Lisa Falzone, Co-Founder & CEO Revel Systems, on Her $3.7m Funding Round & Best iPad Business App of the Year Award
It’s been a great 12 months for Lisa Falzone. Last year she raised $3.7 million in her series "A" funding round; then last month at the Macworld – iWorld event, her company Revel Systems was officially announced as the winner of the Best iPad Business App of the Year Award.
Revel Systems offers a fully functional Point of Sale system which manages every task that retail and restaurant workers encounter on a daily basis.
Revel has landed deals with many heavy-hitters like Popeye's Chicken in Georgia; Illy Coffee and U-sushi in San Francisco; Camille's Sidewalk Café in Oklahoma; and other big franchises.
Moving forward, the company hopes to facilitate growth through its open API, which allows all companies to integrate into Revel, creating new opportunities for local commerce to thrive.
Lisa is a Stanford graduate with a background in venture capital.
We spoke to Lisa about her recent fundraising success; her tips for female entrepreneurs; and what keeps her awake at night
TNW: How did you come up with the idea for Revel Systems and then arrive at the decision to turn your idea into a reality?
LF: My cofounder and I were creating an iPhone app where the customer would view the menu, order, and pay. We saw that with the point of sale systems that were offered at that time, it was difficult to integrate. We also realized that the current point of sale systems were a huge pain for the restaurant industry. POS systems are suppose to streamline the restaurant or retail process but these were bulky, unsecure, not user friendly, and undependable. With the Apple iPad coming out we realized it was the perfect opportunity to utilize the easy touch screen with a new improved generation of point of sale and that is exactly what we have created.
TNW: What makes your company different from your competitors?
LF: Legacy Systems Differentiators: looks great, easier to use, faster, better user interface. iPad and Other Point of Sale Systems: we are faster, a one stop shop for hardware and software, and have an offline mode if the Internet goes down.
TNW: What is your business model?
LF: We make money from our hardware, software, a re-occurring monthly fee and potentially payments. We also own the data of what is bought and sold.
TNW: When you built your team, what are the key qualities you looked for to ensure the success of your business?
LF: The key qualities we look for when adding someone to our team are hard working, the ability for flexibility because it is a startup, and the ability to create solutions whenever an obstacle arises.
TNW: Who were your first customers and how hard was it to attract them?
LF: Our first customer was Michael Lappert at his Fish and Chips Restaurant in Sausalito. We were actually going to sell him an iPhone app but what he really needed was the point of sale system we had been thinking about.
In that same meeting we sold him our iPad Point of Sale System even though it wasn’t created yet. It was one of the best choices we ever made.
TNW: Who are your customers and partners now?
LF: We have customers like Popeye’s, Camille’s Sidewalk Cafe, smaller chains, and mom and pop restaurant and retail shops. We don’t have any partners but the Revel Systems POS is an open API so we tend to work with various companies for seamless product integration such as Perkville and Digital Menu Me.
TNW: What is your marketing strategy and what has been the most effective source of new customers so far?
LF: Restaurant owners have been spending their entire life on touchscreens, they see the iPad coming out and they know that it is the future for point of sale. All of our customers right now are inbound and are looking for this solution.
TNW: What is next for your company?
LF: More integration with partners such as reward companies, loyalty companies, payment companies and social networks.
TNW: Have you come across any other exciting startups recently and what is it about them that appeals to you?
LF: I like Uber because they provide a great service and have revenue!
TNW: What are the advantages of gender diversity in a startup? Are there any disadvantages?
LF: I think so. I think more women should be entrepreneurs. I think having different people from different backgrounds provides more perspective and can make you look at things in new ways.
TNW: What lessons have you taken from your successes &/or failures?
LF: Never ever give up!
TNW: Do you have any tips or any advice for women who are thinking about becoming entrepreneurs?
Yes. Just go for it. Don’t be afraid to fail. Don’t be afraid to try new things. Don’t sit around too much planning because then the opportunity will pass you by.
TNW: What does your day look like?
LF: Wake up, get flooded with email. Respond to the urgent ones and prioritize. I keep a “to do” list on my phone as well. When I get to the office I work on the “to do” list and usually have two or three meetings per day, handle any management issues or solve problems that come my way. Towards the end of the day I re-cap with my cofounder and we talk about the vision for the company.
TNW: What is your top tip for balancing motherhood with a career?
LF: I am not a mother yet.
TNW: Do you lie awake at night sometimes thinking about the company? What aspects of it specifically keep you awake?
LF: Yes. I constantly wake up worrying about the company and dreaming about it.
Hiring the right people and sometimes the uncertainty of not knowing what is going to happen keeps me awake at night.
TNW: What do you do in your free time?
LF: I swim, surf and ski outside of work.
TNW: If you could get on a soap box and get something off your chest about the world of entrepreneurship, something you’d like to change, what would it be?
LF: More women entrepreneurs.
TNW: If you hadn’t chosen entrepreneurship, what alternative career path might you have pursued?
TNW: What has been your biggest challenge throughout the history of your company, from planning to funding and execution, and how could others learn from it?
LF: We have had challenges with everything, but I think what you can learn from it is to try and handle your emotions and look at the challenges as an opportunity to create something great. Sometimes something that seems like a problem initially isn’t really a problem at all. Also, try not to take things personally even though it is hard because your company is like your baby.
TNW: Is there a moment in the history of your company, which you remember as the highlight so far?
Yes. Raising 3.7 million dollars was a highlight. Getting large customers on board was and always is a highlight.
Do you have plans to expand internationally? Which countries and when?
Yes, we are already in Norway, Saudi Arabia, and Canada. We plan to add more countries to that list when our version 2 comes out.
Do you envision an exit, how and when?
We are in this for the long term.
TNW: Briefly describe your history in raising investment for your company
LF: We raised 200 k in angels and 3.5 million in VC funding.
TNW: Do you believe it is better to find customers then funding or vice versa?
LF: I think it’s better to find customers. Funding is great too, but you risk losing control.
TNW: What do you believe are the key pros and cons of venture capital vs angel investment?
LF: In my experience, going with a VC equals more money with less effort, but then after you sign the deal they put much more pressure on you.
Angels contribute less money so it takes more time to raise a substantial amount but they tend to place fewer demands on you.
TNW: How have you found angel investors’/venture capitalists’ attitudes towards you as a female entrepreneur?
LF: You go to a lot of these VC firms and the only women working there are at the front desk so most of the meetings I go to I am the only woman in the room.
TNW: What have you learned the hard way through the fund raising process that you wish someone had told you at the beginning?
LF: Be careful who you choose as your VC.
TNW: Do you think that attitudes towards female entrepreneurs are changing?
LF: I think there could be more of a push for woman entrepreneurs but I think it is changing gradually.
TNW: What do you think could be done to increase the number of women entrepreneurs?
LF: More women need to try to start companies.
Women, for some reason, aren’t seeing the creation of a company as a feasible option for themselves as much as men do and I want that to change
I do think we are up against odds however with fundraising.
TNW: What qualities do you think women entrepreneurs need for sourcing angel investment/raising venture capital?
LF: Don’t be afraid to be aggressive and show them that you are the boss!
TNW: Do you believe that it is easier for technical women founders to achieve venture funding than non-technical? If so, what are your reasons for this?
LF: I think that a mixture of business and technical is best for the company. As far as fundraising, I think some VCs favor technical founders it just depends on who you are meeting with.
TNW: How would you describe your leadership style today?
LF: I am a results based leader.
If you are proving results and have a good attitude we reward that.
TNW: How has your leadership style changed over the years, and why?
I was very naïve at first and trusted everyone without waiting for them to show me what they were capable of. Now I am much more aware.
TNW: What is one lesson about leadership you learned from a boss or mentor?
LF: Never give up!
TNW: What is one lesson you would like to pass on to other women leaders?
LF: Don’t be afraid to fail.
TNW: What is the best career or management decision you have made?
LF: The decision to start my company, Revel Systems Inc.
TNW: What is one career or management decision you would like to go back and change?
Picking the right people has been important and I wish I had been better at that in the beginning.
TNW: What is one leadership lesson you learned the hard way, but wish someone had told you at the beginning?
LF: Trust but verify.
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