This week’s Q&A has been contributed by Michelle Songy, co-founder & COO of Cake, the mobile payment app that makes paying and splitting restaurant/bar bills easy (www.thecakeapp.com).
Our questions are in bold.
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Who are you and what’s your background?
Charlotte Kohlmann and I grew up in the South of the U.S., in New Orleans, Louisiana and Atlanta, Georgia where we were spoiled with amazing southern cuisine and the best hospitality in the world. I studied Business IT, and Charlotte journalism, but we both ended up in corporate finance jobs somehow. I knew I wanted to work in tech and Charlotte had a foodie side so was really interested in the restaurant scene, especially with the influx of new restaurants in London. We were excited about the opportunities, especially as the tech scene was taking off too. Once we figured out the business idea, and decided to tackle improving current payment methods, we decided to quit our jobs. To get started, I decided to work at a restaurant while Charlotte took a job at a new start-up to learn the ropes.
What is your job title and what are your general responsibilities?
I am technically the co-founder and COO, although the job description tends to adapt with the business needs. Mostly I am working with the team to on board new restaurants, ensuring a seamless integration with their point-of-sale systems and that the staff are fully trained on how to accept Cake as a form of mobile payment. Other days can include fundraising, product strategies, marketing and user acquisition. We may even get caught up working behind the bar at times when they are busy!
Can you give us an overview of your business?
Cake is the fastest growing mobile payment app in London for both restaurants and customers. We let customers simply pay, split or itemise their bill on the app, saving on average 11 minutes per table. Restaurants that use our app are seeing our transaction growth is increasing over 20% week on week and we aim to have over 100 venues live by the end of the year.
Tell us how you are funded.
We bootstrapped for 6 months until we received our first round of £150K funding. We have since raised 1 more round of seed funding for £500K and just finished our Crowdcube campaign for another £800k!
Why did you start the company? To solve what problems?
We saw an opportunity in the market to better serve customers and make the dining experience more enjoyable at the end of a meal. We provide quicker, easier options to pay, whether you want to simply split the bill or only pay for the items you ate; while eliminating time needed for staff to process payments. Current payment methods seemed outdated, and especially a hassle when a group wants to share a bill. With Cake, the app does the maths for you in an easy fun way.
Who are your target customers? What’s your revenue model?
Our customers vary as we serve a mix of fast-casual to high-end dining, but most tend to be younger, more receptive to tech within the 20-30 age range.
The app is free for users to download, and we charge the restaurants a flat rate of 1% of the total bill which is less than their credit card fees. We also have a subscription model to access data on their customers’ spending habits, which can be used for loyalty schemes and marketing campaigns.
If you had a magic wand, what one thing would you change in the banking and/or FinTech sector?
I believe where we are lacking the most is in financial education. I’d love to see basic and mid-level financial instruction being carried out at a school level. This would prepare future generations to make better decisions and keep an informed eye out for financial misconduct from banks and governments.
What is your message for the larger players in the Finance industry?
Continue to focus on deep innovation beyond simple process optimisation. The future will see tech continue to broaden the horizons of business and information, disruption will continue with more nimble players until the larger institutions realise that they need to adapt.
What phone are you carrying and why?
iPhone 6. I’ve had iPhones for 8 years now and can’t imagine living without one.
Where do you get your industry news from?
Honestly, Google Alerts. I have a ton of key terms set up so I get a global snapshot of news without having to sift through websites. Other than that Medium, Wired, TechCrunch.
Can you list 3 people you rate from the FinTech sector that we should be following on Twitter?
1. Aaron Pressman @ampressman Finance tech reporter at Yahoo
2. JP Nicols @JPNicols Innovation | Strategy | Leadership #FinTech and #FinServ speaker, consultant and advisor. Co-founder of @BankInnovators Council and COO of @InnovationCrowd
3. Chris Gledhill @cgledhill Innovation Technologist at Lloyds Banking Group
What’s the best FinTech product or service you’ve seen recently?
We just finished a successful campaign on Crowdcube so being involved with them and watching the movements of the other campaigns around us in a mix of companies at various stages of business was really interesting .
Bitcoin still fascinates me, as it will transform our definition of money and abilities of transferring it around the world. I’m also looking forward to peer-to-peer lending and social trading to transform finance the way Napster and iTunes changed the music industry.
Finally, let’s talk predictions. What trends do you think are going to define the next few years in the FinTech sector?
Biometrics for security and authentication, and blockchain technology to help decrease today’s high transaction costs for payment systems.