What I'm currently working on
TLDR; World is recovering and taking a new shape. While it’s still unclear how it all ends, its impact will be transformative, and we are yet to understand it. While it’s all happening, we also started a new startup to help restaurants go online.
World is recovering
The past few months have been quite a ride for me, with a lot of mixed feelings and thoughts about how the world is recovering from the pandemic. The rise of new variants of the virus is not a good sign, but hopefully, with enough caution and everyone getting vaccinated, we’ll see the light and get back to everyday life – I can’t wait to travel back and be normal again.
World is evolving
While it’s still unclear how it all ends, the impact it is having on our lives and how it shapes our thinking of the future will be monumental. This increasingly digitized, asynchronous future was always inevitable, but we’re all forced into it in a concise amount of time. It feels obvious, but it’s also too early to take any of this for granted, people are still figuring it out, and I believe there’s no concrete idea of this future yet.
“It can take decades to understand things you thought you understood as they were happening.”
One other side effect that I think we’re not paying enough attention to is the increasing gap in education, wealth, and access to many other services.
- The COVID-19 pandemic is widening the gap between leading and lagging industries
- COVID-19 is widening the education gap. This is how we can stop it
- 42% of people falling behind as Covid-19 widens the wealth gap, report finds
This striking gap is quite unsettling, and consequences are yet to be known.
What are we doing?
Anyway, while this world is taking a different shape, I’m staying close to the F & B industry, especially in Southeast Asia. I worked for an F&B startup based in Singapore for about three years, building tools to run an online restaurant efficiently. During my long stint here, along with my colleagues, I’ve helped build a ton of tools for our online restaurant. We made tools that supported every aspect of the business – for the in-house sales team, delivery fleet, and customers themselves. Having these tools in place from the beginning helped us navigate COVID relatively safely.
During the same period, we saw the other F&B owners struggle to adapt to the changes and operate with a lot of inefficiencies or sometimes close the business. It was sudden, and they were forced to find their way out with existing tools that were not ready to serve this event. We’ve seen medium-sized restaurants hack existing commerce solutions to sell the food online, noticed established fine dining restaurants go online through delivery platforms with exorbitant fees and brand dilution, and realized small size restaurants limited operations and sometimes temporarily closed the business especially, in Singapore a lot of hawkers.
Though these things are always aware of, they become more apparent now and revealed how we solved most of these industry-specific problems in our past life. In a sense, we realized we had built tools for the restaurants of the future.
Knowing some of these problems intimately, we started talking to many customers from the F&B to understand the difficulties and gaps more clearly. We identified few significant issues that they’re facing: branded food commerce, operations, integrations with platforms, and growth.
Early this year, we decided to start Atlas the Shopify for restaurants in Southeast Asia with that hypothesis. Atlas is a platform that allows restaurants to accept orders through their branded website, aggregate orders from food delivery platforms, and also book their logistics.
What is Atlas?
Atlas is building the operating system for restaurants, focusing on Southeast Asia. Think Shopify for restaurants – the easiest way to start, run and grow any restaurant online and offline. The team at Atlas previously built Grain, a venture-backed online restaurant, to millions in revenue. Now, Atlas is building the software that helps restaurants achieve what Grain did in 3 years in less than 3 months. Currently just launched a v1 that is already helping restaurants save >50% of cost selling online. Atlas is looking to work with open-minded businesses to scale this up in closed beta. Existing customers include Odette, Poke Theory, Coconut Club, Amò and Providore.
What is the progress?
We have spent the first months doing extensive planning, research, and designing the systems we are building up from scratch.
Consolidating many inputs and feedback from customers during our initial conversations, we solved some high-level infrastructure challenges.
Multi-tenancy with isolated data
It was essential to ensure that all merchant data does not co-mingle with other tenants, and it mitigates any risks where data might end up in the wrong merchant’s account.
We have found a way to isolate all merchant data within their database, making it easier to extract and analyze. It will be much more friendly in the future when a merchant decides to invest in digital transformation and data-driven decision-making.
Blazing fast websites
We have decided to invest in Cloudflare’s Workers to deploy our consumer websites right at the edge of data centers. This means that not only will the websites be distributed to data centers all across the region; it also ensures that the website will be loaded from the closest data center to the consumer, drastically improving load times.
We’ve also split the cosmetic and data layers by intercepting requests and serving dynamic assets to different hosts but serving data through an optimized backend.
Highly scalable serverless infrastructure
Serverless technologies have drastically optimized resource usage (compute), reducing costs. F&B business is a great use case to leverage technology like this — restaurants operate for a specific time during the day but can peak the traffic. We are using Google’s Cloud Run to power the backend to serve this use case; each merchant gets their group of servers that can autoscale depending on the traffic without any other merchants.
It’s been about four months since we started working. We’ve partnered with a few restaurant groups in Singapore and work closely with them to understand the problems more clearly and helping them go online. We have already launched few brands on the platform.
Side note; we also graduated from YC (S21).
How we are doing it?
We are a small team, a group of 5 active folks working on this idea. We’re all based in Singapore and working closely to build a great product and business. I love this intimacy and collaboration – things move fast when we are small.
And, here’s a quick glimpse of our tech stack.
Frameworks (frontend): React, React Native, Tailwind CSS
Frameworks (backend): Ruby on Rails, Node.js
DevOps: Docker, Terraform, Google Cloud Platform, Cloudflare Workers, Firebase
Databases: PostgreSQL, Workers KV
We’re still in a pre-product market fit phase and excited to solve this problem.
We’re actively onboarding more customers every week, enabling more restaurants to go online for the first time, and helping existing customers save costs.
We firmly believe that the future of F&B doesn’t need to worry about distribution channels, logistics, or growth — they need to focus on things that matter (the food and customers!), and tools/technology must take care of the rest.
If this sounds exciting, you can reach out to me for a chat or an opportunity to work or collaborate to build excellent tools for restaurant owners.