Craig Cohen and Michael Adelberg take orders on-line
Publication Date: Wednesday Feb 28, 1996

Craig Cohen and Michael Adelberg take orders on-line

Names: Craig Cohen and Michael Adelberg, co-founders of World Wide Waiter service. Both have MBAs from Stanford University's Graduate School of Business.

Business and product name, address: World Wide Waiter (a service of Maverick Solutions, Inc.): http://www.waiter.com; 1710 Whitham Avenue, Los Altos 94024. The service allows people with access to the World Wide Web, a portion of the Internet, to place takeout and delivery orders from their computers. Users view menus of about 60 Silicon Valley restaurants, organized by location and type of cuisine. Customers can request special orders. The computer double checks the order with the customer, then sends the information to the restaurant in seconds by fax.

Size of company: Five employees (three are part-time).

Why the service is unique: "There's no extra charge to use the service and we do a lot of giveaways. And it's convenient. You get food pre-ordered when and where you want it," Adelberg said.

What we used to do for a living: Cohen spent four years at Sun Microsystems, where he designed networking products and custom chips. Adelberg was a senior consultant with the LEK/Alcar Consulting Group, a worldwide managing consulting firm in Los Angeles. Why we went out on our own: "The Internet phenomenon caught me. The Internet is new and powerful and provides a great opportunity to shape new media," Adelberg said. "I made CANDY-MAN (an action game he developed for the Commodore Computer line) and sold software in high school, so I've always been looking into entrepreneurship," Cohen said. How long the company has been in business: They started World Wide Waiter a year ago, but the service has been active for only two months.

Annual sales: No annual figures available yet. But the company gets a commission from restaurants for each order.

How we first got the idea for this: "At Togo's, I liked to order sandwiches made in a particular way. It occurred to me that specific orders by computers would be best," Cohen said. How we sold our idea to others: Cohen and Adelberg approached restaurants and made presentations describing how the Internet could help the restaurants generate new business and market themselves in a new way.

How we got financing: They bootstrapped and used savings and family money.

Toughest moment so far: "Getting the very first restaurant," Cohen said. "We needed someone to take a chance and believe in us. Since people try to sell restaurants junk, we wanted to get above the noise. But once we got in front of the decision-makers, they were excited."

Where we get our best ideas: "I get my best ideas when I'm away from the business, with a clear mind. We make a good team because we bounce ideas off each other," Adelberg said. "We get ideas from other Internet companies and our customers," Cohen said. "We also have an advisory board who has a lot of business experience."

Biggest obstacle: "The biggest obstacle is getting people to know what we do. The education process is huge," Adelberg said.

A typical day in the business: Cohen manages the technology side of the business by enhancing the software. He also interacts with customers through e-mail, assists with getting new restaurants to sign up and has general management responsibilities. Adelberg is involved with the sales, marketing and customer service aspects. Important milestone and next big goal: Their milestone was developing the software and seeing it work successfully. They have a map on their office wall, with tacks that represent the restaurants they do business with. They eventually want to fill in all of Silicon Valley and even take things nationally.

Best piece of advice for other entrepreneurs?: Cohen has three pieces of advice: 1) Get a plan and business model and put it in writing; 2) Do market research to confirm there's a demand for your services; and 3) Have committed business advisors that can be a sounding board and encourage accountability. Adelberg suggests flexibility is the most important aspect, especially when roadblocks come up that make you re-think your plans.

--Stephaan Harris 

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