By: Pat Ryan
Open Table Founder Chuck Templeton was our featured Founder at June’s Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871. We had another sold out crowd join us at 1871 for pizza, beer and Chuck’s remarkable story of creating Open Table in 1998 (click here to view video of last month’s Chicago Founders’ Stories with Grub Hub Founders Matt Maloney and Mike Evans).
It was fascinating to learn how Chuck survived the bursting of the dot com bubble and navigated Open Table to a position where it has been able to become the undisputed leader in online restaurant reservations and the associated software powering restaurants internal systems. Chuck talked about the Chicago start up scene, companies he is excited by and made an exciting announcement about his newest endeavor
My INCISENT teammates and I continue to have a great time partnering with the CEC to create and present Chicago Founders’ Stories. Since we were sold out again we recorded the event so anyone who couldn’t make it can see it online. We broke up the hour into five segments:
In the initial segment, Chuck talks about where the idea for Open Table came from and his background prior to founding it (little known fact: Chuck is a graduate of the Army’s legendary Ranger School and was trained as a sniper). He also talked about why he started in both the Chicago and San Francisco markets at the same time.
In the second segment, Chuck talks about the challenges in creating a 2-sided network: “How do you seed one side of the marketplace before the other side shows up?” and how Open Table came to change its revenue model to a subscription-based approach from the traditional purchased software model (they were very early in this trend).
In the third segment, Chuck shares what he learned from his early fundraising as well as his five keys to finding the right investor. He tells the story of how Open Table was one day away from not making payroll and how a critical investment from Michael Dell’s brother, Adam brought the company back from the brink.
In the fourth segment Chuck discusses how he connected with Silicon Valley’s Benchmark Capital and the bold move Open Table had to make to survive the dot com bust and vanquish their remaining dot com competitors.
In the final part of the evening, we discuss the Chicago start up scene, startups that Chuck is excited about and the benefits of starting a company in Chicago today. Chuck talked about his newest venture – Impact Engine – and announced that it will be housed at 1871 (applications are due June 30; check them out at www.theimpactengine.com).
We hope you enjoy Chuck’s story and the insights of his experiences and hope to see everyone for our next Chicago Founders’ Stories @ 1871 on July 10.
* I want to thank Chris Dixon for his great series – Founder Stories – on Tech Crunch which served as inspiration for the idea of creating a live interview series of Chicago founders’ stories at 1871. Apologies that my creative skills don’t extend to a more original title.