He’s carrying out his takeout idea

Marketplace Staff Oct 9, 2009

He’s carrying out his takeout idea

Marketplace Staff Oct 9, 2009


TESS VIGELAND: I think there’s a hidden inventor-entrepreneur in all of us. My brilliant invention — in my head for years — was a remote pooper scooper. So when we were on walks my hands wouldn’t even touch the plastic bag containing my dog’s waste product. Of course, as I was reminding myself of this awesome and revolutionary idea this week, I Googled “remote pooper scooper” and found out someone else has already created one.

Our next story is about an entrepreneur who went for it, had a great idea for a product, made it happen, and makes money off of it.

Here’s Marketplace’s Jeremy Hobson.

[Sound of a gong ringing.]

Jeremy Hobson: That’s the second gong of the day at Gomobo headquarters. The gong rings every time there’s a big piece of good news at the company.

Dave Fellows: I am gonging because we have been officially accepted as an iPhone developer.

Dave Fellows is one of 10 employees at Gomobo. He works for 28-year-old Noah Glass, who started the company four years ago. Glass gave me a quick tour of his office in Soho.

Noah Glass: We’re upstairs now. We’ve got sort of an open seating plan. This used to be an art gallery. It’s got very high ceilings.

It’s a two-story loft. The basement, where the gong is, also has a foosball table, a dart board and a small conference room.

Glass: And we have our desks set up across from one another. We’ve got about five desks per wall.

Raised outside of Boston, Glass is every bit the New England boy. He’s got short red hair, blue eyes, and he’s the only one in the office wearing a sport coat. He’s even got a handkerchief in his pocket, like any good CEO. He looks relaxed, but maybe he’s just tired.

Glass: I’d say that I’ve been working 100-hour weeks every week for the last four years.

And with a work ethic like that, it won’t surprise you what he’s been working on. Gomobo is a Web site that’s meant to save you time ordering takeout food. You order online or on your phone, pay in advance, and skip the lines when you go pick it up. It doesn’t cost anything for you the customer. Glass and his company collect fees from participating restaurants.

Glass: Well, so right now we’re around 500 restaurants. But we’re going to end this year at 5,000 restaurants.

And Gomobo will be making a profit at 3,500, he says.

The huge jump in numbers is due to deals with Subway, Burger King and a couple of other soon-to-be-announced chains. Up till now, the company has been running on investor support — primarily from a wealthy venture capitalist Glass showed the idea to just before he was supposed to start attending Harvard Business School.

This was the guy’s response:

Glass: “Show me that you’re really in this thing and withdraw from Harvard Business School and then we’ll put the money in.”

So Glass traded his potential Harvard degree for a whole lot of takeout food.

Glass: I’m going to log in and register, which is how I sign into my account.

Glass pulls out his Blackberry to show me how the product works.

Glass: I will get a 6-inch turkey breast Fresh Value Meal.

Just to test things out, I’ll order the old fashioned way — by standing in line when we get to the restaurant.

Glass: Could I have lettuce, tomato, green peppers?

Glass picks his order up, already paid for, about 30 seconds after we walk in the door. And when I finally sit down at the table, he says:

Glass: “Five minutes, right there.”

Hobson: That was five minutes you’ve been sitting here. Your sandwich is getting cold.

Glass: That’s right, but you don’t have a drink yet, either.

Hobson: That’s true, I still have to go get a drink. Let me do that.

OK, so it works — or at least restaurants, large and small, seem to think so. But how common is this kind of entrepreneurial success? What does it take?

I asked Rod Kurtz, senior editor of Inc. Magazine.

Rod Kurtz: It’s not good enough to just have an idea. It’s not good enough just to work hard. It’s where the two intersect. That’s where you find the real success stories.

It’s the combination of innovation, smarts, hard work and competitiveness, he says. And confidence — what it takes to do some of the things Noah Glass has done in his life: Bike across the country; Move to South Africa to work for a company that helps business start-ups; Abandon a budding career playing lacrosse. And, oh yeah, throw Harvard Business School out the window to start a company.

Kurtz: They’re so confident about their ideas, and I think that’s what separates really successful entrepreneurs from the ones that the idea never leaves the kitchen table. It’s getting out there. It’s making the next step and actually executing. And the ones that do it are often the ones we read and hear about.

But from the super-confident Noah Glass this word of warning for all you would-be entrepreneurs:

Glass: Invariably, you have a whole set of assumptions when you’re starting a business, and every single one of them is slightly wrong. I think the maturity that you need as an entrepreneur is to reassess those assumptions almost daily while maintaining this great faith in the vision.

And to keep you awake during those 100-hour work weeks, make sure you’ve got a gong on hand.

In New York, I’m Jeremy Hobson for Marketplace Money.

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