Running a restaurant or coffeehouse is hard enough work without having to wonder about how cash is flowing.
Now, Ypsilanti-based Ergun Technologies has developed a software system that aims to relieve that headache for restaurant owners.
It’s basically a touch-screen checkout system the company calls Own.
The system integrates restaurant cash registers and the Web, allowing owners real-time remote access to all their stores.
Ergun Technologies, founded by University of Michigan graduate Verdi Erel Ergun, was one of three Michigan companies that received a loan this week from the Michigan Microloan Fund Program.
Microloans, administered by Ann Arbor Spark, range from $10,000 to $50,000.
To qualify, companies must be a small business located in Ann Arbor or eastern Washtenaw County, have ownership or license to innovative technology, and be privately held.
Ergun, president of Ergun Technologies, said the microloan will help his company meet anticipated customer demand, expand in new markets and protect its intellectual property.
He talked about his young startup and it’s growth potential in an e-mail exchange with Crain’s Detroit Business earlier this week.
Tell me a little about your company. What is Ergun Technologies? How old is the company? How did you get started?
We're 3.5 people and we just celebrated our first anniversary. I started Burrito Joint restaurant in Ann Arbor and quickly realized the touch-screen checkout systems on the market today are too complicated.
I was determined to create exactly what I would have wanted as an operator and build it for coffeehouses, because coffeehouses are ahead of restaurants and retail stores when it comes to loyalty programs. And coffeehouses will soon be a signal for the rest of the quick-service industry to innovate their loyalty programs.
Our system, Own, is going to be the next generation in touch-screen checkout systems.
What is your business niche? Who are some of your customers?
Through the first half of 2011 we're focused on independent Michigan coffeehouses, wherein we’ll evaluate additional horizontal market opportunities.
We're entering a private beta program this November. Because the beta program is private, I cannot comment on which coffeehouse companies will be involved.
Care to discuss revenue goals, your strategy for future growth?
Our plan is to have 200 locations using the Own system by the end of 2011.
In our fifth year, with 4,000 locations, we will be an $11 million company. We're going to need to raise our first round of funding to meet anticipated customer demand.
Do you have any competitors? Who are they?
There are many competitors and over 99 percent of them are software — including Micros, SelbySoft and Radiant.
What were some of the critical milestones you had to overcome to get your business started?
First, we had to assemble our team. This was a challenge because we use a very modern programming language and the nature of our product requires an exceptional, high degree of technical competency.
Second, we had to prove our technology. We spent nearly a year evaluating designs and testing them to create the most intuitive, beautiful system possible for our customers.
Third, we had to earn initial consumer validation. We took our proof of concept to potential customers and shared the direction we are planning for the Own system to take touch-screen checkout system industry.
They were excited.
How will you use your portion of the Michigan Microloan Fund?
The Microloan funds will be used to successfully meet our beta program and protect our intellectual property position.
Tell me a little about yourself. What is your background? What motivated you to start a business?
I'm a serial entrepreneur. While an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, I purchased an ice cream truck and spent my summers selling ice cream.
I finished my undergraduate degree and started Burrito Joint in Ann Arbor. I was motivated to start Own because restaurant owners are suffering. They're disconnected from their businesses because their technology forces them to be, through difficulty of use, lack of remote access and other reasons. This can't go on like this any longer.
As patrons, we deserve better. We deserve owners who love running their businesses. That initial spark when everything is easy, we need to recreate that spark when everything is hard.
Own will give back to our customers the joy of running their business again.
Anything else I haven't asked you about that you’d like to share?
For more information, people can visit our website www.OwnPos.com or e-mail me personally at email@example.com.
Share your Ann Arbor area business news tips by e-mailing them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling (313) 446-0402.