- Krystle Mobayeni — the co-founder of BentoBox — went from a struggling entrepreneur to running a major restaurant platform company. These are the details.
Recently, Inc did a profile on BentoBox co-founder Krystle Mobayeni. BentoBox now serves over 4,500 restaurants around the world.
Mobayeni is a first-generation American and her parents emigrated from Iran to the U.S. in 1976 so her father could study at American University. While their plan was to go back to Iran after that, the revolution there intensified in 1978 so they ended up staying. And Mobayeni told Inc that her family “gave up so much to come here, to provide for me. That’s always in the back of my mind. I couldn’t settle for being average. I wanted to make my mark.”
Before launching BentoBox, Mobayeni worked as a senior designer at Agency.com and Big Spaceship. In her previous experiences, she was helping restaurants fix up their websites. While working on those projects, she could not find any tools that focused on helping restaurants drive revenue such as catering orders, selling tickets for private events, or managing their profiles on search engines and social media.
In 2013, Mobayeni launched BentoBox with co-founder Pierre Drescher. BentoBox helps restaurants handle simple day-to-day tasks. Mobayeni said that the first two years were extremely difficult and she thought about giving up on a daily basis. The founders of BentoBox did not have much financing. And a number of people suggested that she raise funding from “friends and family,” but those sources did not have a lot of money to just give her.
Around that time, the BentoBox team — which included Mobayeni, Drescher, and an intern — were barely paying themselves. And Mobayeni was doing freelance work on the side to make ends meet while also running up credit cards. In the fall of 2015, the team started paying themselves. And a VC fund Mobayeni was talking to had flagged the financial risks taken during the early days of the company such as running up credit cards.
“I remember having that difficult conversation on the phone with the investor in the middle of a workday, and having to continue meetings with customers, pretending that everything was fine. I couldn’t believe that all the risk I took to make this work would be why we didn’t succeed. I just wanted to talk about it with someone–but there was no one. Luckily, after some back and forth, we moved forward with that investor. And now we even have company credit cards,” said Mobayeni via Inc.
Now BentoBox has 125 employees, with 4,500 restaurant clients worldwide. And the company raised around $25 million. And earlier this year, Mobayeni’s parents came to New York City and visited the company’s office for the first time since the early days.
“My father now works for his local government, in a very secure but limited position. Entrepreneurship, from my parents’ perspective, was an opportunity for me to take my career as far as humanly possible. Starting my company, they say, was the only way for me to truly have freedom and ownership. Which is exactly what they left Iran to give me,” added Mobayeni in the interview with Inc.
The profit margins of restaurants are known to be thin. This can be challenging for BentoBox to sign up customers as these businesses are often run by solo operators and many of these businesses are cash-strapped. So BentoBox starts with established restaurants and then uses those well known brands to sign up others.
One of BentoBox’s first major wins are restaurants operated by Danny Meyer including the Gramercy Tavern. Another major early win for BentoBox were restaurants operated by José Andrés in Washington, D.C. and H-Town Restaurant Group in Houston.
In terms of the Inc rankings, BentoBox is ranked 305 out of 5000 on the fastest-growing private companies in the U.S. BentoBox generated $4.4 million in revenue last year, which means it saw 1,480% in growth over a 3 year period.
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