"It's our future, let's build it together"

5 Questions with Chuck Thompson

January 1, 2021

What was the inspiration for the design of the Minnow pickup pod?

Chuck Thompson, Vice President of Sales & Development, Minnow

We saw mobile ordering and food delivery growing very rapidly but felt the system was broken. Delivery service commissions are expensive for the restaurant partner and the delivery process is inefficient and unreliable with one person delivering one meal to one location.

Minnow is a seed-stage IoT startup that is creating a better way to deliver food. Our contact-free Pickup Pods provide a safer and more convenient food delivery experience for consumers, while reducing delivery costs by an order of magnitude for delivery services and food service operators like restaurants, ghost kitchens, and caterers. Our co-founder & CEO is an experienced entrepreneur who led his first startup, an enterprise software company in the CRM space, to a successful exit (IPO).

Minnow developed the original minnow pod to support scheduled group delivery, where local restaurants could produce and deliver multiple meals (up to 20) to a single safe and secure minnow pod in one location. Minnow is also launching a solution for workspaces and multifamily residential buildings where any delivery service can deliver to the pod in a safe, convenient, and contact-free manner.

What resources, partners, and companies have been helpful to Minnow as it has continued to grow?

The hardware has been 100% developed on the east coast and the software platform has been developed by a team in Seattle. We have spent three years leveraging a focused human-centered design approach led by our Vice President of Hardware who is an ex-Ideo design employee. We are envied by others in the industry for our hardware design but the real magic is in the software platform we have developed. 

How does Minnow pod interface and communicate with customers?

Although Minnow is well known for its modern aesthetically-pleasing hardware, the real magic is in the cloud-based back end platform that makes everything work. The pod is an IoT device which connects via ethernet, wifi, or cellular connectivity. What makes Minnow unique in the industry for both the delivery and pickup workflows is the users’ mobile device. To deliver, a user scans a QR code on the pod and this opens a web drive workflow which directs the driver through the process on their phone. Once the delivery is completed, a SMS text message is sent to the “luncher” which contains a URL to a button they can use to retrieve their order. 

Where are your services currently offered, and what does the Minnow pod expansion strategy look like?

Minnow has developed a solution: an IoT-enabled, contact-free food delivery and pickup station, which we call a pod. You can think of it like an Amazon locker for food. Our mission is to build and operate a global platform of food delivery pods, integrated to the major food delivery services, restaurant ordering systems, and travel & hospitality platforms.

Our go-to-market ICP (Ideal Customer Profile) is food service operators, food ordering platforms, and food delivery companies that want to operate “scheduled group delivery”. We’re engaged with a number of companies who are interested in or are actively piloting our solution, including in Tokyo, where we have a pilot underway in several office buildings owned by Mitsubishi.

We’re also aggressively partnering with real estate services firms to place our pods in office and residential buildings. We recently signed a preferred supplier agreement with JLL, one of the world’s largest commercial real estate companies. Lincoln Property Company invested in our seed round after testing a Minnow pod at one of their properties.

In your Tech Talk on Central Maine Tech Night this month, you will be speaking about how Minnow was created. What are your plans for growth within the next 2-5 years?

The market for ghost kitchens and food delivery could exceed $1T within 10 years. Minnow is developing a critical layer of the food delivery tech stack, and we’re looking to partner with value-add investors who want to help us transform the way people get their food.

Our traction and operational metrics suggest that we’ve solved for product risk and have a compelling solution. Now it’s time to optimize and monetize our solution. Our next set of hires will reflect: 

– A technical product manager and a backend developer (software) 

– A operations manager 

– A product marketing manager 

– Inside sales reps / account managers 

– A customer support lead 

We expect to build and deliver over 500 pods in 2021 and over 1,500 pods in 2022.

from the team about what they are working on without having a meeting. It gives me a lot more time to focus.

What resources, partners, and companies have been helpful to Friday.app as it has continued to grow?

Maine Technology has helped since the early days. I enjoy syncing up with fellow founders, advisors, and investors. It’s fun to be surrounded by really smart people that force you to level-up your thinking and execution.

To watch a recording of Chuck’s January network tech talk, click here!

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Last modified: June 7, 2021

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