Interview with Ilya Pankratov (co-founder of the eWaiter project)

“We will change the global understanding of the guest service in the restaurant industry” — such a global goal is set by the founders of the startup eWaiter. The guys are the first in Russia who attracted investment to the restaurant cloud IT product through ICO. When such events happen, they show that restaurants are not just a small piece of the retail market, but an entire industry capable to get investments to the product through the ICO. ICO eWaiter, GASTREET and PIR are events of approximately the same level of importance for our entire industry. Today the CTO of the project Ilya Pankratov came to us to talk about the project, about how the team managed to make this miracle come true.

-Idea has appeared in September 2017. The original idea was very simple-to transfer the call-waiter button to the guest’s mobile phone. Over time, we expanded it and came up with other features that we decided to add to the product. Since September, we have started to analyze the market more carefully, to look at the potential competitors. We found several similar products, but they were all just “blown away”, most likely they subsided in marketing, but these are only our guesses. Today it is difficult to make users to download the application. At the end of September we’d heard about the ICO, how people really attract investments, especially IT products, and decided to lainch the project on the ICO. We found the early investors who gave funds for the holding, to hire a team, to rent an office, and from the beginning of October we started to work.

-What is ICO and what does its launching mean?

- ICO is the initial coin offering, a kind of electronic shares issued in the form of so-called “token”. Everyone can become an investor by buying them. In the future, the price of this token will grow, due to successful actions of the company and the prevalence of our service. Investors can earn on the further sale of our tokens. The price of our token is now only 5 cents. For comparison, in 2009 Bitcoin also cost a few pennies, and in December 2017 its price reached $ 20,000.

-You said that you have found investors who allocated money for the ICO. Why did you need investments at the initial stage?

- Today ICO is quite a complicated process. In summer 2017, for this almost nothing was required: a one-page website and the address of a crypto-currency wallet. Now this is absolutely not enough, the competition is very high. If in August there were about 100 ICO, today there are about 100 000 of them. The investors’ money was spent on assembling the team, developing high-quality website, renting an office, writing a smart contract and what is most important — marketing. It cost 200–300 thousand rubles. This is not a big amount of money, because at the initial stage we worked on bare enthusiasm, we did a lot with our own hands. Today, if a person with no experience wants to launch an ICO, he will need at least 2 million rubles, only for technical development and marketing. This is quite a lot, considering that in order to collect 1 million dollars, it is necessary to invest about 10 million rubles. So far we have launched the cheapest option of marketing, but it turned out to be quite successful. In general, everything that works in ICO does not work in traditional marketing: pop-up banners, flashing buttons, referral systems.

-What investment did you get through the ICO?

-250 000 dollars (at the time of the interview). A little more than a month has passed since the fundraising began. In summer, this amount could be collected in 3–5 days, now it has become much more complicated.

-What is the ratio of Russian and foreign investors?

-Basically it’s investors from Europe, America, Japan.

-What are you planning to do with the funds raised?

-Now, at the first stage we are collecting 400 000 dollars. In May, the second stage begins, at which we plan to raise $ 8,000,000. Part of the money that we collected is already spent on the development of the application, for its web version, which is almost ready, and the version for iOS and Android. Also part of the money will go to the expansion of the team and the office. Now there are 10 people working in our office for 20 square meters, it is quite uncomfortable.

-Can a restaurateur attract money through an ICO to develop a restaurant chain?

-Can, but it is very difficult. People don’t like to invest in real business. There were many projects to build factories, hotels. Such projects are not interesting for investors, they usually like to invest in cloud technologies. There are a lot of such projects and they invest in them.

- So you think it’s impossible to collect money at the ICO, for example, to build a store?

-This is not impossible, of course. If you build a strong team, advisors (advisers) with loud names, then this is quite real.

-Most of your investors are not from Russia, but the advisers are all Russian. How do foreigners trust people they do not know?

-For the moment we have 3 advisors, they are all Russian. Now we are attracting foreign specialists for cooperation and world recognition.

-How else can you earn the trust of foreign investors?

-Today, the main thing when you launch the ICO is a product. We came out with an idea, and it is very difficult to attract money like this. You need to have at least a prototype, which investors could see and test. The process of attracting investments would be much easier.

- You say that it all started with the idea of ​​transferring a call-waiter button into the guest’s phone, and then decided to extend the functionality. What does it look like now?

-We set ourselves the goal of automate the whole process of servicing the guest. One of the most important functions is the electronic menu. For example, in establishment with bad lighting it is difficult to read the menu, it can be flooded with water, alcohol, it becomes unpleasant to take them in hand. In the paper menu it is difficult to put all the information about ingredients, energy value and so on. Not always in the classic menu you can see even a photo of the dish. In addition to all this, in our electronic menu you can see the user’s ratings and user reviews about a particular dish. If you ask for advice from the waiter — he is most likely to advise the dish that he need to sell today, or the “more expensive” dish . Choosing a dish through the electronic menu, the guest can immediately form an order and pay for it. In addition to regular payment, we plan to introduce cryptocurrency payment. Today in Russia you can barely find places in which the crypto currency is accepted for payment. For example, in Australia, you can pay utility bills with crypto currency. We want to popularize crypto-payments, because it’s really convenient. Due to this, restaurants will be able to increase their customer base. Restaurants due to fast conversion at the output will receive a fiat currency.

- Do the waiters have a separate version of the eWaiter application?

- At the initial stage, we plan to integrate with existing services such as iiko or rkeeper and use their database to process orders. The problem with these services is that to get the full functionality it is necessary to purchase many individual packages and spend a lot of time configuring them. To connect eWaiter, you need to spend only a couple of hours and minimal financial investments. Despite the small functionality, in the future we plan to introduce the possibility of accounting, working with cash registers and become full-fledged players in the existing market. So far, we are more focused on the guests, to maximize the quality of their service.

- And what about the search of places to eat?

-Using our service, the guest can in a convenient form (list or search on the map) find a restaurant he will like. So far, you have to use services not created directly for this, such as Yandex and Google maps, 2Gis.

-Why do you need blockchain in your service?

-Blockchain guarantees the authenticity of reviews and ratings left by guests. Even large existing services can not guarantee this. For example, a review can be written by any person who was not even in this place. Some services can delete or change negative reviews for reward. That information, which is written in the blockchain, will remain there in its original form forever.

-Do you plan to work with booking services?

-Yes, of course. Now in 90% of restaurant the hostess can spend the whole day answering calls. Through the application in just a couple of clicks you can book a table in any restaurant.

-Yes, really good functionality for the start. I wish you the best in implementing the project and remind you that you can find all the details about the eWaiter project on their website

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