EatStreet-Telkonet Tie-Up Aims to Help Hotel Guests Order Local Food

Room service is getting some new competition, thanks in part to an agreement between two Wisconsin companies.

EatStreet, an online food-ordering service based in Madison, WI, announced on Tuesday that it’s teamed up with Waukesha-based Telkonet. One of the latter company’s business divisions, known as EthoStream, specializes in outfitting hotels with wireless Internet. The idea is that upon connecting to a hotel’s Wi-Fi network for the first time, a guest will see a list of restaurants that deliver there.

“This partnership makes it even easier for guests to order food from local restaurants, whether they’re on vacation or on a business trip,” Matt Howard, co-founder and CEO of EatStreet, said in a press release.

Jason Tienor, CEO of Telkonet (OTCMKTS: TKOI), says EthoStream operates and supports Wi-Fi networks in about 2,400 hotels, many of which are located in the 250-plus metropolitan areas EatStreet serves.

Tienor emphasizes that EthoStream is not itself an Internet service provider, meaning it doesn’t compete with giant telcos such as Comcast (NYSE: CMCSA) and Time Warner Cable (NYSE: TWC). Those companies are often the ones providing Internet connectivity to households, offices, and other buildings, he says, but it’s firms like EthoStream that install cabling, access points, switches, and other pieces of hardware that make up the networks inside.

“When Time Warner brings its cable to your home, it brings it to a modem sitting in your basement,” Tienor says. “It doesn’t install all of the infrastructure throughout your house to put a cable jack in every room.”

Tienor says he got acquainted with Howard and other leaders at EatStreet through his involvement in Wisconsin’s entrepreneurial community. EthoStream, which Tienor and Jeff Sobieski co-founded in 2002 and sold to Telkonet five years later—EthoStream remains a wholly owned subsidiary of Telkonet—is Tienor’s second startup. He says that when time permits, he likes to hear about and mentor early-stage companies.

“We received a lot of assistance from other individuals in the community,” he says. “As we’ve grown, I’ve realized that one thing that’s valuable, especially here in the Midwest, is providing the resources to help startups and entrepreneurs get going and just giving a little bit back of what I received early on.”

Tienor lists himself as an advisor to Gener8tor, a Wisconsin startup accelerator, on his LinkedIn page. EatStreet went through Gener8tor’s program in 2012, and is considered one of the accelerator’s biggest success stories. In December, EatStreet raised $15 million from investors in a Series C funding round.

EatStreet is no stranger to partnerships, in part because it focuses on its ordering software and leaves the actual delivery of meals to others. In addition to deals with food-focused delivery services like Austin, TX-based Mr. Delivery, EatStreet recently announced a collaboration with San Francisco-based Uber, which is most widely known for its ride-hailing app but also operates a delivery arm, UberRush. That program kicked off last month in Chicago.

Jeff Buchanan is the editor of Xconomy Wisconsin. Email: jbuchanan@xconomy.com Follow @_jeffbuchanan

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