Q&A: EatStreet’s Alex Wyler on 30 Under 30, Facebook, Kanye, & More

Xconomy Wisconsin — 

Alex Wyler and Matt Howard, two co-founders of the Madison, WI-based food ordering startup EatStreet, were named to Forbes’ annual “30 Under 30” list, in the consumer technology category.

Launched in 2010, EatStreet has raised more than $40 million from investors and currently has about 1,000 employees. The software company serves about 1.7 million customers across 250 markets. Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) and Uber are among the companies that have partnered with EatStreet, which PitchBook recently named Wisconsin’s most valuable venture-backed company.

Wyler, who is also EatStreet’s chief technology officer, spoke with Xconomy on Tuesday by phone. We discussed what he learned from working in Silicon Valley, EatStreet’s 2017 advertising blitz, and more. Our interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

Xconomy: What does winning this award mean to you, Matt Howard, and others at EatStreet?

Alex Wyler: I’m super grateful for the recognition. Obviously in our space, there’s a lot of really big names. Everyone’s always wondering what the news is going to be from Uber, Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), and GrubHub (NYSE: GRUB). News tends to be focused on [companies that target] the big cities, and that’s never been our strategy.

We believe that our long-term winning strategy will be to focus on tier-two and tier-three cities. This is good visibility and good recognition that that strategy is paying off. I feel honored to receive this on behalf of … not really the little guys anymore, but what at one point would’ve been kind of a strange place to see Forbes “30 Under 30” awards being given out in technology.

X: You co-founded EatStreet as a student at the University of Wisconsin-Madison before moving to California and working at Facebook for a couple years. What prompted that decision?

AW: When we started EatStreet [the startup’s original name was “Badger Bites”], we didn’t have any money to pay ourselves. I took an internship with Facebook to sort of pay my own bills, while still working nights and weekends on EatStreet. And then Facebook offered me [a full-time position] straight out of the internship.

It was really no change going from school with nights and weekends working on EatStreet versus a job with nights and weekends working on EatStreet. So we agreed that that was reasonable for me to do.

X: What about leaving Facebook in 2014 and moving back to Wisconsin? What was the story there?

AW: Our Series B [funding round] was really when we got into the big leagues, from our perspective, where [investors] said, “Wait a second, your chief technology officer, the main architect of your product, is not a full-time employee? That’s not going to fly.”

So they kind of put the choice to me: jump on this or it’s not going to work out. That was actually good for me to sort of make a decision. If I’m already spending tons and tons of my time … if I’m working two 40-hour workweeks on two different teams, I should really make a choice. So I made the choice to [join EatStreet] full-time. I was the third of the three co-founders to do so.

But in retrospect, what I learned from actually being in industry for those two-plus years was invaluable to being able to scale [EatStreet]. In some ways, we’re very lucky that … Next Page »

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