It’s the middle of the afternoon and you’re ready for a snack. You head to a nearby vending machine just to find your favorite munchie out of stock. Gimme Vending knows your frustration. This startup aims to target this frustrating issue by providing vending machines with an IoT-connected software and hardware solution. The software keeps track of inventory, cash and products, and pings the vendor in real-time when the machine is running low or product expires.
You get your snack and they don’t lose out on money — it’s a win-win.
Earlier this month, the David Cummings-backed startup was named the Gold Stevie Award Winner at the 15th Annual American Business Awards for successfully recognizing and dealing with a need in the vending machine market. They recently landed partnerships with retail transaction company USA Technologies and cloud-based vending software company Cantaloupe Systems and hit the 10,000 machine milestone this past March.
Here, the Gimme Vending founding team, who met at Georgia Tech, talk to Hype about their market impact so far, their new business partnerships, and why being loyal to your first customers is important.
Year/Date Founded: Aug 2014
Number of Employees: 8
How did you come together to lead Gimme Vending?
Gimme was co-founded by Cory Hewett, who has ten years of experience operating vending machines, and software developer Evan Jarecki. These creative and highly motivated entrepreneurs combined their complementary skills, and in Cory’s case dropped out of Georgia Tech, to build a tool that helps vending machine owners increase both productivity and profitability via mobile technology that provides valuable data.
While working together, Evan learned all about Cory’s vending business and they tossed around ideas to start a business together one day. That day came right before graduating from Georgia Tech, when Cory pitched Evan the idea to connect every vending machine in America. Evan agreed. He serviced a machine daily at Georgia Tech for 6 months before spending another 6 months in the field alongside a vending service driver, to learn the nuts and bolts of the business. Teaming his technology background together with Cory, Evan has helped turn Gimme into the award-winning technology it is today.
What’s your pitch?
We make sure each time you walk up to a vending machine, it is stocked with your favorite snack. We do this by building hardware and software that connects to existing vending machines and tells their owner when to send how many of what products to which machines. This translates to fewer stock-outs, faster service, and streamlined product planning — ultimately so everyone always has access to the snacks they’re craving.
What problem are you solving?
Make unattended retail a reality for thousands of locally-owned small businesses across the country. Today, they are disconnected from their people and vending machines in the field. The tools they were forced to use before us were expensive to maintain, difficult to use, challenging to train staff to use, and regularly lost important data. This leads to vending machines sitting with empty slots and expired products, ultimately hurting the experience for the end customer.
How’d you get the idea for it?
My seminal experience starting and running a small vending business, followed by Evan and my 200+ customer interviews during GA Tech Create-X/Startup Summer. The experience from running my own vending business and having a firsthand appreciation for the problem being solved lent me additional credibility, especially useful as a younger entrepreneur.
Tell me more about your partnership with Cantaloupe Systems.
Our mission has always been to help the market connect every one of their machines to the IoT. This entails working with multiple partners for the benefit of our mutual customers. In the instance of Cantaloupe, they already had great backend database software as well as a telemetry devices that connects each machine to the cell network. Their backend database software relied on their customers connecting every vending machine to the cell network; their problem was how to handle vending machines that were outside of the cellular network either physically or financially. Our partnership allows them access to our hardware (the Gimme Key) and proprietary software that enables wireless connection to vending machines not connected to cell networks.
You have an ongoing partnership with USA Technologies as well, correct?
The combination of USAT’s ePort® cashless acceptance technology with Gimme Vending’s software can equip self-serve machines with cashless and online services capabilities that are integrated with wireless, plug-and-play technology that helps download DEX from the machines. The app then syncs vend visits in real-time with the operator’s existing vending management system to populate large picture displays through a user-friendly interface. Gimme’s wireless DEXing solution eliminates additional expenses and investment in expensive handheld DEXing devices for our customers.
What’s Gimme Vending’s market/industry impact?
Gimme Vending is the perfect example of a technology startup that has successfully transformed and revolutionized what has been a very traditional industry, underserved by their legacy tech providers. And Gimme Vending is just getting started.
For years, vending route drivers and operators have been forced to use expensive, cumbersome and outdated technology that fails to serve their needs. And, vending company owners have had to rely on the handheld device to collect data that drives inventory restocking, scheduling, route planning, and cash tracking.
This technology replaces traditional corded handhelds, speeds service calls and eliminates the need for manual keying and transmits data instantly to headquarters. With the new technology, Gimme is turning traditional vending machines into data-producing, “smart” machines and helping vending companies save time and money. Gimme’s technology also scores each machine in the network based on the suitability of inventory to consumers on location and helps track what’s happening in the field, where the cash and inventory are, all in real time, without end-of-day downloading, synchronizing, or hand-keying.
Since opening its doors and selling its first product in 2016, Gimme Vending has gone from “GT students” to funded startup with a patented solution, brand-name customers, and substantial traction. Since then, Gimme has acquired several customers that collectively control substantial market share with more than 50,000 vending machines.
The company obtained its first utility patent in early 2016, addressing a primary data challenge faced by the vending industry. The patent covers a communication device for vending machines and the method of using it for bi-directional transmission of data from vending machines and computing devices.
As you continue to scale Gimme Vending (you’re already at 10,000 machines!), what lessons have you learned as a founder so far?
Importance of your first customers. Simply: we would not be here without them. Followed by kick-ass investors, who you’re married with, who help open doors that you couldn’t open on your own, who help guide you away from dangerous decisions and towards positive outcomes.
What’s your revenue model?
One-time, upfront fee per vending machine (which covers implementation, training, and necessary hardware), and a recurring, monthly fee per vending machine (which covers perpetual software license, 365/24/7 support, and warranty).
What’s next for Gimme Vending in the next 6-12 months?
Expanding our mobility tool to handle products, without discrimination regardless of which channel their ultimately sold (micro market, vending, OCS, etc.)