Profiles of Innovation
Tabbedout: A business based on getting you out of the bar faster
Great ideas grow from the seeds of small problems. "Wouldn't it be great if...?" moments happen all the time, but occasionally someone with a passion for work and a love of finding solutions decides to finish the sentence with a period instead of a question mark.
So it happened for Rick Orr as he was finishing dinner with his girlfriend (now wife) at some restaurant somewhere — he can't remember the place. "Wouldn't it be great," she said as they sat at the table after the meal, "if we didn't have to sit here for half an hour waiting to pay our bill?"
Orr, a former bar and restaurant employee had been on both sides of that complaint before. But on that night something clicked for the security software engineer. Tabbedout was born.
"You take the rock star when you can get the rock star. We recruited a great guy out of L.A. who moved his family from living next door to the Kardashians to come and help us build this company."
You attach a credit card to the app (your card information just lives on your phone, not on Tabbedout servers), show it to your bartender or server at a participating bar or restaurant and check out.
No need to wait for a tab, swipe a credit card or sign a receipt. In and out. Easy.
Easy for you maybe, not so much for Orr and his team of developers.
"I’m very fortunate that my co-founder David Lemley and I worked together for about ten years starting at a security software company and [that] our focus at that company was to behaviorally detect malware back in the early 2000s," Orr said.
"We made an investment in our team and our product to not lose on security and to not lose the consumer's trust. Without it, you can get as far down the path as you want with a million consumers, but as soon as you have that one breach or that one thing that erodes the trust as a consumer product, we know that’s the end."
Credit card security is the killer detail in this app, and Orr won't let it beat them.
Entrepreneurs like Orr tend to take a pretty serious approach to their work, despite how fun it might seem. This is a bar app after all, but it requires the security of a banking app. Still, it's easy to see the businesses Tabbedout works with as you walk into their office — a working bar and DJ stand are the first things you'll see. Even those have a purpose.
"When someone has an idea," Orr explained, "we have a point of sale set up and a bar set up, we'll walk down there and make sure we got it right."
It may be fun, but it's still business.
Tabbedout has grown significantly over the last eight years. Recently they signed up TGI Fridays as a partner merchant adding hundreds of restaurants across the country. They also cut a deal with PayPal, eBay's payment system, not because they felt like they needed a more secure system, but because they were listening to their customers.
"Consumers told us very clearly, 'Look, this sounds lovely Tabbedout, but I don’t know you yet.'" Consumers know PayPal, and as far as Orr is concerned, if that's what it takes to build trust, then that's what he'll do.
All of that growth also meant a review of the management structure which led to the hiring of CEO Paul Fiore.
Fiore came out of the banking world, digital banking to be specific. He co-founded and ran Digital Insight, a banking software company he later sold to Intuit for $1.3 billion. Fiore doesn't need the job.
"You take the rock star when you can get the rock star," explained Orr. "We recruited a great guy out of L.A. who moved his family from living next door to the Kardashians to come and help us build this company and really take it to scale. It was a key skill set that we needed. We needed someone who built a big business, managed very large teams, all these things."
For Orr, building a business runs in his blood. "My parents were entrepreneurs, they owned a video store chain in tiny towns around Texas. I was working for them at fourteen or fifteen and worked ever since, and I had engrained in me that passion for work."
"I believe an entrepreneur is a craftsman. You create something that may have its own form and function into something that solves a real problem."
Wouldn't it be great if I could just get this tab paid? Now you can.