
My co-founder Robbie Trudeau and I launched Coastr as a loyalty CRM system for the restaurant industry. We help restaurants better identify, connect with, and engage their top clientele. For our clients, and us, it’s not about just filling a venue to capacity, but making sure it’s filled with the right people.
Why did you start working at your company? What was the inspiration for this career route?
I have always enjoyed going out. I like trying new things, I like the energy, I like meeting new people, and I like the entertainment value – and I’ve had to do a lot of it for client entertainment over the years. As a result, I’ve built some great friendships and relationships with staff, managers, and owners over the years.
Last summer, we spent a tonne of time at the Keg Yaletown’s patio where my cousin Zack was bartending. When Zack graduated from UBC Business, he left his bartending post and joined HyperWallet’s sales team. Sure enough, a couple weeks later some buddies and I headed up to the rooftop bar where their hostess very politely gave me a little vibrating puck and told us we would have to wait downstairs for 30-45 minutes before a table was ready. As guys that had been frequenting this restaurant, and typically spending reasonable amounts of money, we felt that little vibrating puck almost cheapened our past experiences. So we went to the restaurant next door instead.
That prompted a few of us to start thinking that there had to be a better way to manage patrons. The more we looked at it, we realised that top clientele don’t book through some online reservation tool; they call “their guy” – be it the owner, manager, bartender, server, or chef. “Their guy” makes sure that they’re well taken care of. So how does a restaurant get visibility into these personal networks and relationships that are built on some level with every customer?
The reality is that the dining experience is a personal one. We designed our platform around users and restaurants that are passionate about the experience; those patrons who don’t care about a free meal on their 10th visit, but never want to see a vibrating puck. And those venues that are more concerned with having the “right” clientele than just filling to capacity.
We then started looking at the applicability of the analytics, helping restaurants better serve their patrons, giving our travelling users a “passport” of sorts that could get them into any event, or past any line. Robbie, Zack, a couple buddies and myself started getting together every Friday afternoon over beers, and every week we had new functionality we wanted to see… our minds were locked on to the opportunity.
What is the best part of what you do on a day-to-day basis? The most challenging part?
My favourite part is also the most challenging, and also what I loved about investment banking. Every day presents a new challenge. We’re constantly dealing with client feedback, whiteboarding new functions, bug fixes, server crashes, new hires, focus groups, identifying our competition, strategy, and funding it all. At the end of the day, it’s all about execution.
What is one sign that you’ve seen over the years to suggest that your work/life balance is off?
“Off” would really depend on your definition of balance…
Where do you see yourself in five years?
That’s a question of where do I see Coastr – I believe we will be the pre-eminent loyalty CRM system for the restaurant industry, tying all of the analytics we collect to provide user specific privileges across international locations – much the way Aeroplan does in the airline world.
What is one major challenge that you’ve had to overcome in your career? How did you overcome it?
Wow, where to start with this one? One major challenge was being taken seriously in investment banking straight out of my Computer Engineering degree. I was 21, and would get tasked with preparing presentations, including calculating company valuations, when really, I had no clue what DCF even meant. I had to teach myself by Googling university lectures, and then rely on my receding hairline for a bit of credibility in meetings.
What does success look like to you? Does Money = Happiness?
Milt Wong once told my father that the only thing money was good for was to buy freedom. I would have to agree with that – but I also know that the freedom to travel, support the causes you’re passionate about, dine out, have a family, live the experiences you want to, aren’t necessarily free…
What is the most memorable milestone in your career?
Leaving Canaccord Genuity. It was one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to do, and getting a call from Peter Brown asking me why was one of the toughest calls I’ve ever answered. This was a family that had taught me everything through my 20s – and unfortunately there wasn’t a home there for me anymore. I had always loved the more entrepreneurial deals we had worked on; they were smaller and a bigger portion of our compensation was tied to equity, but when we banked the right deals, we won big.
I wanted to be back working with companies that I could put a bigger shoulder behind, and have a real impact on their growth. Ultimately, it was this realization that led me to identify the Coastr opportunity and decide to go build it. I’m still thankful for everything Jamie, Rentz, Swaffield, Pejman, Hak and Horton taught me over those seven years there.
Do you have any advice for other young professionals?
Rescue a dog. Sometimes 20 minutes throwing a ball in the park is all you need to think things through without distraction. A walk before bed always helps clear the head and refocus on the next day.
Where is your favourite place to wine/dine in your city and why?
You can normally find me at the Parlour in Yaletown. The food there is good, the staff is fun, it’s a great atmosphere – and if I’m wrong, you can complain to Ted Wilkie on Coastr…
When you’re not working how do you love to spend your “Me” time?
Lots of exercise… gym, volleyball, hockey, hikes, skiing, wakeboarding. Pretty much anything active.
Where is your favourite place to travel? Why?
If you’re asking about spontaneous getaways, it would have to be Ponderosa Point during the summer and Whistler during the winter. Both are reasonably close to the city, and there’s a lot to do – from wine tours, to dining, to skiing, hanging out on beaches, or barbequing on the deck.
My favourite trips to date have been to Mexico and Australia though. Central and South America would have to be next on my list. I’m not really interested in touristy places – I like to go places with real experiences. For instance, diving the Great Barrier Reef, snorkelling with whale sharks, kitesurfing among hopping rays, fresh tracks down some chute, or ripping waterski turns on glass calm water first thing in the morning.
If you had to choose a theme song, what would it be?
The Brady Bunch.
If you weren’t doing what you’re doing, what would you be doing?
Investment banking and advisory work, helping growth stage technology companies get funded, assess strategic options, and execute on their business plans. In that capacity, though, I was still looking for the best opportunities to put my shoulder behind, and work to make my equity ownership worth more.
Do you support any charities? If so, which one(s) and why is that important to you?
I seem to rotate through a number of them. I did the Ice Bucket Challenge this year with my co-founder Robbie. We ran a dunk tank one Tuesday afternoon with 1.5-degree water, and raised about $2,500 from people off the street.
One of my favourites that I support every year is KidSafe, which is helping at-risk youth in Vancouver Eastside “break the cycle.” It’s been amazing to watch some of the kids that came into the program five years ago as “at-risk” youth that are now providing positive role models to younger classes. These children have had to cope with exposure to a wide range of hurtful influences, including substance abuse, neglect, hunger, enticement and dangers of street life, domestic violence, or instability. Seeing the participants in the program embracing the opportunity to become a contributing member of society is an amazing thing.
What to you is notable?
People that can set out their dreams and work towards them, never giving up and triumphing through adversity.
Blackberry, iPhone, Android, or Other?
I’m willing to share advertising revenues on my response to this question.