F&B SaaS Startup iKentoo Gets Rid Of Inefficient, Old-Fashioned Cash Flow Systems

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Swiss SaaS startup iKentoo aims to simplify and streamline complex operational or strategic tasks in the F&B world. We spoke to Morgan Andersen, Head of Marketing, to learn more about the company's progress and future plans.

David Clerc’s mother-in-law resold plastic Casio cash registers to restaurants for a living. When Clerc decided to develop a software that could fulfill the role of a cash register for a lower cost, enhanced with data-harnessing technologies that could elevate commercial operations for good, his mother-in-law was the first onboard helping him work on prototypes. The first iteration of iKentoo hit the market in 2015, and — championing a “conservative Swiss approach” to business — has since expanded to 25 countries. iKentoo raised 5 million Swiss Francs (4.3€ million) in 2017, bringing the company’s total fundraising to 6.8 million Swiss Francs (5.8€ million).

Serving both food trucks and major chain restaurants alike, iKentoo provides sophisticated performance data to over 3000 clients at a low cost. The company pioneered the use of blockchain to code point-of-sale data in a private ledger while preventing fraud, delivering powerful sales insights in a secure way. We spoke to Morgan Andersen, iKentoo’s Head of Marketing, about the company’s progress and future plans.

What was your initial inspiration for iKentoo? What is the problem you’re addressing and has this problem evolved since you launched the company?

Clerc’s mother-in-law used to resell plastic Casio cash machines for restaurants, and the two began talking about developing a product that could function like a cash register — but cheaper and more high-powered. They worked on prototypes beginning in 2011, secured their first few clients, did a commercial rollout in 2013. iKentoo began efforts in Switzerland’s French-speaking parts, before quickly expanding to France. From there on, they began contracting resellers in different countries, 25 countries now of which 10 are big focuses for us with high sales.

When we have interest in clients from different countries we try to help them but there are big fiscal compliance issues so that’s an ongoing project we’re dealing with. We want to offer a better version of a cash register and ability to harness the data to give clients performance info at a better price. What has changed is the tech roadmap, went through different iterations, the restauranteur says this is not how it works in the real world, it’s been more a process of staying true to our initial value proposition and getting increasingly detailed about how to help clients with close collaboration and feedback with them. Early clients helped a lot with fine-tuning and thanks to them we are able to develop one of the best in class products that can help food trucks and restaurant chains.

Can you walk me through your founding team’s background leading up to iKentoo?

After creating prototypes and speaking with friends in the restaurant industry to identify a market opportunity, David Clerc reunited with his co-founder Serge Sozonoff. In 2011, After more than two decades of being out of touch since they had been friends in middle school, they met in Verbier (CH). Both Clerc and Sozonoff had previously launched companies before joining forces for iKentoo. They were both technical founders, so they spent the first year and a half developing the iPad app with few efforts at commercialization beyond finding a group of restauranteurs to test the product.

What do you think makes your team especially capable of solving this particular problem?

Our approach has been very “Swiss”: it’s not a growth at all cost strategy, but an organic and business-focused strategy. Our focus remains on a high-value proposition that we can take advantage of in a scalable way by adding team members and increasing our market budget as our revenue has allowed. Only when the founders were satisfied with iKentoo’s progress did we push to raise 5 million Swiss Francs in mid-2017. Since then, our priority has been on quickly scaling with the blueprint we have, especially in sales and marketing.

Can you walk me through how the technology behind iKentoo’s point-of-sale platform works? How does your product integrate with other online management systems?

We have two customer-facing products: the back office that creates sales data from the cash register, and the iKentoo point of sale iPad app. The iKentoo app is a front-facing iPad sales system that connects to the backend via the cloud, where data is aggregated and integrated with third-party functionalities. While no product is ever truly finished, our ideal endpoint would be something that serves a restaurant’s every need.

Who would you say your top competitors are in this space, and what is your “edge”?

We’re less focused on the US where there are many companies in the space, but our closest analog there is the Android-based Toast TOS, based in Boston. We’re focused on the European market where we have fewer competitors. The German company Gastrofix offers cloud-connected registers, and Lightspeed Retail in the UK is more in the food truck space, which is not our target market. iKentoo is one platform that can serve all F&B providers, provide SaaS for a monthly fee, and provide integration and hardware. Our customers can receive a turnkey solution from us.

Do you have any major development goals moving forward, such as new product offerings you’re interested in pursuing?

We’ve noticed a shift towards an ecosystem mentality in the restaurant and FoodTech space. In enterprise software, it is important that a good product can communicate with other systems such as reservation platforms, card processing providers, and stock management modules. It’s crucial that card payments can run through the point-of-sale automatically, stock management links to real-time sales, and so on. New APIs and interesting partnerships in Europe will be critical moving forward, and the new standard will be set by the providers with the most enticing, seamlessly connected solution.

How do you generate revenue?

Our clients pay monthly or annual fees for the service. We also provide existing hardware such as iPads and computers at a markup if our customer chooses to purchase these from us, but most customers already have hardware and are looking to buy software. We’re a SaaS company with a turnkey option.

How much traction are you seeing among customers? Any particularly insightful feedback?

Most of the feedback we receive is about minor things, but all this small feedback builds a great product. If a customer wants to be able to add new reports to track new variables, we’ll analyze whether this would benefit only one client, or whether we should factor it into our roadmap and roll out a new feature for everyone. We work with independent restaurants and increasingly partner with the best in the business to offer top-notch solutions. In the past few years, we’ve seen more large restaurant groups and chains sign with us, such as Big Mamma Group and Station F in Paris. We serve all of the outlets of these larger chains at scale and are opening a restaurant complex in Station F, Paris’ largest incubator. We work with the Hard Rock Café in Lyon, and this provides us with reputable marketing for potential clients who are reassured to see us partner with a thriving business.

What is your long-term objective with iKentoo, and what do you see as your greatest hurdles to achieving this?

We want iKentoo to be the #1 platform in Europe and in the world. It’s hard to foresee the future, but a big obstacle could be our competition and whether they improve, especially at the higher end of the market. Right now, there are few other players that offer the quality and price that we do. Regulatory issues are another hurdle. We’re focused on European countries, but our product category is systematically subject to fiscal requirements to prevent VAT fraud and data security. Our goal is to make one product that works for all native requirements, instead of developing and managing multiple products for different countries in parallel. It will be interesting to see whether tax and fiscal law moves towards regulatory harmonization, or whether it becomes increasingly complex with different standards for every country, as this will impact our expansion and how many versions of iKentoo we want to support.

Is there any message you would like to convey to our readers?

What’s unique about iKentoo is that we’re trying to do things the right way and not get ahead of ourselves. We’re not falling into the trap of growing too fast and falling flat trying to get more funding. Our organic growth strategy has been rewarded with happy investors, a growing number of clients and a good product.



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