We’re excited to announce our investment in Revi, a new way to help local businesses serve and connect with their customers.
In today’s difficult times, running a restaurant or café is tougher than ever. Changing safety protocols, growing take-out and delivery needs, and customers’ increased stress levels make it a difficult environment for local businesses to succeed.
Revi is looking to completely change the game for local businesses. By giving them a hardware and software platform for ordering, menu personalization, customer communication, and rewards, all with zero up-front costs to the business, Revi hopes to help local businesses not just survive, but thrive. We’re excited to have backed Eugene and his team alongside great funds like Precursor Ventures and Ubiquity Ventures.
Below is our interview with Revi’s CEO, Eugene Johnson. He discusses how Revi came to be, their recent rebrand, and how they hope to use design to serve business owners and their customers.
I’m a serial entrepreneur. I have been starting companies since I was 18, so I’ve always leaned in this direction. But my passion for tech started in 2009 when I got my first iPhone. It really shifted how I looked at tech and it was the beginning of an undying obsession with all things tech. It became clear to me that modern technology (i.e. the internet, mobile, software, etc) wasn't some novel thing — it was changing the world. I knew I had to find a way to be a part of it.
In 2012 I was doing some investing and speaking and looking for the next thing to do. I’d been in operations and wanted to stay in that space, but also wanted to make the leap from traditional companies to the tech space. I could sense that it was a different monster, so instead of starting my own tech company, I decided to join one and learn the ropes.
I ended up working for a company named Meraki. I started with them when they were about 60-75 employees and I learned a ton about how the industry worked and the behind-the-scenes of what to expect. I was there for four years, helping the company grow to almost 3,000 employees and be bought by Cisco. I fell in love with the concept of software changing the way the average person engages with physical space, which started the track that eventually led to Revi.
A lot of people say brick-and-mortar retail is dead, but we believe that it’s drastically changing. Our goal at Revi is to lead the way through that change into the future. Thirty-one years ago, Web 1.0 gave people the ability to click hyperlinks and read text. When Web 2.0 came about 10 years later, it revolutionized the world. It allowed people to do things online that previously could only be done in-person: shipping, mailing, shopping, and more. That one technology advancement, though simple, changed the world.
But today, the internet world is so robust that there are things you can do online that you cannot do in a physical location. This is the next great shift in the market, which Revi is calling Web 3.0.
There are companies trying to bring this robust digital experience into the physical world through their own siloed ecosystems. For example, Uber provides a simplified way to interact with cabs in physical locations, Bonobos brings a simplified way to interact with their retail stores, the Amazon Go stores simplify purchasing in physical locations. Revi is looking to bring this way of interacting with physical locations to all consumers no matter what physical store you walk into.
Today, Revi offers businesses an in-store digital platform that not only allows them to build long-lasting relationships with their customers but also gives customers a streamlined digital experience in every store they enter. Our product is a beautifully designed in-store self-ordering system where consumers can buy, pay, get rewards, and much more. The data collected is leveraged to improve the ordering experience and attract new consumers. We are ready to turn this obsession into a multi-billion dollar opportunity.
Again, it goes back to that first iPhone I got in 2009. What Steve Jobs did at Apple around design was revolutionary. He showed that a great product is not great without design.
I liken design to restaurants. If you want to eat food, you can go to any restaurant — but what separates the three-star restaurants from the rest? It's those extra, unexpected elements of the experience: It's the ambiance when you walk in, it's the way the host speaks to you at the door, it’s the detail in the decor, it’s the fact that they constantly clean your table and keep your glass filled. They make you feel like the most important person in the restaurant, even if it's just for a night. Oh, and of course the food is good too! But people pay these prices for the full experience. The experience is so intoxicating it makes you want to go back as many times as you can afford it. This is what great product design does. It thinks about every piece of what you would desire before you ever desire it. It’s something that I strive for Revi to achieve daily. You recently rebranded the company to Revi. Can you share a bit about why and the process?
It has a lot to do with what I just spoke about above. The question is, how does our brand name make you feel when you say it? Does it bring delight, or confusion? We were at a point where we felt it was time to put our obsession with brand and design on display in our name.
Also, we had been in a semi-stealth mode for almost two years, and it was time to break out. We felt like a brand change that encompassed who we are and what we’re coming to do was important.
The process has been amazing and super informative. I learned so much about brand and design, and even dug deeper into our vision as a company. But what I really learned about the process is just how much I cared about it. I knew I cared about it, but I realized that I really really cared. It's like as a father, you have a baby and you love it so much, and you can look back and say, “That was my creation.” It was a great journey working with a great team over at West Ventures.
I once heard a quote that said "If experience isn't your strategy, you're doing it wrong." I truly believe that design is both an attitude and a methodology that allows the creation of outcomes when there are no fixed rules. With design, you use imagination, intuition, reasoning, and logic to discover and create an exceptional experience.
At Revi, one of the major questions I like to ask is, what do we want the customer or consumer to feel when they encounter this product? Then we design an experience that can produce that feeling. Now you don't hit the ball out of the park every single time, but when you do it's magic.
The world is changing and everyone must change with it. For the businesses we work with, it's about providing the ability to stay open. Many restaurant owners I’ve spoken with told me that if they didn't have a Revi, they would not be able to stay open. Revi makes it not only cost-efficient to stay open, but also safe for their employees who are classified as essential workers.
And for many consumers, the only time they leave their house is for food. So it brings us joy that we’re able to give them a safe way to stay connected to the businesses they love. COVID has been hard on everyone, so to be able to be part of helping small- and medium-sized businesses win through the roughest time the world has seen in a century is rewarding.
I can talk for an hour on this question, but to say it simply, we want to revolutionize the way people interact and connect with businesses in the physical space. In a perfect Revi world, the analog experience that the average person gets today when they walk into a store will be no more. They will walk into a physical store and Revi will make that experience personalized, seamless, and even more delightful than online shopping. That's our dream!