Objective Logistics Moves to Cambridge, Gets $1.5M from Atlas and Google Ventures for Restaurant Tech

11/30/11Follow @gthuang

Phil Beauregard is hungry. His scrappy startup, Objective Logistics, is hungry, too. Good thing they are in the restaurant business.

Actually, the truth is they want to turn the restaurant business upside down. But in a good way (if you believe them). OK, I’ve avoided the G-word for as long as possible. Beauregard and company are trying to add a “game layer” to the restaurant workplace. Before you reach for your “gamification” barf bag, know this: they are doing it to help restaurants improve their workforce and customer service, while also helping to reward top-performing employees.

The news today is that Objective Logistics is moving its headquarters from New Bedford, MA, to Cambridge (keeping the old office too), and that it has raised a $1.5 million venture round led by Atlas Venture and Google Ventures. NextView Ventures, Canary Ventures, and individual investors also participated in the round.

It’s a natural step for a young startup that has innovative technology and is still learning how to sell its stuff in an ultra-competitive industry. Beauregard, the company’s CEO and co-founder, says he had been thinking about raising a smaller bridge round (around $400K—he had previously raised a $750K seed round), but he talked to VC Jeff Fagnan at Atlas and decided to make the deal with him and Rich Miner of Google Ventures. (Seth Priebatsch of SCVNGR, no stranger to game layers, made the intro to Miner.)

“We want people [investors and partners] who can fill in tons of holes where we’re deficient as a company,” Beauregard says. “These guys are the ones we want to work with. They are so good for the city of Boston.” He adds, “We want to prove ourselves.”

Reached for comment, Fagnan touted Objective Logistics’ “pure perseverance and relentless drive” and said its founders “executed like crazy” over the past year. The five-person company says it is looking to grow to 10-12 employees by mid-2012. Beauregard says he is looking mostly for engineers to join the team.

When I first talked with Objective Logistics back in May, the company sounded like it was pretty set with its technology. Its basic idea is to provide software as a service so that restaurant managers and waitstaff can see exactly how each employee is performing on each shift, relative to others—who sold the most drinks or desserts or got the best tips, for example. The system encourages competition among employees through a game-like leaderboard interface (see left).

But like many startups, it decided to “scrap the whole first version” of its interface, Beauregard says. At least the game-layer part of it. That was partly because of co-founder Matt Grace’s experience waiting tables for several shifts a week in a Watertown, MA, restaurant over the past few months, and using his own software as a customer. (Beauregard also has previous restaurant experience.) “Creating game layers and motivational leaderboards is extremely nuanced and a lot harder than people think,” Beauregard says. “It’s extremely difficult to make something look so simple. We’ve learned a ton.”

In the meantime, he says, the company has gotten lots of interest from restaurants and other businesses—and it is focusing exclusively on restaurants for now. “The pipeline is absolutely beyond full,” he says. “We’re in late-stage talks with chains of all sizes.”

Besides making good hires, Beauregard says, the company’s biggest challenge now is “a matter of focus.” He adds, “There’s a tipping point where you’re receiving so many e-mails, and everyone has a really well-informed opinion.” The key is taking all those disparate opinions and turning them into something productive, he says.

What’s more, the company’s product itself is very polarizing. “The people who really dislike it or rebel against it are the people that aren’t the top performers and who feel they’ve earned a certain status within the [restaurant],” Beauregard says. “That’s what we’re looking to vacate, I suppose, and it’s 5-10 percent of any given company. They’re in jeopardy of being displaced in their lucrative shifts. But that’s also what it’s really meant to do.”

Did I mention Beauregard is hungry? “There’s still a mountain to climb,” he says. “We’re creating a meritocracy through technology.”

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com or call him at 617-252-7323. Follow @gthuang

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