Two school friends from Adelaide who both worked in hospitality as teenagers, one in a local hotel and the other in the family restaurant, have developed a mobile phone app which pays bar and restaurant bills.
It’s simple and solves key problems for both customer and business.
No more having one too many and forgetting to pick up your credit card from behind the bar. And no more waiting while the harassed restaurant staff work out the bill.
And the bar and restaurant get paid quickly, get to know about their customers and get the chance to build loyalty.
The app is called the Aston Club. It’s free to users and a merchant fee is charged to the restaurant or bar when the app is used. That’s the business model.
“We didn’t want a tech sounding name,” says CEO Nicholas Birrell. “We wanted to create a brand which is associated with the top venues and has that kind of aspirational aspect to the brand positioning.”
Birrell and business partner Matthew Khoury, fresh from creating Boogiespot, an online marketing tool to create loyalty, wanted to help the hospitality industry know their customers.
Birrell and Khoury first met when in year 11 in Adelaide and have been friends ever since.
They raised $1.5 million in a seed round led by Computershare founder and BRW Rich-Lister Chris Morris as well as a syndicate of AFL players and angel investors.
They have signed up 1,000 venues nationally.
“We’re based in Melbourne so we’re very much focused over the next few months on locking down our method of rollout before we start on other cities.” Birrell says.
He says bars and restaurants have massive inefficiencies in their businesses when it comes to the settlement of accounts. They have constant variances in their tills, the mix of cash, a lot of problems around people leaving cards. And they don’t actually know who is spending money in their business.
“With us, they don’t any new hardware,” he says. “We plug straight into their point of sales system. And for the consumer it’s a very simple, easy, free mobile app they can just get on their phone.”
He admits there’s a lot of the mobile wallet stuff development, a lot of competition and a lot of people throwing money at it.
Aston Club uses Braintree technology for the secure payments system.
“What Matt and I know is the hospitality industry,” he says. “We’ve created a set of tools specifically for the venues to allow them to get the most out of using Aston Cub as a payment method.”
“The main obstacle in the mobile payments space really is the user adoption. And by having the staff promoting it to the customers, the user adoption isn’t a problem for us.”
Aston Club is now looking at a Series A round of funding.
“We are starting to be chased by some of the really prominent US venture capitalist firms such as Accel Partners,” he says. “Getting this interest out of the blue is amazing for us.”
He says this indicates the increasing interest and awareness of some of the big international and US-based players in Australian start-ups.
“Also people are starting to view our start-ups as a potential launching point into the greater region,” he says.
“We already have partnerships which will get us into Hong Kong, Singapore and New Zealand. These are markets which are not so easily reached from the US or Europe.”
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