Ty Wilson grew up among restaurants and even wanted to go into the business himself. However, when he noticed some glaring issues with how the restaurant industry had to manage their expenses, he decided to offer a solution through co-founding Tab Commerce – a solution which recently raised $1 million USD ($1.35 M CAD) in seed funding from Matchstick Ventures.
“Both my parents worked in the restaurant industry for most of their lives, and they started their own restaurant in Hamilton. They have eight locations,” explains Ty. “I love the industry. I always planned on going into it. But during COVID, I saw firsthand how hard it was for them to maintain a restaurant and survive the lockdowns.”
“They had to manage all of their finances by themselves: paying invoices, managing expenses…” he continues. “It was hyper-manual; they had to do everything themselves and it was so disorganized. There are a ton of useful software tools for this everywhere else, but there isn’t anything like it for the restaurant industry.”
This was an especially important problem to solve during the pandemic, when prices were volatile and shortages were common. According to Ty, restaurants were focused on generating enough revenue to survive the pandemic, putting expenses and internal controls on the backburner.
“It’s very hard to manage all of your expenses. Every restaurant might have 20 or 30 suppliers who each send an invoice twice or three times a week. Beyond this, you have a lot of other expenses like rent and utilities, that you have to manually put together,” says Ty.
Now, Tab Commerce’s product suite works to ameliorate these problems. When restaurants spend money, Tab captures the invoice directly from the supplier, so restaurants can avoid the process of manually scanning, uploading, and organizing invoices. The product suite also allows restaurants to automate invoice management workflows, automate supplier payments, and view a host of expense analytics and purchasing insights.
Tab’s recent seed funding achievement is the latest in a long line of fundraising successes. “We’ve had three rounds of funding. The first one was our angel round, the second was from Mucker Capital’s accelerator program, and the third was from Matchstick Ventures,” says Ty.
“For the first round, we took the profile of our company and put it on a platform called Hockeystick. You put your slide deck on there and how much money you want to raise, and angel investors can see it,” he explains. This resulted in three investors from Montreal finding out about Tab, and investing $85 000. For their second round, Tab collaborated with investors through the startup accelerator of the California-based Mucker Capital, and raised another $150 000.
Finally, in early 2023, Ty and the Tab Commerce team decided to commit to raising their formal seed funding round. “We spent a year refining the product, building marketing, and getting traction… I was half trying to run the company and half trying to fundraise, which is really tough to do,” recalls Ty. “In February, we decided to fully go into fundraising for a month, which is when we were connected with Matchstick. They care a lot about efficient growth and solving real problems. They came on in late March 2023 with a $1 million cheque.”
Raising these funds was a difficult, time consuming, and exhausting process for the team. Still, Ty maintains that without the hardships, Tab Commerce would be in a much worse position. “If we had an idea and immediately raised a million dollars, it would’ve been the worst thing to happen to us as a company,” he reflects. “I think that experiencing friction and hardship forced us to really focus on the core problem we wanted to solve, and build our drive.”
Ty credits the ICUBE Venture Forward program and his connections to other startup founders for helping Tab Commerce through difficult periods. “We’ve always believed that other founders are the biggest and best resource for us, so ICUBE helped us connect with them. There’s a lot of really knowledgeable people there,” Ty remarks.
Through all their ups and downs, Tab’s product suite has shown a lot of success. Looking to the future, Ty and the Tab team are playing with AI-based approaches to solving these problems. “We started playing around with exploring the use of AI in this field, and wanting to see if it can apply to our business,” Ty mentions. ”We didn’t think of this as using an AI product, and instead just enhancing the user experience, and it’s going well. “It’s in closed beta right now, we’re going to have a lot more to share about this product soon.”
However, Ty emphasizes that he and Tab aren’t tied down, and that his startup is committed to innovation. “Our goal since Day 1 has always been to solve problems in restaurant operations in the easiest way possible,” he states.
“Because of this, we always work backwards from a problem, and we’re not married to a product – we just want to come up with solutions.”
To learn more about Tab Commerce, visit their website: https://www.tabcommerce.com/