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Stevan Premutico is one of Australia’s leading tech entrepreneurs. In 1997, in the middle of the GFC he conceptualised Dimmi on the back of a napkin and went on to revolutionise the Aussie restaurant industry. In 2015, his startup was acquired by one of the great tech businesses of our time, TripAdvisor.

Stevan achieved great things throughout his journey with Dimmi including:

  • Taking Dimmi from napkin to a bluechip exit (2015)
  • Deloitte Tech Fast 500 Asia (2014)
  • Deloitte Tech Fast 50 Australia (2014)
  • BRW Top 100 (2014)
  • Anthill Best 30 under 30 (2010)
  • London Hospitality Young Marketeer of the Year (2007)

Now, Stevan is back at it again ready to launch his next start up me&u and shares with us what he’s learnt about going from start up to success.

 

How do you even begin to think of an idea for a start up?  

For me it’s not so much about thinking of ideas, but rather seeing problems. Once you are clear on a problem, then you start to build an idea around that. That is where the magic lies. So with my new baby, me&u...it was pretty clear that customers loved eating in restaurants but the payment was a pain. We were having frictionless experiences with companies like Uber but then paying a bill in restaurants was just clunky & old-school, people were saying, ‘why can we do this with ride-share but not restaurants?’...so we set out to eliminate the bill. No more waiting 8 minutes to pay (yep, that's the average), no more having a waiter standing over you to see if you are going to tip them, no more hassles trying to split the bill. Just get up and go…...   

 

How do you know if your start up idea has potential?

Initially it’s a whole bunch of chats in your own head.  Once you pass go, then it’s a couple of random chats with people on both sides of the fence - restauranteurs and diners. That was quite conclusive. It was at this point that I realised it wasn't a crazy idea, it was a real pain-point, so we commissioned a bunch of research to see how mainstream the issue was. 

For me&u, the research phase had really been going on for 10 years, whilst I was creating & building dimmi. Here I saw firsthand just how deeply strained the restaurant industry really was. Not only is the economic model broken (the average restaurant takes home just four dollars from a one hundred dollar meal) but all around it the world continues to innovate and customer expectations continue to rise. As the pressure increases for restaurant owners, floor staff and food options are reduced in an effort to save costs. Inevitably the level of service decreases and customers are increasingly left unsatisfied. Despite all this the industry has been slow to embrace technology - the only real innovation has taken place inside the kitchen, on the plate. I wanted to help them. I am a big believer in the ability of technology to make the world a better place. To do this in the restaurant game, we had to somehow put innovation at the heart of the dining experience itself - the menu.  I wanted to use tech to help make their lives better. I wanted to improve the very industry that we love the most - the restaurant industry.  

 

What is one lesson you learnt from dimmi that you’ll be taking with you to your next venture?

A good idea is good, but it’s the people that matter most. Many great ideas thrive or die based on your ability to execute, so surrounding yourself with exceptional people is arguably our most important role as founders. Exceptional people in the team, as investors & on the board. That is what made us great at dimmi and that is what will set us apart again here at me&u.    

 

Do you consider yourself a Founder or a CEO?

Over the years our titles evolve into that of "CEO & Founder" but the reality is the two roles just don't fit. I will never forget getting out of a cab with my Chairman, Glen Butler of Macquarie Bank in the early days and he said “Steve there are CEO's and there are Founders & they are two very different people. The trick is to know who you are and when it’s the right time to hand over the baton." I didn't get it at the time, but now I do. I am a start-up guy. I love creating things, disrupting things, making the world better... not managing things. This was an important self-realisation for me. With Dimmi, the biz was big, we were now 50 strong sitting in beautiful TripAdvisor offices, growing very quickly and reporting into TripAdvisor. But it felt like it was time for me to go back to the napkin, leave all the luxuries, comforts and security behind and start all over again. 

 

Why start again? Are you building a business to sell again?

I don't believe in creating companies to sell them, I believe in creating companies that add value & solve real problems. If you get this right, then inevitably there will be interest from buyers over time, but creating companies to exit is, well for me anyway, just the wrong mind-set. I want to create companies that leave a mark, create an impact, and make the world better in some way.   

 

What is your work motto? What keeps you going?


Life's short: do stuff that you love and do stuff that makes a difference.

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