It was my first day in a new company – a big company – and…
The old saying goes that you should never mix business with pleasure.
However, two Canberra entrepreneurs, who also happen to be friends and neighbours, have just launched the latest version of their mobile app, designed to improve our casual dining experiences.
Allyssa Sabbatucci and Charli Ervin are the two business-minded women behind MyBuzz, a mobile app which – if all goes to plan – will one day replace the buzzers currently used to tell you when your meal is ready.
You know the buzzers – they’re those clunky, ugly, things (that usually look they’ve been handled by a thousand other people before you) that you take to your table and they buzz when your food is ready so you can collect it.
The system is not only expensive for restaurants, but if you go out of range sometimes the buzzers don’t even work. And don’t get me started on hygiene!
Allyssa, originally from Melbourne, and Charli, from rural NSW, became friends through their partners, who have been friends since they were children. “It was a package deal, we had to be friends,” they joke. Being friends, they say, has helped them get through late nights, hard work, and the inevitable freakouts that happen when getting a new business off the ground.
The other backers of MyBuzz, “the boys”, are Chris Simonovski, Nic Pribyl and Jake Helmhout, although Allyssa and Charli take the lead on all aspects of the business.
The idea for the app came one day when Allyssa, Charli and the boys were out for lunch at a pub, and their buzzers didn’t work.
“[We thought] wouldn’t it be cool if your phone could go off, and it would buzz you… we were laughing because there were all these buzzers on the table, and all these phones, and we thought ‘why don’t they just buzz our phones?’,” recalls Allyssa.
Bringing the app from concept to product has been no mean feat – it’s been about two years since that lunch when they first had the idea. Charli and Allyssa have learnt everything along the way, working on every part of the business, from project management to hiring app developers, sales, marketing and tax. For most of this time they’ve both held full time jobs, although early this year were able to drop to part time house to spend two days each week working on MyBuzz.
In addition to the app that we as customers would use, the product also features a back-end system which works through a web browser, which means restaurants can use it on any device and integrate it into the system they’re currently using.
I couldn’t resist asking whether they had thought about trying out for Shark Tank, which screened on Channel Ten earlier this year. The show gives entrepreneurs the chance to pitch their business ideas to a panel of high profile Australian business leaders to secure investment for their project.
“We actually got to the final stages, but it was kind of a blessing in disguise, we weren’t ready,” says Charli.
“Sydney and Melbourne get a lot of the credit, but I think Canberra’s got some really great startups coming up, helped by the Canberra Innovation Network, Innovation ACT, Griffin Accelerator, Kiln Incubator,” says Allyssa. “There’s some great businesses here, and a really good support network.”
With the latest version of the app released last week, the next stage is hitting the pavement and signing up initial customers. For now they’re focusing on Canberra and the region, but have their sights set on going national and beyond.
If they continue with their success, hopefully soon we’ll see the end of these ugly and inconvenient buzzers before tucking into a delicious meal.