A Q&A with Own founder and chairman Verdi Erel Ergün. The San Francisco–based company was founded in 2009.
SUB: Please describe Own, and the value proposition you bring to point of sale transactions.
Ergün: Own is the first social point-of-sale that goes beyond the sale, enabling merchants and retailers to control their entire operations, sales and customer loyalty program, from one device. Its platform is unlike any other because it empowers merchants by providing intelligence via customer interactions, buying preferences, and sale-driven analysis to optimize employee scheduling and payroll, detail menu item performance, provide user-specific deals and incentives, and much more.
SUB: Who is your target market?
Ergün: We’ve built our platform for quick-service retailers and merchants. This includes coffee shops or single and multi-location restaurants.
SUB: Who do you consider to be your competition?
Ergün: Multiple companies are dabbling in development of point of sale applications. Nobody is doing what we’re doing, which is what makes us so unique. We’re building an entire platform for the merchant, not just an app that processes transactions. We of course process transactions, but that’s just the start. Companies like Square offer transaction-only technologies. Shopkeep is a POS app that focuses solely on showing a menu and enabling a transaction to take place.
But, we stand alone as we are the only POS technology that enables merchants to study individual, group or demographic consumer behavior before and after the sale, therefore allowing merchants to offer personalized deals and incentives per each unique customer. And, our platform tracks sales data and even weather trends to increase scheduling, payroll, menu items efficiency.
SUB: What differentiates Own from the competition?
Ergün: We are focused on turning every customer into a regular. Own’s technology analyzes information—sales, customer buying behaviors, etc.—before, during and after the point of sale, and provides customer and business intelligence to optimize your sales, staffing and marketing processes. We increase our clients’ profitability and provide information to increase merchant revenues, targeted and cost-efficient marketing opportunities and customer loyalty.
SUB: When was the company founded and what were the first steps you took to establishing it?
Ergün: The company was founded in 2009. I used to own a burrito joint in Ann Arbor, Michigan. There were so many pain points and inefficiencies in simply using a cash register. Our goal was, and still is, to unleash the power of data in order to optimize business operations, and find the best ways to engage with and incentive customers.
SUB: What was the inspiration behind the idea for Own?
Ergün: As cliché as it may sound, the inspiration really came from the fact that we know how neglected merchants and retailers are, and have always been, when it comes down to utilizing the information at their fingertips to drive even greater revenue. We were inspired by their stories, and with tons of customer feedback, we’ve continually designed Own to best serve merchants and retailers.
SUB: What have the most significant obstacles been so far to building the company?
Ergün: We recently moved the majority of our team to San Francisco, from Ann Arbor, Michigan. While it’s never easy, nor desirable, to ask your company to move, we know that there are opportunities in San Francisco that will expedite and catalyze our growth. It is always an obstacle to not be concerned with the competition. The successful startups are those that can set goals, focus on tactics and design amazing products and experiences. That’s what we’re doing and that’s what we’re sticking to.
SUB: You recently raised a $1.2 million seed round. How do you plan to use the new funds?
Ergün: The funding is already in action. We just announced the addition of six or so new team members, including a veteran financial, technology and digital media leader as our COO. We’re also investing heavily in our technology and talented personnel to help built it. We are also continuously asking ourselves how we can support merchants—we’re considering an initiative that will give money to deserving merchants that may not have the resources to improve their technology or operational infrastructure.
SUB: Why was this a particularly good time to raise outside funding?
Ergün: It was a good time for us, but I cannot speak for the industry. We need funding to build our team, our technology and our sales efforts worldwide. We’re very happy with our investors and are fortunate that there’s been such an ongoing interest in our company from outside parties.
SUB: Do you plan to raise additional outside funding in the near future?
SUB: What are your goals for Own over the next year or so?
Ergün: Our goal is to become a resource for merchants and retailers that want to find a new way to increase customer loyalty, optimize their operations and increase revenue, without a huge hassle of changing around their entire business or consumer experience.
We want to continually champion merchants and retailers, and enable their success in any way possible. We’re internally committed to building the best products, with the most beautiful graphics and animations, while bringing social point of sale to the masses.
Own – www.ownpointofsale.com