Investment Notes: klikit

Read why AfterWork Ventures doubled down into klikit - a company building the franchise of the future; a place where kitchens connect to creators to create culinary concepts for consumers everywhere.

Times have changed for restaurant owners.

It’s no longer enough to make tasty food.

Delivery platforms such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo, and Grab have inserted themselves between restaurants and their own customers. Not only do restaurants now have to pay exorbitant commissions to delivery platforms, they have to navigate the idiosyncrasies of multiple platforms and devices - often leading to errors, stressed staff, and unhappy customers.

The prevalence of delivery has pitted local restaurants against each other - making them compete, where previously each was happy to be ‘the local’. Restaurants are bending over backwards to cut-through to their customers - they’re running digital marketing campaigns (where Facebook and Google are charging through the nose) and coordinating influencers across social media channels - all to sell a humble burger. 

All this means greater operational complexity, higher marketing costs, compressed profit margins, and less time for restaurants to focus on what really matters - serving up great food.

While food delivery platforms have made life more convenient for millions of consumers globally, they’ve put immense pressure on the restaurant industry. 

In the eye of this storm - the world record for the most burgers sold in a day by a single restaurant was broken by Jimmy Donaldson - better known as Mr Beast - a Youtube sensation with over 100 million followers. After selling thousands of Mr Beast Burgers via its ghost kitchens across the United States, 10,000 customers lined up for the physical opening of Mr Beast Burgers in a mall - setting the Guinness World Record.

Mr Beast at the opening of his first physical restaurant

Enter klikit

The klikit team is building software to solve restaurants’ existential problems. 

First, klikit’s software enables restaurants to manage multiple food delivery platforms in one place. Klikit consolidates incoming delivery orders and presents them to the staff in one platform. In addition, instead of having to upload new menus onto every platform, klikit allows you to push updates to all platforms with one upload. Restaurants can also see an aggregated view of data across all their platforms - easily understanding the performance of their best and worst items, channels, and times.

Second, once klikit’s software is embedded in restaurants, klikit can start enabling restaurants to ‘franchise’ virtual brands - in partnership with with creators or production companies. 

What we loved about the opportunity

Chris is a force of nature with a highly opinionated perspective 

Klikit’s founder and CEO is Chris Withers.

Chris was studying Law and Economics at the University of Queensland when he got roped into an internship at Uber - which had just launched into Australia at the time. Chris quickly became a Senior Manager in the Central Operations team before moving into Uber Eats as a Growth Lead. He helped to launch and scale Uber Eats in multiple markets across APAC, up to Uber’s multi-billion dollar sale of its South East Asia business to Grab in 2018.

After leaving Uber, Chris became the Chief of Staff and then Chief Strategy Officer at Pathao - a ridesharing and food delivery app - which was also the largest technology company in Bangladesh. Chris then joined Pathao’s largest shareholder Gojek - a $25 billion Indonesian ‘super app’, which now operates across South East Asia, as VP of Marketplace Mobility. 

During the pandemic, Chris worked for Gojek remotely from the Gold Coast in Australia. As an after work side hustle, he teamed up with restaurant manager Stephen Kakoniktis to launch a virtual brand called Cluccboi - serving up finger lickin’ chicken. Working from a collaborative ghost kitchen in Southport, the duo added 5 more virtual brands - including Dragonboi for Asian inspired snacks and Fryboi for loaded waffle fries. 

Elbows deep in literal grease, Chris started to experience firsthand all the problems faced by operators in the Food and Beverage (F&B) industry: the lack of suitable software for managing kitchens, staffing, delivery platforms, and keeping track of customers’ changing preferences. 

We first met Chris in 2021, when he was still operating Cluccboi. He struck us as someone wildly ambitious, curious, tenacious, and resourceful. Chris strives for truth and perfection; he will staunchly refuse to accept a half-baked answer or a half-assed job. In addition to those traits, Chris was supremely well-connected in the South East Asian hospitality and food delivery industries.

We are chuffed to have been a first believer in Chris - first investing at pre-seed when Klikit was just Chris and a pitch deck.

Since then, we’ve loved having Chris in the AfterWork community. His comments on our community dealflow calls are equal parts incisive and hilarious, and his contributions in our Discord provide a fascinating peek into the maze of rabbit warrens that exist in his head. 

Klikit is solving an immediate pain-point for hospo staff 

The pandemic accelerated a shift to food delivery - in 2021, 47% of meals ordered were through a third-party delivery channel1, despite restaurants reopening. The proliferation of food delivery platforms such as Deliveroo, DoorDash, and Grab–each jostling for market share–have created an administrative nightmare for hospo workers.

At the most surface level - the problem manifests as “tablet hell”. Each food delivery platform comes with its own device, meaning hospo workers have to monitor multiple tablets. Every platform has different guidelines on how food should be packaged, and every device displays information slightly differently - adding to the list of things hospo staff have to sweat over. 

The multiple tablets restaurants have to contend with

Currently, managers need to contact each platform independently to process updates to the menu - a process which can take weeks. Finally, restaurant chains and franchises are unable to collate data from across all these disparate platforms, creating data silos that make it difficult to gauge performance at a product level.

By aggregating orders from all delivery platforms into a single interface, klikit is eliminating “‘tablet hell” for restaurants and their staff, streamlining orders into one single place. Klikit has built API partnerships with the largest platforms - enabling restaurants to have one ‘master’ menu that syncs with all platforms. Finally, all orders are collected into one single analytics dashboard - a single source of truth.

Klikit launched its product in February 2022. As of September, Klikit is live in over 70 venues and is processing more than $160,000 USD of orders across its restaurant locations every week. Klikit is working with major South East Asian franchises such as Krispy Kremes, Denny’s, and Wildflour - one of the most revered restaurant chains in Manila.

Victor Lim, the founder of Kraver’s Canteen in the Philippines, is one happy customer: “Thanks to the Klikit platform, we’ve decreased missed orders and improved prep times. We are implementing it across all our locations to drive synergy at scale”.

Once embedded in how a restaurant operates, klikit can also help unlock additional revenue via virtual brands

Once klikit is embedded within a restaurant’s operating stack, it is poised to work in partnership with both restaurants and creators to launch virtual brands, adding an additional income stream for both parties. 

Here’s an example of how it could work.

This week, much of the internet was taken by storm by a YouTuber called Dream. The 23-year-old YouTuber rose to fame by creating Minecraft “let’s plays” and speedrun videos, building an audience of more than 30 million subscribers, while managing to retain his anonymity - by wearing a mask with a smiley face drawn on it. 

YouTube sensation 'Dream' taking his mask off

On Sunday night, after a masterful hype campaign, Dream finally removed the mask to reveal his face in a video posted to YouTube, which has since accumulated more than 22 million views.

Leveraging klikit, Dream could have created a virtual food brand - for a limited edition run of smiley face tarts and cookies. In turn, restaurants that use klikit could sign up to power the virtual brand, by producing food in line with standardised recipes, ingredients, and guidelines. When the campaign goes live, klikit activates the virtual brand across delivery food platforms, allowing fans to order straight from their platform of choice - if there’s a restaurant within their delivery radius that’s powering the virtual brand.  

This scenario is a magical experience for all parties involved - creators get to connect with their fans over a shared physical product, and restaurants get additional revenue, with limited additional opex, and without having to do any of the marketing. 

The challenges we saw

There are other companies competing to aggregate delivery platforms into one single platform

Klikit is not the only player solving the ‘tablet hell’ problem for restaurants - Deliverect and Hubster also offer order consolidation, menu management, and data analytics. Klikit improves upon these offerings with API partnerships with food delivery platforms - enabling seamless and automatic menu management. Additionally, klikit’s pricing and features are better targeted to Asian markets, and support the management of multiple locations and brands.

Meanwhile, similar companies such as Ordermark and Nextbite in the North American and European markets builds our confidence that the model resonates with customers, but there remains an opportunity to tailor the opportunity for the Asian market - where customers are more sensitive to price, and local industry experience is needed to navigate and build trust with customers.

Competition aside, we believe the market is large enough, and the problems experienced by different regions varied enough, for multiple companies to reach venture scale. 

Questions we had for the team 

How are you building a team with complementary skills?

When we invested in klikit’s pre-seed round, we were curious about the kind of team Chris would build around him. He needed people who could match his insanity, but also help him with his blindspots.

Fast forward one year, and Chris has assembled a team of all-star operators: 

CMO Rita Chang brings more than a decade of experience from across globally iconic brands such as Nike, Under Armour, and Alter Global - a VC fund investing in emerging markets including SEA, LatAm, and the Middle East; COO Stephen Tucker brings operational experience from Uber, Revolut, and Pluralsight; and CCO Mark Beavan previously led customer success, sales, and marketing at Mentorloop as CRO.

Klikit’s Indonesia and Philippines operations are led by GMs Hidayat and Jose - both of whom bring years of local operational experience.

The Klikit team

In preparation for some serious growth, Klikit has started hiring for more than 10 roles - if you’re (k)razy and (k)urious - read about the opportunity here.

How will you bridge the expanse between creators and restaurants?

The creator economy is full-steam ahead, but bridging the expanse between the world of creators and the world of small business owners running restaurant chains is a complicated task.

While adding an additional income stream is attractive, it remains an open question whether restaurant owners would find creator partnerships and virtual brand compelling, or an unwelcome distraction - something for the “too hard” or “two weird” basket.

This insight is the reason klikit has taken a staged approach to building to virtual brand licensing - first becoming an indispensable and trusted part of a restaurant’s operations, introducing virtual brands as an add-on option, talking through owners’ concerns, and working in lockstep with them to prepare for and deliver against creator activations.

In the next few months, klikit has two creator drops lined up - where creators with a combined fanbase of over 30 million will launch limited edition food brands to their fans. Watch this space!

How we built conviction

In July 2020 - 4 months into the pandemic - most of us were “wishing people were well in these unprecedented times” and learning to bake sourdough from scratch.

Chris was launching Cluccboi - an irreverent, playful virtual brand that served a whole roast chicken called the Mothercluccer. From a collaborative ghost kitchen in Southport, Cluccboi was delivering comfort food to bunkered down Gold Coast residents.

One month later, Mr Beast announced he was launching Mr Beast Burgers in 300 delivery-only locations across the States.  

Chris saw the impending collision of ghost kitchens with the creator economy before most other people.

In the months since, we’ve seen him translate his vision into a comprehensive plan to become the pipes and rails infrastructure that would allow creators to monetize their audience by spinning up virtual brands inside existing kitchens looking for additional income streams - first with a piece of software that solved restaurants’ most painful operational challenges, then with the infrastructure to power virtual brands from their kitchens.

Since our initial pre-seed investment, Chris has also thoroughly impressed with his pace of execution - he’s recruited a stellar team, shipped a product, is live in over 70 locations, has some of SEAs best franchises as his customers, processed $3 million in GTV, and signed agreements with top creators.

Today, we’re excited for klikit to slingshot out of stealth and make a dent in the universe.

[1] Source: Doordash Restaurant Online Ordering Trends Report 2021