How beacons bring service back in to focus – with Mahana co-founders Bryan Menell and Richard Bagdonas

Beacons: We’ve heard about them as big companies like Apple and Major League Baseball and Macy’s roll them out across the country but sometimes it’s hard to understand what the impact will be on smaller, more local, businesses. There is nothing more local – or competitive – than restaurants and one Austin-based company thinks beacons can help retain customers by enhancing service with beacons.

The company is Mahana and the co-founders Bryan Menell and Richard Bagdonas have been quick to adapt beacons to augment the restaurant experience. It starts with a simple pain felt by all of us when we go to a restaurant – the dreaded wait time – and then quickly escalates to building a deeper, more engaging, transferable, relationship with the patron.

The restaurant is a great learning environment for everyone interested in integrating beacons into their business. You’ll see in this episode that many of the challenges that Bryan and Richard have overcome are the same ones across industry. You will also see the true, subtle power (when done properly) of transformation beacons will bring to all industries – just let your imagination roam.

Bryan and Richard are open about the challenges they’ve had implementing and selling beacons to their customers – many of which are inherent of being in the first wave of a movement. You’ll hear how they dealt with power issues, how they brought it into an existing process, how they sell to restaurants, how they plan to scale, how they raised a seed round, why they focused on restaurants, how they are dealing with app discovery and how they market their product. We also spend some time speculating about the future of the service industry in a beacon-laden world.


Key takeaways from this episode. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip

1. The Mahana vision 2:25
2. What inspired Mahana – the story that started it all 5:30
3. How does this new technology change the restaurant experience? 9:10
4. What is the team background? 13:30
5. What is the biggest problem for restaurants today? 14:05
6. How did Brian and Richard meet? 15:30
7. How did you raise your seed round? 18:00
8. How did you find your first customer? 19:15
9. How are you selling Mahana – what’s your pitch? 20:25
10. Can restaurants actually incorporate the data you provide? Do they have time? 22:45
11. Why focus on restaurants? 25:50
12. How did you figure out what the business was going to be? 28:10
13. How does the service work? 29:00
14. Lessons learned from using beacons in the wild 30:30
15. How is Mahana dealing with the app discovery challenge? 35:15
16. Marketing ideas that Mahana uses to get patrons to download their app 39:15
17. How Mahana could evolve into a needed service 41:50
18. What is Mahana’s revenue model? 44:00
19. Could Mahana create the “UBER” for restaurants? 46:30
20. How does Mahana scale? 48:08
21. What inspires you guys and why? 51:35


Raw Transcript

Rob Woodbridge: Hello everybody and welcome to, your single source for deciphering the mobile experience. I’m Rob Woodbridge, your host and founder, of course. I’m here today with Bryan Menell and Richard Bagdonas, co-founders at Mahana. You can check them out at, and we’re here to talk about beacons, baby. There’s so much confusion around the word ‘beacon’ and what it does and we’ve got the perfect example of how beacons can help your business run more efficiently; and it also kind of gives a great example, and maybe it stirs some ideas about how you can use these in your company as well. The idea here is; have you ever wanted to know how long a wait is at your favorite restaurant? I always want to know that. I also want to know how long a wait is at my gym; I want to know how long the wait is for a shower at my gym, how busy the equipment is at my gym. I want to talk a little bit about the future of this, but have you ever wanted to know about the wait at a restaurant? Well, lots of services out there do this but it requires you to rip out your old infrastructure and put in a new infrastructure, train your staff, learn the system, charge crap – all that stuff that is just prohibitive to getting out there. Well, Mahana has a solution for that and much more. I’m going to bring them in, please, please, please welcome in your way, Bryan and Richard, the co-founders of Mahana. Guys, welcome.

Bryan Menell: Hi. How’re you doing, Rob?

Richard Bagdonas: Thank you.

Rob Woodbridge: Thanks for doing this. You guys are in where, you’re in Austin?

Richard Bagdonas: Sunny Austin, Texas.

Bryan Menell: It was rainy yesterday. It’s sunny today.

Rob Woodbridge: It never rains in Austin. That’s what I’ve heard.

Bryan Menell: No, only during South-by-Southwest.

Rob Woodbridge: Exactly. You know that’s controlled. Somebody there is controlling the temperature to drive people, and the weather, to drive people into the actual events, because there’s a whole bunch of people out there, but nobody actually inside watching the keynotes; especially when you’re Canadian. So, thanks for doing this. We were so impressed, you know. We covered you on this week’s [inaudible 02:10] marketing, we’re so impressed with the speed with which you guys emerged onto this space; certainly around what you’re doing in the restaurants and iBeacon. Why don’t you give us overview of what it is that you guys do, and then we’re going to dive right into this?

Bryan Menell: Sure. So Richard and I started this company back in August with the vision of trying to, kind of, transform the dining experience. Make it better. We go out to eat at nice restaurants – like going out. We don’t like to wait. We also didn’t like the fact that places that we would go frequently, every time we walked in it was like we were a total stranger, right? So it was a little bit weird. This was the modern age, right? They should know I come here a lot. They should know that I love the crispy fish. It seems like they should know these things – they just don’t. So Richard is really a technical genius with point-of-sell integration for all these systems used in restaurants and there are a lot of them, and so we started this company with that vision in mind. We’ve got the technical smarts, Richard and I are both experienced entrepreneurs, but we needed the industry expertise too so we crafted some industry experts advice which was to help us with what the solution was going to be – what business’ problems that we could solve. The result has come out to be Mahana – so it’s a relatively simple app.
Right now, it only works in Austin, Texas right now – it’s our test market. So we’re still very fresh – the paint’s fresh. So we launched around, we didn’t launch but we started around South-by-Southwest so it works in Austin if you’re here. So you can download the app, you can connect it to your Facebook account and the app pulls in your picture and your name, your birthday and basic stuff about you; and then the app helps you discover the wait time at restaurants. We crowd source that information – we load the menus in so you can sort of see what’s close to you, we’ve got a little map view of the space around so you can figure out where to go. It helps you plan your evening, right? Like, how much time do I have before my show or the movie? And how long is the wait time? You can sort of plan your day better at glance, without having to call a bunch of restaurants to find out, or worse yet, you already valet parked, you got in like, “Oh, it’s an hour and a half,” and you’re like, “Oh, I got a movie to go to. I can’t make it in an hour and a half”. You’re stuck because you’re already there – what are you going to do? So it’s relatively useful from that perspective, but then we had that information we put the beacons, we put a beacon in every restaurant that we work with, that participates in Mahana. And really what the beacon does for us is, that we don’t have to ask you to whip out an app and do a check-in and do all these sorts of things with iOS 7.1 our app works in the background and knows that you, we know who you are – we’ve got your picture and name – we know you’re at that restaurant, because the beacon has that very sensitive awareness, so we place you there. So, you don’t have to actually do anything to sort of get those benefits. So we can actually pop up your picture at the restaurant and your name and stuff about you that they know without you actually doing anything. So, it’s kind of like magic when it all works. It’s kind of the cool thing about technology when you make it simple and seamless in the background and I don’t have to do anything to get it to work. So, that’s kind of the basics of Mahana.

Rob Woodbridge: And this was completely inspired by the fact that you guys like to go out, and you don’t like to wait?

Bryan Menell: Richard has a great story about eating out routinely to see how long it took before they recognized who he was, if you want it.

Rob Woodbridge: It was a social experiment?

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah, Rob, it was rather interesting. So, every Monday, I would go to lunch and order the exact same thing with one of my friends. And Tuesday, we would go to a different restaurant and order the same thing at that restaurant. At the first restaurant, it took 42 weeks before they didn’t ask us if we needed a menu.

Rob Woodbridge: 42 weeks.

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah, yeah. So, it turned out that we knew more about the restaurant than the restaurant knew about us. And that’s a shame because what we want to do is we want to feel special when we go to a restaurant. We want to feel like they know us by name, they know us by face, and they want to treat us well because we’re regular customers of theirs.

Rob Woodbridge: Was it the same server that served you pretty much every Monday?

Richard Bagdonas: Pretty much.

Rob Woodbridge: Oh man, oh man, and what about the second restaurant?

Richard Bagdonas: The second restaurant it took about 30 to 35 times.

Rob Woodbridge: Row, wow.

Richard Bagdonas: But the winner was clearly 42 weeks. And after that, and we kept going, we wanted to see if this would be a continuing thing, and it did. And then you don’t go there for a few months, and you come back, and they would still remember us and say, “Ah, you’re combination plate A, extra spicy.”

Rob Woodbridge: Wicked. So, I mean, what does it take? Those numbers are relatively close to each other, but is this just a human failing or what explains that?

Bryan Menell: It’s hard to be a restaurant, right? So, one of our advisors, who’s a GM at a local restaurant, he describes Mahana as like that little whisper in my ear that tells me something. Right? So, it’s hard to remember. They see hundreds of people a day. Hard to remember the name and what they had, and what they liked, whatever. It’s really, really difficult, actually. So, this provides with the technology that helps to refresh your memory and sometimes with a few refreshers about someone — their name and what they had before, what they liked — you might remember some other things about them and you can just sort of personalize that greeting and you might kick in a genuine memory, like “Now, I remember now, I just couldn’t remember his name. I can remember he didn’t like ice in his drink. I just couldn’t remember the guy’s name, but now I know and I can take a note or whatever.” So it’s sort of a memory-jogger in a way.

Rob Woodbridge: You know, this is so fascinating because I’ve done the same thing and maybe not as an experiment, but as I think back there’s small customer service touches like that — the prompts — that open up a floodgate of memories and once that happens it seems to stick. I use a local meat shop that I go to around the corner from here and I go. I mean we’ve been living in this neighborhood for maybe for six years, for seven years, and I’ve been going there once a week for that long. And I don’t know when it turned, but you know there’s a loyalty card that comes with this place and you usually need to provide your phone number. Now the guy at the cash, because I go in on the same day every week for so long, he remembers my phone number now; kind of creepy.

Bryan Menell: I remember the first credit card I ever had. I have never remembered a single number since then.

Rob Woodbridge: That’s weird.

Bryan Menell: It’s one of those things that some people have it, they just remember everything.

Richard Bagdonas: It always amazes me, the cashiers at the grocery stores look at your produce and like “Oh, bananas, that’s 4011.” And there’s thousands of products, right? So, I mean people have the capacity to remember a lot of things, but there are a lot of guessing … You might go to a nice restaurant maybe once or twice a month, but still they’ve been 100s of guests between you, so it would be very hard.

Rob Woodbridge: Let me ask you, how do you think that this kind of melding of technology, social location, everything that you’re talking about here that kind of culminates in the Beacon and then the prompt to the restaurateur or the hostess or the waiter or whoever it might be, the owner, how do you think that this changes the restaurant experience?

Bryan Menell: You know, from my perspective, you know my wife and I go out every Friday night. We have our baby sitter come over and we’re out on a date. We want to feel special and we patronize the same restaurants. We have a rotation that we go through. What really changes the experience is not the food, because the food is awesome. Not the service when you’re at the table ’cause the servers are great. It’s not the payment portion of it. The two things are the hi and bye. When we walk into the restaurant, and they say, “Richard, great to see you again, you haven’t been here in like two weeks. By the way, Tina, we know you’re gluten free. We’ll have a gluten free menu at the table. By the way we have this special tonight that’s gluten free.” That wins our hearts, and our minds, and our bellies.

Rob Woodbridge: Has that every happened?

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah.

Rob Woodbridge: Okay.

Richard Bagdonas: Absolutely.

Rob Woodbridge: Good.

Bryan Menell: We kind of have this philosophy about, if you walk in the door and I don’t know anything about you. I can provide service, right. I can be attentive. I can keep your water glass full, ask you if you need anything, and that only goes so far. If I know how often you come in. I know some dishes that you’ve liked. I know some wines that you’ve tried and enjoyed. Then it becomes more of a two dialogue. I know about you. I can provide real hospitality to you and say “Hey, last time you ordered the shrimp scampi and you loved it. I’ve got this new thing. If you like that I got something for you to really like, right. You really enjoyed this wine because you thought it was dry and white. I got a new one on the list that just came in. You might enjoy it.” Then, now we’re talking. Now, it’s like service. Now, all this is more special to me because the servers we’ve discovered know a ton of information. They taste items that come out of the kitchen. They know lots of things. They just don’t know anything about you, right. If they actually knew something about you they can actually provide a wealth of information to make your whole experience much, much better. Rob, they say that a service is a monologue, hospitality is the dialogue.

Rob Woodbridge: That’s great. What a great saying. It just strikes me that we’re in this age of infinite choice, right. Certainly, technology has made it, these devices that we carry has made it very easy to find alternatives, on the fly, right? You may have decided that you’re going to go to a restaurant, but the line might be too long, or the wait might be too long. It only takes a matter of moments to find a replacement for that restaurant, and jeopardize the relationship that you have already created with the restaurant that is forcing you to wait, right. I think there’s that kind of the dehumanizing piece of technology, which allows you to find a replacement. As [inaudible 12:06] might say, “That food is great, but I can find something over here that’s equivalent. I’m going to go over here now.” So, I think that that in store, in restaurant experience is so vitally important. When there is a 40 minute wait, or a one hour wait you’re going to do it because you know it’s an open embrace when you walk in. Is that the goal of what you guys are creating here?

Bryan Menell: Yeah, Mahana means warm in Hawaiian, right, warm and inviting. That’s really the entire goal. I think service, if I go into a restaurant and maybe the food wasn’t all that great. It’s very, very hard to trot out 350 plates a night and have everyone be spot on, right. If maybe the food wasn’t perfect, a little bit salty, whatever, but if when I walked in they greeted me by name. They had my margarita on the rocks, no salt, making it at the bar when I walk in. I can overlook a bunch of things, right, if that service element is there. We’re trying to almost, it’s hard at scale, but restore that era when, as like you, you walk into the local [inaudible 13:12] store. They know you. They know your number. They know what you ordered last time, and whatever; trying to restore that very personal element of old school commerce back into our lives again.

Rob Woodbridge: Leveraging behind the scenes technology that’s pretty damn advanced.

Bryan Menell: Leveraging that little tiny computer plugged in the wall.

Rob Woodbridge: You guys come from, what is your background? You’re not from the restaurant industry.

Richard Bagdonas: For the last four years my background has been in point of sale integration with restaurant hospitality systems.

Rob Woodbridge: Got you.

Richard Bagdonas: All the systems there previous to that. It’s been a focus on integration. The back end systems and you can take that back 20 years. For, Bryan . . .

Bryan Menell: I’m serial technology entrepreneur, right. Don’t know a whole lot about restaurants, I know how to start tech companies and work with technology.

Rob Woodbridge: Obviously, you from the entrepreneurial standpoint just looked at this as just a giant opportunity.

Richard Bagdonas: We talked to the restaurants. It’s kind of funny because in the four years that I’ve been doing work with restaurants and restaurant technology never once did a restaurant say, I have a problem with people paying with credit cards, because a credit card works every time. If I set it down and they swipe it they get a binary result, it’s either going to work or it’s not. The biggest problem they have is credit card fees around making payments with credit cards. We can’t solve for credit card fees. If anything we’re going to add addition cost if we try to build a payment solution. The biggest problem that the restaurants had is they had an empty seat. They’re willing to pay the credit card fees if somebody was sitting there and they could sell them $100.00 worth of food, or $10.00 worth of food, or any amount bigger than zero. What, Mahana, looks to do is fill the gaps for the restaurateurs and fill, you know, butts in seats, I guess is the easiest way to explain it.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah. Their seating are expiring inventory.

Richard Bagdonas: Absolutely. You can’t get it back.

Bryan Menell: Yeah. Savvy restaurant tours look at an empty chair and they know in their minds how much that’s costing them to have that seat empty. So, yeah, there’s a real cost to it.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah. Or an empty seat on a flight; which is luxury for the guy sitting next to the empty seat, but painful… So how did you guys meet? Did you guys know each other before this? How did you guys becomes founders together for this initiative?

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah, we actually met like, it’s been 18-19 years, something like that. So, both of us have been in Austin about 19 years and we met right about the time we both had moved to Austin. So, I had a want to I started in Austin called Proficient in ’97 which IPOed in 1999. One of my employees was a good friend of Richards, and so we met socially and we just sort of hit it off. Kept in touch, always sort of did things… we always wanted to work in a want to together, and just the cycles never quite worked right. When I was ready to start something new he was in the middle of something he was pretty involved in, and so our biorhythms sort of came together with this one, so it’s been great.

Rob Woodbridge: A lot of that must have to do with the idea, right? So, I’m a firm believer. I’m an entrepreneur on my life, and I’ve look at opportunities, I’ve been involved in opportunities where I’m kind of like meh, eh, you know? I like the people, but it’s like ah, no, I’m not interested in that idea. But there’s got to be some idea that, maybe the ideas weren’t right for you guys to work together, but this one just kind of… maybe it’s time, maybe it’s coincidence, but there has to be something beyond that cycle to say yeah, yeah, I’m in, because you got to believe in this idea, right?

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah, the interesting thing is, it’s kind of the difference between the horse and the jockey. We like to say, you know, you want to bet on the jockey, ’cause the jockey can help adjust the horse on its path. If all you do is…

Rob Woodbridge: I just want to know, who’s the horse and who’s the jockey in this situation? I was just going to say.

Richard Bagdonas: Well I was going to say the want to is the horse and the product…

Rob Woodbridge: Okay, just clarifying that.

Richard Bagdonas: …is the horse. And I guess we’re co-jockies.

Rob Woodbridge: Nice. I asked that because, you know, a lot of the questions that come up with these conversations is, you know, co- founders. And it’s very difficult to find a co-founder with the right skills. Most people are looking for a technology co-founder. Unfortunately, the skill of starting a business is diminished without a great technical co-founder. Right? And that’s because there… somebody should put up a market, like a LinkedIn for technical co- founders. A meat market, a grinder for co-founders, right?

Richard Bagdonas: Right down the street from you I believe is a meat market, but…

Rob Woodbridge: Exactly.

Richard Bagdonas:…they don’t have technical co-founders there.

Rob Woodbridge: I guess he has my phone number, though. So he can call anytime. So, this has evolved into this, and then you did the right thing, which was go out and find some adviser to be able to help you from the core restaurant standpoint. Did they… and you found some investors, right? You got Angel Round? Is that what you got, or is A Seed?

Bryan Menell: Yeah, it’s seed money, you know, so it’s the first money in. So, it’s really Angel Investment at this point. So, we’re more than halfway through the process. We have lots of interest, luckily, so we’re picking and choosing carefully.

Rob Woodbridge: Was it hard to convince, not only your advisers, but also the investors, to put dollars in to an idea as young as this, and a technology as young as this?

Richard Bagdonas: Luckily, Austin is a big tech town so, there are people who made good money in technology…understand technology as well. And then, it helps to have built successful companies in the past. Have a track record, as Richard said. Like, a lot of them bet on the jockey rather than the horse.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah.

Richard Bagdonas: So, if you have a really strong vision of where you’re going, and, you know, they understand you guys as talented entrepreneurs, you know, that really helps, I would imagine.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah. We’ll an IPO is nothing to sneeze about, right? That’s pretty monumental. So, yeah, I think that the team has got to be playing to this quite effectively. Alright, so back to the…so now you’ve launched… you said you went to a gradual roll-out. You didn’t tell anybody about it. You were doing some testing; first customer, hard to find, hard to convince, like walk through that experience.

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah. So it’s kind of a funny story. So, we knew some people that had restaurants in town; one of them was an adviser of ours, so he started one of the most successful restaurants in Austin, and let us use one of the restaurants as a test bed. And so it helped to get his coaching advice on what we should deliver, and what it should look like, and how it should work, and those sorts of things. So Richard is a CTO. You know, writes all the code. I’d, you know, go on the cell, talk to customers, those types of things. So, my first meeting with my first restaurant, not a friendly, but someone we just, you know, tracked down, we spent like an hour discussing what it did and why, how it worked, all sorts of things. It was great. I’m enthusiastic about it. I got them excited about it. It was interesting but as time went on, I got the pitch down to 15 minutes. I would walk in the door and in 15 minutes I would blow it down to its essence, “Here’s why you want to do this.” They’re like, “Great, I’m in.” The sale cycle got a lot faster from an hour down to 15 minutes.

Rob Woodbridge: Are you selling that as we were talking about like this expiring inventory. Are you selling this as a relationship builder? Does it change per restaurant that you go into?

Bryan Menell: Not really. The thing that restaurants really want to know is, none of them really know who their best customers are. Everybody who walks through the door, they’re a total stranger. They don’t know if they should give them the best table in the restaurant. They don’t know if they should bump them on the wait list. They don’t know if they should buy them an appetizer while they’re waiting at the bar or have the executive chef come out and churn out a free dessert to try. They don’t know anything do with anybody. They’re desperate to know the information so the promise in saying a demo of how the solution works, showing them that they can get to know who their best customers are. Then they can reach out to them in a very segmented and targeted fashion has excited them. That’s really what sells it is that they just don’t know but they want to know. At first we thought, restaurants had a marketing problem. Then we asked them, “Give us a list of your 500 best customers and we’ll help you market it more effectively.” They’re like, “Oh, we don’t actually know who they are. We just know…”

Rob Woodbridge: It’s the one in front of us right know.

Bryan Menell: They exist but they just don’t know which ones. They’re like unicorns. You’ve seen them somewhere. We know they come in, but I couldn’t pinpoint them.

Rob Woodbridge: Do you mean like last night, the guy last night that spent the most money? That’s kind of how you judge your best customers.

Bryan Menell: When you ring up the tab, you can look at the number and go, “Wow, these guys ran a big tab. They had a $300 bottle of wine or whatever.” It’s too late to do anything for them. They’ve already spent the money. You can come out with a coupon to come back again or whatever, but it’s too late then to provide awesome service to them. We help them move that process forward to know who they are when they walk in the door.

Rob Woodbridge: Do they have the capacity. I spent years in restaurants as a bartender and as a waiter in a number of restaurants. That’s how I put myself through. I’ve never made that much money since working in the restaurant industry. I had my regulars that I recognized quite frequently because my scope or my vision was either the length of the bar, or the eight tables that I was waiting on that day when people kept on coming back in it didn’t take me 42 weeks to recognize a regular. I always think that the restaurants have their business. They understand their business which is ordering th4e food, prepping the food, making the menu, seating people, serving the food, and then sending them on their way. The last thing I think about really is do they have the understanding to take that data that you’re providing and do something with it. Do they have the time to be able to go out and be effective with the big amount that you’re going to be pushing their way?

Richard Bagdonas: Sure. I could be something as simple as when somebody walks the restaurant their information pops up and the host or hostess as they are showing them their table, taps the server on the shoulder and says, “By the way, Bill is a big wine buyer. You might want to send a [inaudible 23:28] over right? Even something as simple as that can work wonders. We have an app for GMs phones to keep in their back pocket. The beginning of sale works when the mayor comes in, set an alarm and let me know every time he comes in and buzz my phone. He might be in the back. I might be fighting a fire somewhere else but buzz me and let me know, alright? It might be something to point out that this person is booked free, give them a menu. Even something subtle could make a huge effort to someone’s experience.

Rob Woodbridge: Do you worry about some privacy issues, like “Hey, this guy’s an alcoholic and don’t serve him?”

Bryan Menell: The regulatory aspects of what we do, we try to stay away from regulatory. We try to stay away from requiring the restaurant to operationalize something that may be difficult in nature. A warm handshake, a hug, a greeting of some sort, is pretty easy to operationalize. Going far beyond that, is probably out of our scope because our goal at Mahana is to make the opportunity for the restaurant to recognize you when you come in rather than try to catch you as your leaving.

Rob Woodbridge: I think that that’s the transition that’s happening here is that it’s easy to thank them on the way out, as you said, when they’ve spent this much money. I just keep thinking that there’s probably every table, there’s a loss of revenue and every table is a result of not knowing who’s sitting there.

Bryan Menell: Absolutely. If you think about, Rob, when you and I go to dinner, at the end of dinner, we’re not going to order another thing, we leave and we go to a movie. Do whatever else. There’s an opportunity while we’re there for us to maybe try something special. Maybe we didn’t get an appetizer because we just didn’t think about it. If they knew that we loved scallops and they had a scallop ceviche, and they said, hey, you got to really try this scallop ceviche. It’s awesome. They can actually, because the server is the sales person, they can guide us through their menu to find the things that we will love, and they can wow and delight us to our hearts extent, but once we’re gone, we’re gone. We took up that seat for an hour. At Mahana, we give them the opportunity to learn about their consumer so they can have the consumer enjoy everything to the fullest extent.

Rob Woodbridge: Why restaurants? There’s so many other opportunities. I brought it up in the introduction. When I think, the gym would be a perfect thing because I went yesterday and it was 4:00. Guess what? Everybody goes at 4:00, right. I know that, but I didn’t realize that’s it’s three meat heads deep to get to the squat bar, right. That this is going to be instead of a 45 minute experience it’s going to be an hour and 45 minutes of frustration and smelly sweatiness, right. Was it just that your familiarity, Richard, with a POS? Was it that this is an obvious play? That this was a big pain for them? This is going to be my last question about this because I want to talk about the technology in a second.

Richard Bagdonas: No problem. It’s interesting because I think we all carry a credit card in our pocket. When I go to Neiman Marcus, they see this credit card pop up three times a year. You really can’t build that much of a graph on somebody from that infrequent, them coming in. Now, you go to one gym and one gym only. Usually you go by yourself. It turns out this credit card I have is used at various restaurants throughout the week. It might be used at breakfast one morning, lunch, and then dinner at the same, in the same day. That is a lot of data points to collect about somebody, including, what I like and dislike. Especially the things that I tend to purchase when it’s on a menu. I love beef short ribs when they’re on the menu. I love ceviche when it’s on the menu. We chose the restaurant industry because it’s an opportunity for us to learn about the consumer in every aspect of their eating life and they tend to do that in a social environment. My wife is usually at dinner with me. My son is usually at dinner with me. Bryan’s usually at lunch with me.

Bryan Menell: Right; a lot more transactions. There’s a lot more chance to learn about somebody. What they like. What they don’t like then in retail, for instance. We do see a lot of people, when the beacons first started to hit we saw a lot of activity in the retail. We really didn’t see any activity in restaurants at all. That’s really, Richards, technical expertise. We just saw a place to go where nobody was really hitting it. Then we just saw more transactions; so, more of a chance to actually get relevant data about people’s preferences.

Rob Woodbridge: Did you start with restaurants? I think I’m getting to a point eventually, 30 minutes into this. When you were [ideating] and trying to figure out what it was that you guys were going to do. Did you start with restaurants? Did you start with a grand plan of, listen, we want to start with ibeacon. We want to do something in this space. How did that conversation start? How did the business idea pop up?

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah, we started with restaurants because we had the deep point of sale of technical expertise with them. Then we tried to figure out what the business problems were. Then how to apply technology and the technology we had to solve them.

Rob Woodbridge: Got you.

Richard Bagdonas: So really it started in the industry. The solution kind of meandered, but we had the foundation, which was that item level detail in the point of sale that we knew we wanted to leverage in some way.

Rob Woodbridge: All right. How does this work? You’ve alluded to this. You download the application; the Mahana app. It interacts with a beacon that you have basically plugged into all the restaurants that are involved in them. Is that the beacon right there?

Richard Bagdonas: That is the beacon.

Rob Woodbridge: That is it.

Richard Bagdonas: I don’t know if you here the glowing aura around it.

Rob Woodbridge: Aaaahhh.

Richard Bagdonas: That is our saving grace, yes.

Rob Woodbridge: That’s a beacon. It’s a USB plug, right. That’s how big it is.

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah, the funny part is the actually beacon portion is tiny. It’s like smaller than your thumbnail, but when you add the USB connecter, the USB connecter is three times the size of the beacon. Then when you add the power supply, the power supplies 20 times the size of the USB and the beacons. They’re actually very, very small.

Bryan Menell: You go from that on your left to that on your right, but it’s still tiny.

Rob Woodbridge: It’s small enough.

Bryan Menell: Absolutely.

Rob Woodbridge: It doesn’t require a transformation in the systems that these people use, right. You just plug it into the wall and it does it. So these are off the shelf beacons that you’ve just programmed?

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah, we’ve gone through a couple. Richard brought a variety of some of the things. We actually started out with one; we custom-manufacture these in China. It takes a very thin CR-16 battery, or something like that, on the inside; so it’s a battery-powered beacon, really unobtrusive. We would just put sticky tape on them and stick them somewhere by the exit sign, or whatever.

Bryan Menell: These guys are tiny, the board and the chip are almost nothing.

Richard Bagdonas: Really thin. That was kind of cool, but we discovered the batteries didn’t last very long; so we actually migrated to one that had a thicker battery on it, sort of doubled the size, so that lasted a little bit longer. We looked at Qualcomm beacons for a while, this is Qualcomm you probably see these at a lot of trade shows and whatever. Really cool, because they’re cheap, I think like five bucks; but we eventually discovered that we didn’t want to go change batteries out all over town.

Rob Woodbridge: Not scale-able, not scale-able.

Richard Bagdonas: We needed a powered beacon, right. That’s how we found these beacons. A little plug for Radius Networks who supplies our beacons for us, these little USB ones.

Rob Woodbridge: That’s great.

Bryan Menell: And Rob, you know, I think a lot of people are trying to figure out this beacon stuff and when you look at production level systems that are actually using beacons out in the wild; there’s very few companies that are actually doing it. We’re seeing a lot of interest in Mahana, from the fact that we’ve learned all these lessons and they don’t have to learn them, themselves. So, we get to skin our knees upfront so that way other people don’t have to later.

Rob Woodbridge: So, the lessons that you’ve learned is that you don’t want to go and change batteries across the city.
Bryan Menell: I don’t want to learn the failure rates of a Duracell battery.

Rob Woodbridge: No you do not. Right. That’s one of the things that I think are the most challenging, is that the promise of this technology is wonderful, the maintenance of this technology’s a nightmare to scale, right?

Bryan Menell: Absolutely.

Rob Woodbridge: So, you can mail people . . . you can set this up . . . you’re in Austin but you’re going to go across the United States, maybe up here into Canada; but the idea of then putting feet on the street, or training somebody in the restaurant to be able to add this new task to their already huge task list; to go and change the batteries every month, not going to happen.

Bryan Menell: The thing is, this thing is tiny. What we would do is we would put a little sticky tape on the back of it and stick it somewhere. When it’s broadcasting, you can actually figure out how far away you are from the beacon. But, once that beacon battery dies, go find this in your restaurant.

Rob Woodbridge: You’re looking for a little, white, flat thing stuck to the wall; or maybe it’s fallen behind a chair because the sticky tape has worn off.

Bryan Menell: Richard has some actual clever stuff in our early beacons, our battery powered ones; that every time our app hit the beacon, it would get the battery life from the beacon and report it back to us. So we’d actually know when they were running low but we still didn’t want to go change them.

Rob Woodbridge: How long did it take you to figure that out?

Bryan Menell: It was actually learning the failure rates on the batteries, we actually were going back and forth with the restaurants that we had in our pilots. We would go in, we would put a beacon in, and then we’d figure out that the battery would drain out after seven days. We’d go back in and put a different, lithium battery in and try to do that. So, it was several months of learning to be able to identify the fact that batteries suck.

Richard Bagdonas: And we needed more and more of these vendors to come up with powered beacon options for us to look at, you know, variety and figure out what the right thing for us was. All those companies are young too, right? They’re figuring it out; they’re doing different form factors from battery to plug in, plug in with Wi-Fi back haul with other data network aspects. So, that whole landscape is changing as well; so they’re all figuring it out too. So, it took a while just to see more products out on the market in terms of the beacons.

Rob Woodbridge: That’s always the challenge of being on the leading edge, right? You’re trying to build a software that overcomes all the inadequacies of the hardware, and then something like that comes along where; oh look you can plug it into a power source, a USB base.

Richard Bagdonas:. . . There was a definite [inaudible 34:02]popped up when we saw these things.

Rob Woodbridge: That’s amazing. So, that alleviates one of the other . . . one of the big pains, which is battery consumption. And the way that a beacon works is that you can set it to a close proximity and it extends the battery lifespan, but it also means that you’re not broadcasting far enough to reach everybody who steps into the restaurant.

Bryan Menell: Absolutely. There’s a couple of things that you can actually tweak. One is, how many times a second or how many times a minute do I want to broadcast the signal. But it turns out, we learned early on with Apple, sometimes if it’s in a background mode; it takes a little longer for it to hear the beacon. Especially if the app is completely off, it takes a little bit longer. But you want to broadcast as many times a second as possible to overcome that. Well you’re draining the battery down as part of that, so it’s adding to the mix. Then, of course, you can determine how far you want to transmit it; and depending on where the beacon is and where the front door is, the beacon may not always be by the front door. Everything was going against us when it came to batteries and then when we found the plug-in type, you’re right.

Rob Woodbridge: It changed everything.

Bryan Menell: It changed the world for us.

Rob Woodbridge: And so I always think about this, did you ever think about with iOS, are you guys looking at Android?

Bryan Menell: Yes, we’re currently building the Mahana for Android right now.

Rob Woodbridge: But for iOS, the idea of an app is always a challenge for me because you have to now market that app as a separate entity. It’s not the restaurant’s app, it’s the Mahana app where you have to then put marketing dollars in to get this, make sure that the restaurant is supported, all that kind of stuff, like you’re running two businesses at the same time. You’re selling to the restaurants and then you have to convince a restaurateur that you’re going to convince their patrons to go and download the application in order for this to function properly. I’m going to assume you’re leveraging their broadcast as well to go and download the application. That’s two separate businesses, did you ever look at integrating with Passbook or something along those lines, to be able to look for native applications, or even the restaurant’s apps themselves?

Richard Bagdonas: Yes, that was one of our first thoughts. How do we partner with somebody that already has some market share on the phone deck? The challenge there is that your user agreement with a check-in type app says that I have agreed to let this check-in app see my information. If we piggyback off that and get someone’s e-mail address and all of a sudden we say Hey, by the way, thanks for coming into whatever restaurant and it comes from Mahana, they say “Who gave Mahana my information?” Unless we have our own app, we could not get the user data we needed to make the service relevant and interesting.

Rob Woodbridge: Has it been a challenge to get your app out there with the restaurants that you’re using currently?

Richard Bagdonas: We’ve discovered that restaurants really want this information, so as I mentioned, we got down to a 10 to 15 minute meeting and they were like “Yes, I’m in. Let me do it.” And then consumers are consumers. Consumers are fickle, so we have the same challenge as any other consumer mobile app to get consumer adoption, to get them to use it, get them to want to come back again and again.

Rob Woodbridge: So how do you do it? On your website you talk about loyalty for the restaurant, so the restaurant has the ability to treat you like a loyal customer which is the best thing. I always think you might discount to get you in, but you never discount the second stay, or the third or the fourth, or the tenth, because that’s loyalty to me. You don’t reward everybody who has only been there ten times. Like you, 42 times, Richard. You should be rewarded heavily.

Bryan Menell: If you’ve rewarded me with a discount the first time I’ve come in, you’re actually hurting your price point because the second time I come in, I’m going to value your meal at that price.

Rob Woodbridge: I had a friend who is a restaurateur, he runs a really successful Italian restaurant up here and he started it when we were in our 20’s and he was in his 20’s and he struggled. He used to deliver sandwiches to us because it was $5 that he would make. He was a hustler like that and we truly appreciated what he did because we were so lazy. If he wanted our business, he’d have to deliver a sandwich to our house and then accept a post-dated check because we were so broke. It was an $8 order and he’d get on his bike and bike 8 kilometers to our house and take post-dated checks. But that’s what it takes to start a restaurant, but then when he started to get successful, we’d go in quite often, we were loyal patrons of his restaurants and he would never, ever buy us even a cup of coffee, and after 15 years of going to that restaurant, I finally asked him, and he said “I put all of my effort into you guys at the beginning of this relationship. Screw you, you can afford it. I’m doing the same thing; I’m rewarding those people who didn’t write me post-dated checks that bounced.” It’s a good thing we’re friends, at least we were. This is that whole process of creating a relationship, but how do you get them, us, the average consumer, to download your app? What’s the benefit to them?

Richard Bagdonas: We’ve done a little bit of surveys of people. When we came to the wait times, when we surveyed people and that was the number one requested thing. They want to know, “How long is the wait?” They want to be on the wait list, so that was number one, let’s make that a focus of the app. But getting people to download is definitely a challenge, like any app, and we’re three weeks into this app being in the wild. This is that fun time in a start-up where you run twenty different experiments to see what works and you ride the winners and you cut the losers. The one thing that has been beneficial is that the restaurant are willing to help us to market the app to their patrons, so they realize that people that have the app, they know more about them so we’ve got some point of purchase things kind of like a FourSquare sticker or Google Places sticker at the restaurant. They let us put a Mahana sticker there and let people know about the app, that it works there, and it’s got our on it. They’ll do things where they will slip into the bill a little invitation to invite you to Mahana, sometimes maybe selectively, if you were a high-value customer like “Hey by the way, this is how we track and work with our better customers”. Lots of them have email lists they collect, thousands and thousands of email addresses, and they put out stuff twice a month about brunch specials or whatever it is, and they’ve been very willing to include some materials about Mahana into their email blasts to their customers, so that’s helpful for us to help get consumers aware of the app. We’re trying a whole bunch of different things to figure out what works to get consumers to download it. That’s the first challenge, download right? And then number two is make it more engaging, make it more useful. We have a long list of things that people would like to have in the app, and it’s our job to balance those with keeping the app simple and elegant, and useful without cluttering up the interface. No different than any other consumer mobile development challenge, really.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah, I think it’s a pretty big challenge. Technical implementation, technology is something that has a start and an end, and you understand it and you can build it, and it functions probably. Getting into as many hands as possible, in this app economy, it’s so very difficult to rise above the cream. Project a little bit forward here, you start to think about the data that you’re collecting, and the data you’re providing to the restaurants, it’s an entirely different business at that point, where you’re giving them deep insight into their own businesses. Then you’re also, we talked about it a second ago, which was expiring inventory, where you now can influence that empty seat. You can get somebody, when you have enough mass using that application in a city, you can actually now move people into seats and really have a massive impact of new business for those businesses, which would be very cool. Do you have a hard time not thinking that far?

Bryan Menell: Yeah, no, we are for sure. We actually have instrumented our app pretty heavily, Richard has. We look at everything. We call them user journeys. Where someone was in town when the opened the app, and then where they wound up going when they were done, and what are the things they looked at, and how many restaurants they clicked on before they got to the one that they went to, and trying to figure those things out. We can get some preference data over time, but understanding this behavior rather than having to have them actually tell us “I like to eat dinner downtown”, we can just see that over time. Really, Mahana can turn into a real-time digital marketing platform for a restaurant to say “I need more guests in the restaurant, let me reach out to people who are looking at the app right now, who are within a half-mile of me, who may have been here before so they like my restaurant or maybe they don’t like to do dishes or whatever. Let me entice them to come in with something I can throw them to get them to come to the restaurant” or click a button here to reserve whatever. Really, thinking down the road, it turns into a digital marketing platform that can move people to behave in certain ways and get people into restaurants and stuff like that. It’ll be exciting to see that kind of scale when we get there.

Rob Woodbridge: That’s very cool. That would get me out of bed every morning. You see the potential here, and this is the industry that we’re in, the mobile space can scale that quickly, especially if you’re providing enough value to your customers. You’re providing the value to them, how do you guys make money off of this?

Bryan Menell: We can’t charge consumers to use the app, that would be a little bit silly.

Rob Woodbridge: It’d be career limiting, yes.

Bryan Menell: Our business model is that we are planning on, once we get some mass here in Austin of consumers, we’ll charge the restaurants a nominal sub-$100 a month fee to have the basic CRM system, to see those names and pictures and get the basic stuff in there, but the real monetization would come in that digital marketing; the things that attract guests to actually come in and patronize a restaurant. Richard’s built a pretty clever closed-loop system, to look at people that we can filter down and say “Who has not been in our restaurant in 10 days?” It would be silly to push an ad to somebody who just ate here last night. They’re like “I just ate there, and now they want me to come back”, that would be silly. We can say “Well, who hasn’t been here to eat in ten days?” And “Who’s looking downtown to go eat?” or “Who’s had bourbon on their tab at least once? Who’s average cost per plate on their tabs is above a certain threshold?”; whatever. Then say “Great, I want to segment and get something out to those people to entice them to come in”, and we can know who that universe of people is, we know in the app if they actually opened and saw the offer or not, we know if they hit the beacon. And when they hit the beacon, we know from the point of sale integration how much money they spent when they were there, so it’s a very crazy and unique, kind of very closed loop, kind of ROI; in terms of the value of the marketing and what worked, then how much you made because of how much you spent. So, that’s where our real monetization comes in, is it actually sort of paid for performance, in a way.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah, so, would you take a referral fee, for example, because that scales much more quickly and far greater than a monthly fee, right?

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah, we could just say, yes… So the digital marketing is really performance based..

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah.

Richard Bagdonas: So, we’ll say it could be a small percentage of their total tickets or some other sort of method.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah, I would even go for the lifetime of the customer, that would be the greatest thing. This is a new customer and they’ve never been in here in the scale of, you know, you using Mahana, every time they bring in and every customer that they bring in is a result of….. Then you, pretty much, that’s like any…

Bryan Menell: Rob, it sounds like we might have a new Canadian sales person.

Rob Woodridge: Exactly, I’m in! I’m in! We sell [Putang] and beaver tails up here and I’m pretty sure that this would be the perfect thing for them. The other thing I think about, we talked a little bit about payments. Nobody’s ever complained about paying in cash and all these kind of things. The world is now rife with mobile payment processors, and everybody’s in the mobile payments business, and everybody’s trying to battle over these percentages, which I find is funny; because the most portable currency right now is still the US Dollar. It’s accepted everywhere, up here in Canada, and in Botswana, and anywhere the US Dollar is still the single most accepted mobile payment. But do you guys ever look at models like Uber for example and think if we could scale to this point, why wouldn’t we just be the Uber of restaurants? You walk in, we know who you are, we know what the menu’s like, we know what you like to eat, your selection of wine, like we’ve gone through this whole episode, and then they get up and walk out, and then you’ve created this completely frictionless great experience with no bill, no awkwardness, where it’s just through Mahana the payments happen. The restaurant gets their cut, you get your percentage because it’s a new business model. Have you ever thought about that kind of utopian view of that restaurant experience, or did I just give it away, or am I way off my rocker?

Richard Bagdonas: Thought about it for sure, and I’m not going to say we’ve built that just to see if it actually worked, but it’s really not that hard.

Rob Woodbridge: Fair enough. I think that’s the experience that you would hope to have. Where you walk in, you’re served, everything’s paid, you don’t have to worry about it, and it’s like that black car service that Uber brings, right? …..silence.

Richard Bagdonas: Absolutely.

Rob Woodbridge: OK. That’s fine, I’ll take that as a silent answer. My last question to you is how do you guys scale? How do you see this rolling out, because it could work in a city but do you worry about other people taking this idea or how do you scale this across the country and then get as big as you need to get?

Bryan Menell: It’s interesting Rob. Ideas float around in the ether all the time, it’s all about execution.

Rob Woodbridge: Yes.

Bryan Menell: There’s very few things that I would feel uncomfortable telling a competitor of ours because it’s just painful to go through and do point of sale integration, and build software that exists on all the point of sale terminals that can show your picture. Two people can run the race, but only one has to finish.

Rob Woodbridge: Right. So is this a slow and steady pace for you guys, or do you go through that process in Austin, you iron it all out and then you just roll?

Richard Bagdonas: Yeah, we’re measuring everything in Austin, what it takes to get consumers to use the app, what the sell cycle’s like at our restaurants, how the operationalization of things goes, and deploying beacons and what that takes. For us, it’s probably a city by city roll out strategy, much like a Zip Car, or Uber or any of that sort of thing. So the world, the internet, and investors are familiar with city-based roll out strategies for us, so that’s probably what we’re looking at, and then we’ll go pre-sell restaurants in a market basically. Sign up a whole bunch of them, and then we’ll get consumers loaded on when there’s restaurants and content and places to go inside the app. We’ll take that approach to getting things ramped up.

Bryan Menell: Rob, just in case anybody’s interested, in those cities that have a lot of downloads, because when you download and install the Mahana app we know where you’re located, those are going to be prioritized over others that don’t have any consumers, so I’m not saying that your local meat market will be having any competition for knowing you, but the restaurants up in Ottawa might get a run for their money if you start to having your friends install Mahana on their phone.

Rob Woodbridge: Download it. Download it. Yes. I think that that’s probably the best way to do it. Certainly the ability to distribute across the country and around the world really does show you where your next market is and you’re doing advanced marketing and advanced awareness making because of that. So I think it’s very fascinating. This whole conversation is fascinating to me because it starts off as a technology, right? You’re solving a problem, you’re going to leverage all the technology, but what it ends up being is in the background which is exactly where it should be, right? All of this information doesn’t require a lot of activity. It requires the user to download an application, let it run. It requires the end . . . What does the restaurant need? It just needs a beacon and integration in their POS, that’s it right?

Bryan Menell: Yes, absolutely. Really it’s just the beacon to let them know that you’re there.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah.

Bryan Menell: Then some device, their existing devices, their normal touchscreens that they have at the restaurant . . .

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah.

Bryan Menell: We actually present your information right on those so they don’t have to buy any new hardware and we give them the beacon for free.

Rob Woodbridge: That’s so simple and that’s what this technology should be enabling, that simplicity and the benefit; the small tap on the shoulder that says “This person requires a gluten-free menu, right? That right there is invaluable, but it can’t be overt, right? It just can’t be complicated and it can’t require a change of behavior in the people that are implementing this like the servers or the hostess, right? All right, last question. I’m impressed. I love what you guys are doing. I’m going to take it to a completely different direction. What has inspired you guys? When you look around, what companies out there are you looking at? What apps have you looked at? What do you guys use on a regular basis that inspires you to do what you’re doing with getmahana?

Bryan Menell: Yeah. You already mentioned it, kind of the Uber experience, right?

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah. You’re not the first. Everybody says, I love that, but . . .

Bryan Menell: Yeah. It’s not in Austin, unfortunately. We wish it was.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah.

Bryan Menell: But, we travel frequently to cities that do have Uber and like, we use it and we love it, right?

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah.

Bryan Menell: It’s convenient. It’s simple. It makes my life better, right? That’s, I think, sort of the guiding the light for us is like, we want to give people stuff that just makes their lives better, right?

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah.

Bryan Menell: In every aspect and if we can do that, I think we’ll have a winner.

Rob Woodbridge: Wow! These guys have just changed everybody’s perception of what good service is, haven’t they?

Bryan Menell: Absolutely. The whole concept of, and I think you mentioned earlier, that really good technology is invisible. It’s in the background. It just works and it makes life so good for everybody. With Mahana we have iOS 7.1. We’ve now got hooks into the O operating system where you don’t even have to have Mahana running on your phone, but iOS is listening for our beacon and it’ll open up and it’ll send it to the restaurant without you doing anything. That is elegance and simplicity.

Rob Woodbridge: That’s beautiful. Oh! All right, so where should we send people, just to

Bryan Menell: We have 12 restaurants in Austin to send them to.

Rob Woodbridge: Twelve restaurants.

Bryan Menell: They should download the app before they get there.

Rob Woodbridge: Yes, but if you’d like some more information about these guys, go to Get Mahana. That’s get, G-E-T, M-A-H-A-N-A, .com. Get Mahana, it means warm and engaging in Hawaiian. That’s exactly what you would expect, a good embrace from the restaurant that you go to everyday. I hope that restaurant that you go to every Monday for 42 consecutive weeks is now hugging you.

Bryan Menell: Absolutely.

Rob Woodbridge: All right, that’s like you, escalated that relationship to a big hug.

Bryan Menell: I’m a hugger, so they get hugs every time.

Rob Woodbridge: Should we prompt people to download the application as they flag, to say, “Hey, come, come, come over here to my city, come to my city”?

Bryan Menell: Absolutely, yeah.

Rob Woodbridge: Do you have plans to roll out? You’re still in your testing phase, right?

Richard Bagdonas: Right.

Rob Woodbridge: Your service?

Richard Bagdonas: Still testing here in Austin.

Rob Woodbridge: Okay.

Richard Bagdonas: So we haven’t exactly named the next cities, but we’ll let them look at the activity and [inaudible 00:053:48] cities and they’ll be letting you know when it comes to a city near you.

Rob Woodbridge: You should do that as a marketing ploy to get the restaurants who are the restaurants that you think would be target to in those cities and say, “Put up a little Vote For Us on”; and that’s how a good way to get customer engagement from those cities. But, you’ve thought of that I’m . . .

Bryan Menell: When you sign-up for Mahana on the actual app, one of the first messages you get is asking you what city you’d like to see it in.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah.

Bryan Menell: So we are collecting that data right through the same system that gives the communication channel from the restaurant tour right to their guest.

Rob Woodbridge: Love it.

Bryan Menell: That open line of communication.

Rob Woodbridge: I love it. Well, I love what you guys are doing. I’m so glad we got this time to spend together to go through exactly what Mahana is. Please go and visit them at and if you are looking for this in your city, just go download the application and have your vote. Let them know that the voices . . . I don’t know about Ottawa, so not a very strong technology adoption. If you looked at Austin as like the . . . especially around South-by-Southwest is the most fluid adoption of anything, of any city, anywhere in the world around South-by-Southwest and you use that as your kind of barometer and then you emanate it. We’re so far away from the pulse that it’s like . . . I’ve never been in a swarm in FourSquare simply because there aren’t that many users in Ottawa. So when you go to San Francisco and you land, you’re part of like a torrent. So . . .

Bryan Menell: Right.

Rob Woodbridge: I’ll do my best up here. You might just get one vote.

Bryan Menell: No problem.

Rob Woodbridge: It’ll be mine.

Bryan Menell: That’s a very important vote.

Rob Woodbridge: It will be. Guys, thank you, thank you, thank you for doing this. We’ve been speaking with Bryan Menell and Richard Bagdonas. Nice, right?

Richard Bagdonas: That’s correct.

Rob Woodbridge: Yeah. They are the co-founders of Mahana. Go to right away and take a look at what these guys are doing, and if you have had the experience inside the restaurant, I’d love to hear from you. Reach out to me at [email protected] If you have used this application, I’m sure they would appreciate hearing from you as well, but I appreciate you guys who are listening and watching wherever you maybe. Thank you for doing this. It means a ton and we will see you next time on Guys, thank you for doing this. I really appreciate it.

Bryan Menell: Thank you.

Richard Bagdonas: Oh, our pleasure.

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About Bryan Menell
Bryan Menell MahanaA finalist for Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year award, Bryan has 20 years of experience founding and growing Exact Systems (1991), Perficient (NASDAQ: PRFT) (1997), and Fusion Learning Systems (2001). He recently co-authored The ABC’s of Entrepreneurs with his longtime friend Thom Singer, and is currently the CEO of Mahana.

He is active in Austin’s technology scene, and is a co-founder and Mentor of Capital Factory, a seed stage mentoring program for technology companies. Bryan is the publisher of AustinStartup, which highlights emerging technology companies in Austin, and is an investor and advisor to a select group of companies.

Bryan began his career in the San Francisco office of Andersen Consulting (now Accenture). He earned a bachelors degree in Business/MIS at California State University at Chico.

Richard Bagdonas
Richard Bagdonas MahanaMr. Bagdonas has been building technology and service companies for over 25 years.

In 1987 he founded his first company, Voicer Technologies to provide a hardware-based voice recognition solution. Since then, two of his companies have become publicly traded, and several have been acquired. His latest venture Mahana has him building Bluetooth Smart (BTLE) technology for the hospitality industry using iBeacons.

Mahana started in 2013 after exiting SubtleData, a platform company he founded that connects mobile apps to POS systems. SD was a finalist for PYMNTS’ most innovative company, top 10 by GigaOM, and awarded a slot in Microsoft’s BizSpark One program (top 100 of 45,000+ worldwide).

Prior to SD he co-founded SpeedMenu, a mobile ordering/payment app for hospitality.Built for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.

Prior to SpeedMenu, for 10 years, he co-founded a healthcare technology company and am still the recognized expert on HL7 – the protocol to transmit patient records to EMR systems.

As a writer he authored four books on telecom and data network design/engineering, as well as co-authoring a book on the “convergence” of voice, video, and data communications.

About the author

Rob Woodbridge

I'm Rob, the founder of and I've spent 14 years immersed in the mobile and pervasive computing world. During this great time I've helped some of the most innovative companies grow their business through mobile. If you are in need of a mobile business advisor or coach, connect with me here to get things rolling.

  • Richard Bagdonas

    Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you about Mahana. We appreciate the hospitality.

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