Talk about seizing an opportunity: when Rory Crawford was a graduate student at Harvard Business School last spring, he set up a 30-minute videoconference with one of the school’s entrepreneurs-in-residence, Ajay Agarwal. Crawford wanted to discuss a startup idea with Agarwal, an investor at Boston-based Bain Capital Ventures who splits his time between Massachusetts and California.
Agarwal remembers a “smart, aggressive, scrappy entrepreneur trying to bring cloud software to a massive but sleepy old-school industry.”
Fifteen months after that Skype chat, Agarwal is leading a $5.25 million funding round for Crawford’s startup BevSpot, which I initially covered last September. Boston-based BevSpot has 17 employees, and has plans to grow to 30 with the fresh funds.
BevSpot makes a web-based system that helps restaurants and bars take inventory of their liquor and bar supplies like limes and juices; figure out what is selling best and what isn’t moving; and re-order items as necessary. Crawford says that the system can help businesses reduce the amount of inventory they keep on hand by 20 percent or more, “while still selling the same amount of product.” That frees up capital for them to use elsewhere.
Crawford, pictured at right standing at the whiteboard, says that BevSpot’s system is used by “around 100 restaurants and bars in Boston — up from about five in February.” Customers include Lolita Cocina and Tequila Bar in the Back Bay, Foundry in Somerville, Oleana in Cambridge, and the Ames and Revere hotels in Boston. Crawford says the company is still focusing its sales efforts on Boston and the surrounding suburbs, “but we’re planning and working to enter other markets toward the second half of this year.” BevSpot’s pricing starts at $149 per month for bars and restaurants that use it.
Agarwal says that when he first spoke with Crawford in March 2014, the entrepreneur’s idea was that revenue would come from liquor distributors, since it would streamline the process of re-ordering and perhaps enhance loyalty. “The next time I saw Rory, perhaps six or nine months later, he had successfully shifted the focus of the business to the restaurants and bars, who receive tremendous value from BevSpot and are willing to pay for it,” Agarwal says.
BevSpot has outgrown its current office space in Downtown Crossing, and Crawford says it’s in the process of hunting for a new home.
Scott Kirsner writes the Innovation Economy column every Sunday in the Boston Globe, in which he tracks entrepreneurship, investment, and big company activities around New England.
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