Series B Investor Memo

This is an inside look at what led to our $33 million Series B round led by Redpoint and Jack Altman. Our Series B was led by the lead investors of our seed and Series A rounds. The outside world never got a look. We never even made a deck. That’s why we decided to write this memo for investors on what we’re building at Owner, as a snapshot of early 2024.

Owner is on a mission to build the platform that local business owners use to succeed online – starting with independent restaurant owners.

Watch Our Series B video

Today, Owner has become the top-rated platform that restaurant owners use to succeed online. We give them everything they need to grow – in one place. Owner is their website builder, CRM, online ordering system, marketing automation system, branded mobile app generator, and more.

Growing fast even in a recession: the market pull for our product is undeniable. We about tripled in 2022, and again in 2023. We now have thousands of customers and tens of millions in revenue. We process hundreds of millions of dollars annually on behalf of our restaurant partners.

Our goal with this memo is to give our community the opportunity to learn more about Owner as a business.

By Adam, Dean, and the Owner team

In short, Owner is “HubSpot for Restaurants.” A restaurant can’t survive without core digital elements including SEO, a user-friendly website, and an optimized online ordering system. Corporations like Domino’s are thriving in this shift: they spent millions on software and engineering, betting on it. Meanwhile, mom-and-pop spots are failing because of it.

Executive summary

Our mission is to build the platform that business owners use to succeed online.

What we mean by “succeed online”: profit and grow from the trend of the customer experience moving online (not lose money and fail because of it).

10 years ago, to build a successful restaurant, you just had to provide great food and great service. But over the past 10 years, and especially in the past 5, the world has changed.

Most of the guest experience is now online. Instead of finding you by walking around their neighborhood, guests discover your restaurant on Google and Yelp. Instead of being curious about trying your restaurant after seeing happy diners through the window, they first look at your online reviews to see whether they should even visit. Instead of seeing the storefront you labored over, they make snap judgments of your restaurant based on your website.

Moreover, as guests increasingly order online, they compare your restaurant's website online ordering experience to hyper-optimized, billion-dollar tech platforms like DoorDash.

Owner is building the platform to make online growth easy for mom-and-pop restaurant owners. We level the playing field for local businesses by building the tools they need to thrive online.

Specifically, we’re building 2 things:

  • The platform to make succeeding online easy for restaurant owners, all-in-one.

  • The experience to make ordering directly better for restaurant guests.

What Shopify + Klaviyo did for eCom merchants, Owner is doing for restaurant owners.

We’re building the infrastructure that makes ordering directly from the restaurant better for the restaurant, and for the restaurant guest.

Restaurant owners use Owner as their website builder, CRM, marketing automation platform, branded mobile app generator, and more.

With the restaurant's online experience choreographed by one system, guests get a consistent, delightful experience, and that keeps them coming back.

Competitors

POS System

Online ordering

Website builder

Google SEO

CRM

SMS marketing

Mobile app generator

Owner gives local restaurants everything they need to succeed online

Modern POS systems like Toast are great for managing a restaurant’s operations. But they leave huge gaps in what a restaurant needs to be successful online. 

For example, they don't offer features that help the restaurant get discovered on Google, or do text message marketing for their customers.

That’s where Owner comes in. Restaurant owners integrate our product with their POS to get the best of both worlds.

Here are 4 key ideas we hope you take from this memo:

  • Owner is already a substantial business on track to 5x (again) in the next 2 years.

  • Our customers love us.

  • This is the right team.

  • This is the right time to solve this problem.

Interested in investing in the future?

We’ve had hundreds of our restaurant owners ask and are considering doing a public financing campaign.

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First

Owner is already a substantial business, and is on track to 5x (again) in the next 2 years.

In the 3 years since raising pre-seed financing – we’ve reached thousands of restaurants across hundreds of cities in the USA, millions of their guests, and hundreds of millions in payments. Notably, over 2,000 restaurants and 3,000,000 restaurant customers have used our product and collectively processed hundreds of millions in revenue –– in just 3 years.

The best part? Over 70% of our restaurant customers have come inbound. That’s rare in an industry where every incumbent scaled using armies of outbound salespeople.

Scaling SMB software is hard, but we think we’ve cracked the code. It’s hard because they can’t afford to pay much, and inevitably churn at high rates.

The secret:

Aligning interests, operating with long-term integrity, and driving expansion revenue. The restaurant world is small and reputation is everything. When customers are successful, they tell other potential customers.

  • That’s why we frequently tell people who want to buy our product that another solution might be a better fit. We’ve built algorithms into our CRM which show us estimated payments volume on our platform and success probability for every restaurant across the country.

  • That’s why we don’t lock restaurant owners into long-term contracts – unlike almost every other company serving restaurants. We believe in having to earn their business every month.

We're seeing the effects of a growth flywheel

The other secret:

Commitment to small business. When other companies see the hard things about serving restaurants, they all reach the same conclusion – focus on large restaurant corporations instead. That’s the path of least resistance.

  • 1

    But it’s also why we have such a huge opportunity. The 45% of the restaurant industry that are operated by mom and pop owners is massively underserved by online solutions.

  • 2

    We’re not going upmarket. Our mission is around saving independent restaurant owners.

  • 3

    What lights us up is hearing the story of Yuliana. And the hundreds like hers. As you’ll soon find, that’s what inspired this business. That’s what keeps our team going with such intensity.

Second

Our customers love us

We’re the #1 rated restaurant tech solution in the world. The hundreds of reviews we’ve received across third-party websites like G2 and Capterra average at a 4.8/5.0 star rating.

  • Leader Position Winter 2024

  • Rated #1 Restaurant Marketing Software

Our users credit Owner with: “saving my business”, “being the best business decision I’ve ever made”, “giving me the resources to expand to my next location”. You can check out some of our customer success stories here.

The customer love starts even before they’re customers. As you can see from this video, our content teaching people how to grow their restaurant for free consistently goes viral within our target audience. We’ve generated millions of free impressions through our educational blog and videos. That’s how 1 in 4 restaurant owners have already heard of Owner before they speak to our reps, and how our growth is getting MORE efficient as we scale –– not less.

In that time, we’ve had countless customers expand from 1 location to many locations – like Mo and Omar from Talkin’ Tacos – who started with us 3 years ago with a single location in Miramar and now have 12 locations and growing.

2,000+ restaurants

have built their online presence on Owner

3,000,000+ guests

have used our products in the past 3 years

$100,000,000+ revenues

in payments processed on our platform, and billions in total impact.

Michael B

Michael B

“They are helping us take back more control of our business and compete with larger companies because the technology is great!”

Steven F

Steven F

“The branded website and Online ordering platform is perfect for our guest and growing my business.”

Ziad A

Ziad A

“Exceptional customer service from start to finish every step of the process has been an enjoyable experience”

Tara B

Tara B

“Owner.com has been an absolute lifesaver when it comes to minimizing third-party service fees and driving direct store sales”

Calvin N

Calvin N

“Owner have a smooth onboarding process. Owner helped my business significantly during our soft reopening phase.”

Gia S

Gia S

“My restaurant's website looks awesome. I'm keeping all the profits for my store instead of giving 30-40% away.”

Mohammad A

Mohammad A

“With Owner.com I keep all money from sales and only pay minimal fee on delivery cost.”

Charles N

Charles N

“Owner.com is my way of eliminating 3rd party delivery fees and putting money back into our business.”

Daryl E

Daryl E

“My restaurants operate very late, yet Owner Customer's Support has ALWAYS been active and able to help me with any concerns!”

Don L

Don L

“We switched from using Wix to Owner and have noticed an increase in website sales by over 50%.”

THIRD

This is the right team

We have built an all-star team of former founders and experienced leaders. Our team includes the builders of the best SMB-focused companies in the world, including:

shopify logohubspot logoprocore logoservice titan logo

and more...

Adam Guild

Co-founder & CEO

Dean Bloembergen

Co-founder & CTO

Jed Somers

COO

Kyle Norton

CRO

Josh Brown

CFO

David Fallarme

VP Marketing

Noah Yoseloff

Head of Growth

Tina Glickman

VP Partnerships

Dan Godfrey

Director, Engineering

Alexis Bernstein

Head of Recruiting

We’re also blessed to have some of the best investors in the world. Our investors include the founders and early leaders of 17 unicorn startups, including:

Jason Lemkin

Max Mullen

Parker Conrad

Claire Hughes Johnson

Arash Ferdowsi

Dylan Field

Guillermo Rauch

Alex Bard

Henry Schuck

+ more

FOURTH

This is the right time

Owner is riding 3 "macro" tailwinds:

  • 1

    Restaurant owners have realized that online growth is a must-have. Until recently, it was a nice-to-have.

    Restaurant sales are moving online.

  • 2

    Online food ordering is growing exponentially. It’s already a market with tens of billions in revenue, and it’s growing at double digits. The world’s biggest restaurant corporations are seeing most of their revenue come in through direct online channels.

    Meanwhile, independent restaurants are seeing more and more orders go through DoorDash and Uber Eats, which vaporizes their profit margins. This creates a problem for them that they’re desperate to solve. Our tools solve it.

  • 3

    Tech has matured to enable the "compound startup." Until very recently, it was absurd to even consider asking just 10 engineers to build a website builder, CRM, marketing automation platform, and branded app platform all at once. But now it’s possible—for the right team of 10X engineers—thanks to Stripe, Twilio, and dozens of other tools.

Here were the goals of our Series B:

  • 1

    Accelerate our engineering and product hiring. The Owner product is already good, but we need more engineers.

    • a

      We believe in having a technical Delta force, rather than an army. That means a small team of elite engineers and designers who operate in leveraged fashion.

    • b

      But even with that technical Delta force mentality, 10 engineers simply can’t move fast enough to replace 15 different point solutions in the market today.

    • c

      That’s why we want to prioritize technical talent acquisition.

  • 2

    Making the best content on the internet for restaurant owners who want to grow online.

    • a

      We believe in earning trust through giving away world-class content.

    • b

      Restaurant owners start to trust Owner long before they sign up, because they benefit so much from the free resources we give away.

    • c

      That’s why we have so much quality content. We’ll continue to double down here.

  • 3

    Insulate ourselves against the macro-turbulence.

    • a

      We want to continue to operate conservatively, so that we can continue growing regardless of what the economy is doing and what's going on in the world. That means keeping years of runway saved and maintaining financial discipline.

    • b

      That’s also why we just brought on Josh Brown as CFO. Josh most recently scaled Lattice from $10m to $100m in ARR and has a deep background in financial leadership.

Now let's dive deeper:

Learn more about the Owner journey, and the forces that drive our business.

10 years ago, you could build a successful restaurant by “just” providing great food and great service. Those things are hard to do on their own, and rare in tandem. So when restaurant owners got those 2 things right, they'd get a base of loyal customers.

But over the past 10 years, the world has irrevocably changed for restaurants.

Most of the guest experience has moved online. Guests discover your restaurant on Google and Yelp and judge you by reading your reviews. Guests make instant decisions based on how fast your website loads, how it looks, and how you've set it up.

How they order is also moving online. And their expectations are shaped by billion-dollar companies. It doesn't matter that you're a local restaurant that doesn't have the same resources. Guests compare your online ordering system to DoorDash and Starbucks.

What was once a nice-to-have for tech-savvy guests is now the center of the guest experience.

If you interview 100 restaurant owners, at least 90 of them will tell you that their #1 worry is that they’re being left behind online.

Restaurant owners have tried to adapt. They’ve cobbled together 15 different solutions to power each piece of their online presence. Wix for their website, ChowNow for online ordering, MailChimp for email, FiveStars for loyalty, and so on.

But their efforts have led to a time-consuming, expensive mess of complication — not growth.

That’s why we’re building the solution that makes winning online easy.

THE OWNER JOURNEY

Where we came from

Adam Guild was inspired to start Owner after an experience he had in saving his mom’s business. She was struggling because she didn’t have the right tools to grow her dog grooming business. She asked him for help, and he built the first version of Owner for her business.

He never thought he’d be able to raise capital as a 17-year-old high school dropout who knew nobody in the tech industry, so we were bootstrapped and profitable for the first 2 years.

The first version of our product was a website-builder focused on helping restaurants drive dine-in. Then COVID happened, and almost killed our business. Dine-in was wiped out overnight.

Unexpected product-market fit during COVID-19

The pandemic was initially devastating to us. It felt like it reset years of progress overnight. All of a sudden, our customers couldn’t afford to pay us. We had spent 2 years acquiring them and making them happy, but now everything we’d done was irrelevant. That felt like a death sentence for us as a bootstrapped startup, because we only had a few months of cash, even after we cut down to a team of 2.

We called all of our customers and asked them how we could help them through this time. The thing that they kept screaming into the phone over and over again was how they were being screwed by delivery apps like GrubHub. They needed a fair way to drive direct online orders—one that didn’t eat up all their margins.

So we built it. We launched it in May of 2020, praying to God it would take off and work.

Thank God, it did. We began to grow fast.

But it became obvious that Owner needed a great co-founder and CTO to realize its potential. The first name that came to mind was Dean Bloembergen, an extremely talented CTO and happened to have years of experience of building software for restaurants. Adam and Dean had been friends for years, but didn’t know when they would work together. The time was now.

They partnered up as co-founders. This accelerated the company even more. The product quickly went from janky to good.

Within 10 months, we went from being about to run out of money to hundreds of customers, millions in revenue, and over $10,000,000 in venture-capital.

Becoming all-in-one

The common wisdom says to focus on being the best at one product. In 2020, our online ordering system started taking off.  So, most people thought we should just focus there.

But our customers were begging us to do more for them. They hated having to duct-tape together over a dozen solutions just to keep up with guest expectations.

So we expanded. We decided to become a compound startup that has everything they need to succeed online. We built an integrated website builder, CRM, email marketing platform, text marketing platform, and job board.

Importantly, we complement (rather than compete with) existing POS solutions. There’s a little overlap in product, because they all offer online ordering products. But the users view adopting Owner as “upgrading” their online presence.

It’s still day 1 

We have thousands of restaurants and millions of guests already using the product.

And there’s a lot more to build.

Over 80% of our website traffic is international, and we haven’t even begun to expand outside of the USA.

AI has enabled breakthroughs for us.

Restaurant owners use our AI email marketing product to create the perfect emails for their goals. The process that used to take them 30 minutes in Mailchimp now takes 30 seconds. You can see it in our latest product update below.

There’s a lot more where that came from. AI can level the playing field and help mom-and-pop owners operate as if they had a team of online marketers and engineers.

Why we build

Local business owners are heroes to us. 

They risk everything – years of their lives, their families, their savings – to pursue their dreams.

They create jobs, give unique flavors to their neighborhoods, and inspire people around them by showing them that owning their own business is possible.

They remind us that it’s possible to rise from being an entry-level worker to becoming a business owner one day, as 70% of restaurant owners do.

But local business owners are on a path to extinction.

You can see this most clearly in restaurants. Just 20 years ago, 60% of the restaurant world was owned by independent mom-and-pops. Today, that number is 40% and dropping by the year. National and global chains keep taking over, while local restaurants keep shutting down.

This is not a world we want to live in.

We build because we believe that local businesses are the core of our economy. They create the majority of new jobs. They are the beating heart of our communities. They represent hope and optimism for the future.

We build because we believe a world with more local businesses is a better world.

We build because the chips are stacked against them, and we're on their side.

We build to give the superpowers of large corporations to local businesses.

CAREERS

Join our team

Since May of 2020 when we first launched, we have evolved by leaps and bounds. But there is so much more left to do.

Come build with us.

View open roles

Shoutout to the team at On Deck for inspiring this with their Series A memo.