First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Valentine Aikhu: It’s been a challenging year for a lot of people, including myself and my family, but we have learned to embrace some of the blessings from this experience, like spending more quality time with family, spending more time doing the things you love.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded Blinte Inc.
Valentine Aikhu: Entrepreneurship is certainly not a new conversation around me or my family. I grew up in a household where owning a business was a norm and not an exception, so it, not a surprise that I followed that lifestyle. I started a company called EasyChops back in 2013 with my brothers Frank and Kizito. EasyChops was basically what Grubhub and UberEats are today, but on a much smaller scale in comparison. We were the first service of its kind to arrive in Charlottesville, VA, which made adoption very easy. We eventually exited that space in 2016 with a great deal of experience in the restaurant and restaurant technology space. As we continued to explore other aspects of the restaurant tech industry, and after talking with a few of our former clients at EasyChops, something became overwhelming clear- There are a lot of inefficiencies that restaurants owners and staff have to deal with daily when it comes to providing service to their dine-in customers. We set out on a mission to explore and create a solution that can help streamline the dine-in experience for both customers and restaurant staff. Blinte was created to help improve efficiencies in the dine-in process by eliminating the guess works from experience and providing a more sustainable low-touch service model.
How does Blinte Inc innovate?
Valentine Aikhu: Our team comprises incredibly talented individuals that contribute to making our goal a reality. We strive to make very well informed decisions regarding innovation- we leverage our industry connection for feedback and ideas to ensure that our thinking is never misplaced or misguided.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Valentine Aikhu: The most challenging effects of this pandemic for our business are having to delay launching and make some needed changes to ensure that our product fits into today’s reality. We believe that this pandemic has made products such as ours even more relevant because it stresses the need for capacity control as we battle this virus and also helps facilitate a low touch service model at restaurants. Our aim to make sure that our product helps reduce the spread of the virus by digitizing a lot of the in-dining experience.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Valentine Aikhu: A lot of individuals and businesses had to make some incredibly tough decisions during these times, and we are no different. One of the biggest decisions, but not so difficult we had to make in anticipation of our launch is the WAIVING of service fees for our restaurant partners while we assess the coronavirus’s effects on their business. We want restaurants to not only survive but thrive during in COVID/ post-COVID world, and our aim to give them an opportunity to do with our platform.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety, how do you project yourself and Blinte Inc in the future?
Valentine Aikhu: Admittedly, I’ve never been the greatest at dealing with the stress that comes with starting or running a business, but I have learned to cope and control how I react to it. It is quite important to always focus on goals while experiencing stressful moments. In my early days of running a business, I’ll never forget the day my brother Frank spoke to me about focusing on what is within my control- Those words have remained with me and helped me navigate stressful times. Every entrepreneur knows that stress is part of the journey, but how you deal with them could be the difference between success and failure.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Valentine Aikhu: Currently, we have seen more competitors come into the market due to the Pandemic. Companies like Opentable, AllSet, SquareUp, and UberEats are some of the current solutions in the. Market. While they all great companies at what they do, Blinte is a more holistic platform that facilities engagement with customers both in and out of the restaurant. Our key advantage is that we have designed our platform to help restaurants know their customers better than most platforms on the market.
Your final thoughts?
Valentine Aikhu: COVID has changed the restaurant industry, and restaurants are beginning to embrace this change. Change can be scary, but sometimes if you look beyond the surface, it can be the driving force towards ushering in a new age of prosperity. Our company revolves around the success of restaurants.
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