From Dog Toys to Software, Lettuce Barks Up the Right Tree
"Business was booming, and we were getting orders left and right," he recalls. But though the company's rubber Frisbee-like disks were flying off pet-store shelves, its employees were overwhelmed with the mechanics of order taking, processing, and shipping. "We averaged about 70 minutes to process an order from start to finish," recalls Mobrem. "We were paying our inside sales force more to process orders than to makes sales."
Clearly, the company needed a back-office-systems overhaul. Staff members had been cobbling together different programs, such as QuickBooks, FreshBooks, and Salesforce, and it was ridiculously cumbersome, but Mobrem and his partners could not find an affordable alternative that linked all of those functions together. So they decided to build one.
The Los Angeles-based company's technical wiz, Frank Jones, created order management software in the cloud, with a mobile point-of-sale app for the iPad. Orders taken on the iPad could be processed in real time and automatically integrated into all other back-office systems. "We took an hour-plus process and turned it into minutes," says Mobrem.
When Dura Doggie's employees began using the app at trade shows, they piqued the interest of other small-business owners. Soon, Mobrem began attending trade shows in other industries, where he visited as many booths as possible to get feedback on the software by telling reps that he was a student working on a class project.
"Every single one of them said, 'I need this,'" recalls Mobrem. "If you're a big company, you can do SAP, but everyone else was doing orders manually, and I could see the frustration in their eyes and hear it in their voices. I called Frank and said, 'We're doing this.'" So, in October 2011, he and Jones left Dura Doggie to launch Lettuce (as in "let us" do it for you).
By November, they had a minimum viable product. And in January, they were accepted into Launchpad LA's four-month-long startup accelerator program. Joining Launchpad LA "was a huge part of how successful we became," says Mobrem, who managed to leverage the experience into a $2.1 million funding round.
The co-founders launched a beta version of Lettuce, that was open but required users to pay, in January 2013. "We wanted them to pay because paying customers give 100 percent truthful feedback," says Mobrem. "Give it away for free and people are a little too nice."
Lettuce, which has been growing 30 percent to 40 percent each month, now has more than 2,500 customers, including brick-and-mortar stores, e-commerce companies, and wholesalers. The cost of the software ranges from $39 a month all the way up to $800 or more a month, depending on the number of users and functionality.
Michael Fishman, founder of Pure Fix Cycles, has been using Lettuce since it launched in beta. "We have 45 independent sales reps, and it's very important to make things as easy as possible for them," he says. "With Lettuce, they can see the company inventory, enter orders, and see when they're shipped. It frees up our time."
Mobrem's initial hunch that his product would fill a huge need within the small-business community was proven correct when Intuit decided to feature Lettuce in its app store. "We quickly became one of the top performing apps," says Mobrem. Intuit took notice and, as of our last conversation with Mobrem, acquired Lettuce for $30 million.
"Getting acquired by a company like Intuit is a dream come true," says Mobrem. "I honestly wanted to get our product into the hands of millions of SMBs, and now we can make that dream into a reality."
Get to Know Lettuce
DONNA FENN | Inc.com Contributing Editor
Donna Fenn is the author of Upstarts! How GenY Entrepreneurs Are Rocking the World of Business and 8 Ways You Can Profit From Their Success, an exploration of the ways Gen Y is changing the entrepreneurial landscape.