How an open mind and a chance encounter changed this business forever with Mahana co-founders Bryan Menell and Richard Bagdonas

Just 13 weeks ago I featured this very same duo about their company, Mahana, and their focus on bringing beacons (and their benefits) into the restaurant industry. As a sign of how quickly things – and business focus – change (and need to change), they are back on to talk about the shift in their business and why.

If there is one thing that the mobile world has taught all of us it is that it is very hard to fall in love with a business idea. I’ve seen many do this and not see the industry change right in front of them until it is too late. Bryan Menell and Richard Bagdonas aren’t like that and this is the story of how they moved from their original focus to the much more niched hotel and casino industries.

This is the episode for startups who are in flux or aren’t gaining the traction that is necessary to make an impact in their industry. This is for the hotel and casino industry to cast an amazing light on how technology – in particularly beacons – can help deepen customer relationships and thus loyalty. This is for the leader that is facing down the impossible task of change in an industry where change is the constant. This is for everyone who thinks you can’t amend your thinking or change your focus because of where you started.

Listen to Bryan and Richard’s story and then be open to listening to what your customers, your advisors and your gut is telling you. Who knows if they will be right or wrong or keep amending their model but the thing that they did – and continue to do – is QUESTION where they are and if it still makes sense. They did. You should.


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

1. What has happened in the market for you to change direction? 2:40
2. The “Hotel” challenge 5:50
3. How can beacons help hotels create loyalty 8:50
4. The 3 “beacon” challenges that Mahana helps overcome 10:35
5. Why move from an app to an API? 12:30
6. What is the impact as a result of iOS 8? 15:45
7. What does the co-marketing opportunity look like for Mahana? 19:00
8. Why focus on the hotel and casino industries? 23:30
9. Who is Jack Tan 25:00
10. How did you meet him? 25:40
11. How did you stay in touch with Jack as your company progressed? 26:40
12. Who initiated the conversations with Jack? 28:30
13. How influential was Jack in deciding the market change for Mahana? 28:50
14. How do you sell Mahana into the big hotel chains…or do you? 31:24
15. Why not focus on the other loyalty platforms as opposed to individual hotels? 33:25
16. How did your investors, employees, advisors and customers react to the change in direction? 35:35
17. Biggest lessons learned from this last year of transition and business building was… 37:20


Raw Transcript

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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.

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