The founder left Google and created a new Point of Sale system for craft breweries and restaurants
In 2021 I’m featuring people on a Creative Journey during the COVID-19 pandemic. This is №5 in the series, featuring David Norman, founder of a mobile Point of Sale system for craft breweries and restaurants.
What is your creative venture?
Arryved is a point of service system designed for craft breweries, restaurants, and any establishment that wants to provide quality service with optimal flexibility. Myself and a former Google colleague, Tom Wrensch, founded Arryved in 2015.
Arryved was born out of the notion that tech does not need to replace service and hospitality, but rather provide tools to augment it — tools that are available at everyone’s fingertips. The service industry is evolving rapidly and there are so many concepts that should aid our decisions as hospitality guests and purveyors.
From the idea that customers can vote with their wallet, to helping establishments guard against the negative impacts of Yelp, transforming tableside service and everyone being mobile in an establishment. There are just so many ways we can innovate with technology to help businesses serve quality experiences to their guests.
Why did you start when you did?
At Google, I led development of early versions of Google Wallet, and I was steeped in payment processing software. Through that work it was clear that the mobile would quickly become the centerpiece of commerce. Burnt out at Google, I left in 2014 to join a FinTech startup as CTO. Within a year, I was done.
Coming off a failed venture, I was pretty sure I was heading back to Google… but I had enough people encouraging me to give the startup thing a go myself. The Arryved concept was always there for me. It was what I’d wanted to build, but failed to do so, with the first version of Google Wallet.
So I recruited a few engineers from my Google Wallet team and we got to work. The time was just right to take a second pass at what we’d failed to do before.
What background and skills helped you get going?
Always an interesting question, as I feel I have no skills as a CEO. But here I am, a CEO. A long time ago, a friend shared some great advice: “To start a company you need to have a hustler, a hacker, and a designer.”
As a career software engineer I have great confidence that I can design and build anything, given the right amount of time. For everything else, I hire well. I’ve been fortunate enough to have built several teams in my past and rallying really smart people to join the effort is second nature.
In general, the biggest skill is just knowing how to be effective. You can be brilliant, but plagued by perfectionism. You can hack, but then you have to rewrite. Striking the balance and committing to a “launch and iterate” mindset requires faith, discipline, and teamwork.
What obstacles did you have to overcome?
Besides imposter syndrome?
The payments and point-of-sale industries are based on old technologies with many, many landmines that make it exceedingly difficult to bring new ideas to market. And most people who have been in payments engineering a long time know finding that talent to help you navigate it is both costly and rare. Thankfully we had a head start in both those areas (technological landmines and hiring) so we could find new problems instead of repeating old ones.
What mentors, allies or friends helped along the way?
Whew, so many people. We all have been in the room with natural leaders, never having to tell you or force teaching you. They just ooze knowledge and you want to be around them. It is a pattern I try (and sometimes fail) to model.
This is my first time as a CEO, and my first time raising money for my own company. I am thankful to my friends in the venture space who helped me navigate the fundraising landscape.
I have several people I rely on for mental sanity. People I can just chat with. Some who were leaders at Google, some who have been on various boards, and several other CEOs. You really need to have people to talk to since, as the adage goes, being a CEO can be the loneliest job. You can’t talk to your team about things that have you panicked or freaked out, because you will panic them. You just need people who can help you stay balanced and trudge through the difficult situations.
Did you have to pivot or change direction at any point?
Right from the beginning. We didn’t set out to build a point of sale. My obsession has always been around the nexus of hospitality and commerce from a customer perspective. We started building a table side app for customers (well before it was en vogue for COVID).
In early market research, it became clear we were fighting two issues. 1) No existing point of sale would allow us to integrate and 2) There weren’t any great Point of Sales tailored for Craft. At the urging of our first client (Avery Brewing), we chose to build our own Point of Sale and do it way different than anything before. We put the needs of the wait staff first, as opposed to the management-first mentality of all other point of sales on the market.
We continue to do so, and that extreme focus on user-first has led to our overall success and great reputation in the industry.
What are you focusing on now?
We’re focusing on the guest experience, and how their needs are evolving. COVID has changed how customers interact and some behaviors are here to stay. Expectations for online ordering and contactless payment used to be reserved for enterprise establishments, but now even small to medium businesses need to think in omnichannel terms. To do that you need a unified experience for customers so they can leverage anything and everything they would expect to, whether they are inside an establishment or at home putting in an order to ship, deliver or pickup.
What are you most proud of for this creative venture?
The Arryved team is by far the best I have ever assembled. While I do think the tech can speak for itself, we deal in the hospitality industry and people are the key ingredient. We get exceedingly high marks for our customer service. That only happens when your entire team buys into the company ethos, brings their best selves to work each day, have a level of humility when we miss the mark and the desire to make everything better so we do.
After starting on this journey, what advice would you give others?
For technology, these days, we need to now think about the impact we have and the law of unintended consequences of what we build. The impact and unintended consequences start with the culture and ethos of your company. Far too often we think of those things too late, or just assume it happens. Your company culture starts with you and your mindset.
My mindset has always been customer and employee driven — we always do the right thing no matter how painful it may be. With that mentality we’ve passed on seemingly great opportunities that didn’t match our company ethos. Your desired company DNA must be instilled with the right level of ensuring each person has ownership of their jobs. Realize your job is to support your team. With all that in place, everyone is free to accomplish so much more than a typical company can.
It truly is what drives people to want to be in small startups.
Tim Cigelske is the author of The Creative Journey: A Timeless Approach to Discovery, which tells the stories of creative paths from all walks of life, including farmer, children’s author, comic book artist, Pixar animator and many more.