You can’t scale if you don’t take action, Waitr founder and CEO Chris Meaux said during his keynote address this afternoon at the Entreprneur Day of Baton Rouge Entrepreneurship Week. And the confidence to make business moves comes from believing in yourself.
Meaux, whose app-based food delivery service is expected to go public on the NADSAQ stock exchange Friday, reflected on the obstacles he faced when trying to get Waitr off the ground in 2013. Among those: Getting investors to believe him, tapping into Louisiana’s talent pool and edging out the competition.
“When I pitched to investors, they didn’t believe my projections—I was projecting Waitr bringing in $36 million in four years,” Meaux said. “But I became a domain expert in the restaurant industry, and it didn’t matter to me that they didn’t believe me because I believed me.”
Within five years, Waitr has brought in some $70 million. In May, Meaux sold the company to Houston Rockets owner and hospitality industry magnate Tilman Fertitta for $308 million.
Meaux said he based his original projections on feedback from the kind of consumers and restaurants he wanted to serve, as well as his existing industry knowledge. He and his co-founders built their entire business plan around those findings.
Though he first approached venture capitalists with his idea, Meaux said they quickly wrote him off because he was based in Louisiana and they didn’t think the state’s job market was big enough.
Refusing to accept that, Meaux solicited investors and software engineers who lived in other states but were from Louisiana and wanted to move back. The method yielded him about $26 million in initial investment.
“It wasn’t easy,” Meaux said. “We had to convince young people we’d be a high-flying startup.”
Still, he believed in the business, and that made all the difference. It’s what prepared him for competition, the hardest obstacle he remembers overcoming.
People thought Waitr was going to get crushed by companies such as UberEats and Amazon. But by knowing Louisiana and mastering its customer base and restaurant scene, Meaux said, Waitr is now the “clear winner” in 36 of its 40 markets.
It’s what leads Meaux to focus on his next steps, which include ensuring customers are always able to order from Waitr—even if restaurants and drivers are too busy—and making Waitr a nationally recognized verb.
“When you need a tissue, you ask for a Kleenex,” Meaux said. “That’s the next chapter for us.”