Q&A with Christer Hansen Eriksen, Co-Founder of Pido

Christer Hansen EriksenWhen thinking of Scandinavian startup hubs, Bergen’s not the first place that springs to mind.

But from deep within Bergen’s historic Bryggen district, comes an inspiring tale of a company formed out of a last-minute Startup Weekend pitch.

The team of 10 won the event, and four guys took it forward to win significant investment. This week their idea for a restaurant service app goes live in their home town for the very first time.

I travelled to Bergen to meet Pido co-founder Christer Hansen Eriksen, in their office at The HUB.

What is Pido?

Pido is Spanish and means “I order”. A lot of British people have asked about the name…

What we want to do is make great experience for restaurants and their guests through the use of technology, primarily the smart phone. We want to make the waiting disappear – waiting to order, waiting for the bill – so you can focus your attention on those you’re with.

How does that work?

It starts before you even arrive at the restaurant. Our application (on mobile and web) will let you select a specific table at a specific time, so if you’re on a date and want a table in a quieter area, or by the window, that’s easy to do. It’s easy, intuitive, and gives the restaurant a powerful and smart table management system, maximising the possibility of filling the restaurant.

At the restaurant, you can scan a Pido “coaster” to load the menu on your phone in the language of your choice. You then make your order on the phone and send it directly to the kitchen. When you’ve finished your meal, today you can request the bill and in a few months you’ll be able to pay too. We’re talking to mCASH who have government approval for digital payments here in Norway and partnerships in place with major banks.

We believe restaurants will make more money with a full implementation of Pido. If it’s easy for people to order more drinks without waiting or queueing, they probably will. If you have short time for dessert and your waiter takes five minutes to get to you, you won’t order, but if you could order it immediately from your phone then you will.

Pido app in action

This is an exciting time for Pido – tell us what’s happening

This week we launch the system to our first paying customers here in Bergen, Sumo a sushi restaurant and Escalon a tapas restaurant. We are talking with many more in Bergen and elsewhere in Norway, including some major chains. They want to wait and see the technology in action – and so do we. Our pricing plan will depend on the results we see in restaurants. If we can prove Pido will increase efficiency and increase order value, we will be able to charge a premium price and get to profitability quicker.

What was the original idea at Startup Weekend?

One year ago at Startup Weekend the idea was very simple, it was actually for a beer ordering app! On a Friday evening everyone thought it was a great idea and we attracted a group of 10, by Sunday we had a working prototype. This concept was born out of a last minute idea at the pitch event. It was the first event in Bergen and people were shy about coming forward with ideas, so one of the organisers basically said “beer app” and it went from there. That person isn’t even involved today.

After the weekend, some of the 10 who were living away from Bergen returned home. This left a core team of four with a natural interest who took the company forward. We developed and sent the business plan to Venture Cup and won the first and second round. This process made us realise the potential of the idea and from winning the Venture Cup gave us the 30,000 NOK we needed to start the business.

What’s the story with the investment you’ve received?

We needed investment early because we wanted to quit our jobs and work on Pido full-time. I had an 8-4 job and met with the team afterwards. We were working 120 hours a week!

We asked around and found an investor for NOK 400,000 who wanted just 4% of the company, placing a huge valuation on what we were doing. With that money the designer could move from Trondheim to Bergen and me and the developer could quit our jobs. Since then we’ve also taken NOK 600,000 from Innovation Norway. This was a long process that started in May 2012 and we just received our first money in March 2013. The criteria is challenging – it must have international potential and you have to spend a lot of time with them on your business plan. But it’s a worthwhile process.

Pido

How do you view the startup scene in Bergen?

A year ago there was almost nothing. I started a website called “GründerBergen” with my co-founder Kristian Pletten, as we wanted to build a community around like-minded people. We met people to see if they were a nice fit, and one of those pointed us towards Startup Weekend, where we discovered there was a scene we could fit into after all.

Things in the west of Norway do go slower, but when you make progress it’s more solid. Startups may not rise and fall as fast as in Oslo, but it tends to be more sustainable. Norway is quite a good country to be an entrepreneur compared to some, for example Spain where I lived for a few years. I couldn’t imagine doing this in Spain due to the money and the risk of failing. The risk is lower in Norway and you are better protected if you fail.

It can be harder to grow and find investment here compared to the USA. Amounts tend to be lower and tend to be tied to more conditions.

What advice would you give to anyone in Norway with a business idea?

From my experience, the best advice is to share the idea. Of course be aware of patents for products, but for technology or a service just share the idea to get as much feedback as possible. It’s not about the idea because it probably won’t be unique. What matters much more is your team and your execution. It’s what we’ve been doing since day 1.

I’ve seen some more secretive companies take three years to achieve what we’ve done in the last few months.

On that topic, the next Startup Weekends are on 5-7 April in Stavanger and 24-26 May in Oslo.

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