Founder: Jeremy Klein
Company Description: Last minute restaurant reservations
Company Site: https://www.tablesavvy.com/
Date of interview: October 2014
Jeremy Klein is the original founder and member of the co-founder trio at Table Savvy. Jeremy grew up in Cleveland, went to Indiana University and did his MBA at DePaul in Chicago and is (that’s right, still is) a trader at Morgan Stanley.
He talks to me like we’re already friends and is nice enough to start by saying, “I’m so glad you reached out.” We chat about how we both love San Francisco, CA and Austin, TX. Eventually, we get into how he ended up as Morgan Stanley trader by day, Table Savvy entrepreneur by night.
On the idea and early pitches:
The idea started a few years ago when Jeremy had some friends coming into town and they needed a last minute dinner reservation at a good restaurant on a Thursday night. It was a “wouldn’t it be great if….” type of conversation that snowballed into Jeremy getting up the nerve to pitch to Light Bank in the fall of 2010.
It was intimidating for me to have an idea because I didn’t know what to do, I didn’t know who to talk to and what the next step was. I almost wanted to prove the idea wrong, just so I wouldn’t have to go through all the steps.”
After a quick rejection from Light Bank, he moved on to Sand Box which was another rejection. Although rejected, he got an introduction to Rick Desai from Dashfire which enabled him to start product development.
On customer acquisition and reach:
When he first started pitching to Chicago restaurants, he didn’t get any traction or interest. The restaurants weren’t convinced that Table SAVVY had the distribution necessary for users to take advantage of the product. Up to this point, Jeremy had been very hush-hush about what he was doing. “I believed in stealth theory and that you needed to keep it quiet. I’d just seen the Facebook movie, so I was still paranoid. Finally I said screw it.”
How will people know how to help me if they don’t know what I’m doing?”
His Facebook post caught the attention of someone he’d met through a friend at a concert who worked at Chicago Magazine and offered an introduction. Jeremy pitched to Chicago Magazine, they were on-board and everything changed. After securing the partnership, restaurants were ready to sign-up.
Jeremy acknowledges that customer acquisition is the biggest challenge at the beginning for startups. “You can’t use the fact that you don’t have any money to not get any customers. When you don’t have money, turn into your own PR person. Leverage everything you possibly can.”
On living 2 lives:
Jeremy and his co-founders are all still moonlighting at Table SAVVY while keeping their full time jobs. He is in a unique position since the markets close at 3 pm and restaurant owners aren’t starting their shift until dinner service.
“I went to my boss a year into doing this and told him that I had a passion project on the side. At 3 pm I go into the closet and change into jeans and a t shirt and go into 1871. It’s a long day, it’s a weird day and it’s two drastically different jobs. If it wasn’t in the restaurant industry, it’d be super tough.”
I ask Jeremy if any of his trading skills have helped him in the start-up world – apparently, not really. “No, it is totally different. The stupidest stuff was very intimidating. Just take it one at a time and you’ll find that you get deeper and deeper and you turn around and you’ve figured things out. It’s a lot of on the fly learning.”
What you’ll learn is that you don’t know how to do anything at first”
On what ‘they’ do tell you, but you can’t prepare for:
“You have to take rejection well. You need to have confidence in what you’re doing. 99% of people are going to say, ‘No’. You can never prepare yourself for what people tell you. You don’t realize how high of a threshold you have until you are challenged with it. We’ve had a lot of very good days, but there a lot of negative ones. It’s a roller coaster. People do tell you before, but you have no idea how right they are until you’re actually in it. It’s not that an idea is better, it’s about your tolerance.”
If you give up, then there’s a zero percent chance of it working.”
Since our chat, Table Savvy has launched their mobile app in the Android store and should be going-live with a Hotel Tonight application integration soon. On top of that, they are securing investors and hoping to bring on an in-house technology team to support their growth. Be spontaneous and reserve a last-minute dinner date with Table SAVVY!