In this, the second in our series on the leading founders and CEOs partnering with EMERGING to create the EMERGING Fund, we’re fortunate to have the opportunity to speak with Sterling Douglass. Douglass is emersed in the tech industry, specifically as it relates to restaurants. He is the Co-Founder and CEO of Chowly, a well-known POS integration company built to empower restaurants to manage and grow their off-premise business.
Interview with Sterling Douglass
Douglass is an entrepreneur to his core. He started his career in data analytics, earning a Bachelor of Science in actuarial sciences. He brought Chowly from a concept in 2015 to a company that now processes over $1 billion in orders annually. Today, Chowly has taken the ResTech industry by storm, directly connecting online ordering to a restaurant’s POS system and then on to the kitchen. It also manages all third-party delivery menus, which means no more multiple apps for every delivery brand.
Let’s look at what he’s been up to and why he’s excited about joining the EMERGING Fund.
Douglass’s Background: What Brought Him to the Restaurant Technology Sector
“I got into the restaurant technology space because I recognized there was a really big problem to solve in the industry and one that I wanted to tackle. In essence, it was too difficult for restaurants to implement new technology because of the many moving parts and the required level of understanding. It took too long in an industry where time is already at a premium.
“So, the question was: How can we make it so that our restaurants can easily add new technology, like QR code ordering, taking orders online, text ordering, or the next generation of web3 platforms? I wanted to help restaurant owners adopt these new technology trends without having to set aside a huge budget or take up their valuable time. And those are the pain points that Chowly solves.”
The Biggest Problem Facing the Restaurant Industry Today
“I think the world is changing faster than the business model can, and it was already moving quickly. But then, COVID came around, and consumer preferences switched so fast. To be able to keep up with those changes is difficult for any industry, and the restaurant industry certainly isn’t the only one facing it. So, today, the biggest challenge restaurants face is keeping up with the consumer’s demands.”
The Inspiration that Keeps Douglass Going
“I am an entrepreneur by trade. It’s something I feel down to my bones—the ability to problem solve, to work hard, to inspire a team, and to lead. And restaurants are such a great symbol of that exact effort. Most people who get into the restaurant game are entrepreneurs who have the same passion and work ethic. They push as hard as they can, all on behalf of their customer. And so, for me, what inspires me in this business is that I get to work with other entrepreneurs every day, which is so exciting.”
Choosing to Partner in the EMERGING Fund
“I think the EMERGING Fund represents the exact change in the type of help the restaurant industry needs. It’s not looking at just the technology or the restaurant side; it encompasses whatever is emerging in both spaces. And, by definition, that means we’re working with the newest technology and the latest concepts.
“The brands EMERGING is investing in possess these new pieces of technology that will help take restaurants to the next generation and the next level. And so, being a part of that with my experience at Chowly and with the team at EMERGING makes it a slam dunk for me.”
The Value EMERGING Fund Offers Founders and Operators
“Founders and operators face numerous challenges as they grow a startup or build a brand. So, one of the best parts about the EMERGING Fund is the diversity of experience that comes with it. You have people who spent their whole lives on the supply chain side of the business and others who spent their lives operating restaurant groups, new creative concepts, and large-scale fast-food concepts.
“Additionally, you have a whole team of venture partners running some of the most innovative technology companies today, whether they’re working on data warehousing, virtual restaurants, or other concepts. In addition to the capital, there’s an amazing roster of people who can help operators, founders, and CEOs. And, as someone who’s raised a lot of money from venture capital groups, I can tell you that the added value and the people that come with it end up being ten times more valuable than the cash that goes into the bank account.”
The Benefit of Combining Food, Entertainment, and Tech
“I think technology is getting into every single point in our lives, from how we cook to travel and even how we eat. Everything has technology in it and sometimes does an excellent job. But, on the other hand, sometimes it can be just noise.
“I think when technology is doing what it’s supposed to do, and it’s working on behalf of the people using it and not just technology for technology’s sake, is when you see the best results. You see the happiest customers, the most efficient lives, and what the world can be when things are all rowing in the same direction.
“And I think that’s exactly how it works with food. When you think about restaurants, you think about the ability to get a customer what they’re looking for faster, with better quality and better cost. These are the cornerstones of hospitality, which is why we’re all in this space in the first place. So, when tech’s working right, everybody’s happier. And that’s what the EMERGING Fund is doing.”
The Technology Sector in Investing
As you can tell, Sterling Douglass is awash in passion. He’s committed to helping startups and early-stage ventures gain ground and succeed. As he noted, this aspect is one of the most incredible opportunities the EMERGING Fund offers, the ability to work with founders that exhibit a proven successful track record in the ResTech and social entertainment concept arenas.
When you add on the many insights and divisions that EMERGING brings, including real estate and supply chain experts, data analytics, and national food, beverage, and workforce insights, it’s evident that this is the new face of today’s investment strategies. It’s an unparalleled strategic partnership that scales growth while mitigating risks. To learn more about the EMERGING Fund, or to schedule a consultation, contact EMERGING.