NZ Herald picks Upstock top startup to watch for 2022

It seems counterintuitive that a hospitality startup could prosper during the pandemic. But that's been the case with Wellington-based Upstock, which offers an app that lets cafes, bars and restaurants restock food and drink with a few clicks.

We're thrilled the NZ Herald picked Upstock as their top startup to watch for 2022.

In the face of all the challenges of 2021, Upstock helped many thousands of wholesale buyers and suppliers across New Zealand, along with customers in the US and AU, to streamline and grow their businesses.

It shows how a simple app can enormously reduce friction and waste across the supply chain, helping make it easier for buyers and suppliers to run more profitable and sustainable businesses.

We're proud of the impact we had in 2021, but we're even more excited for all the additional ways we'll be helping wholesale businesses do better in 2022!

Read the full article here, below is the snippet about Upstock.

It seems counterintuitive that a hospitality startup could prosper during the pandemic.

But that's been the case with Wellington-based Upstock, which offers an app that lets cafes, bars and restaurants restock food and drink with a few clicks. Large organisations like the Ministry for the Environment and NZ's biggest game developer, PikPok, are also using Upstock - in their case to make sure staff lunchrooms are replenished.

Co-founder Philip Fierlinger says the example is simple: as with so many sectors, the pandemic has spurred hospitality to digitise as it looks for more efficiency and ways for managing from anywhere.

Bars and restaurants have traditionally used a medieval mess of pen and paper, faxes, phone calls and emails for restocking.

"It served them well enough for a long time," Fierlinger says. "They didn't have any motivation or incentive to change. Now we're seeing it completely change overnight. They need to cut costs, they need to save time, and they need to reduce wastage."

Fierlinger says the move to digital ordering typically allows a chain to free up one full-time staff member, who can then be reallocated to a more productive area like sales.

Upstock was ready and waiting to take advantage of the transition with its app, which includes frills such as saving past orders, managing multiple locations, and setting which staff can order what.

Like all good startups, it was founded to solve a real-world problem. The company was founded by Foxton Fizz director Matt Watson, who found it difficult to field wholesale orders from the hospo sector, which got lost in garbled texts, phone calls at all hours and emails hidden in his spam folder.

He started the Upstock app as a side project but as interest took off he roped in his friend Fierlinger to run the venture full-time.

Fierlinger knew his way around a startup. In 1994, the American co-founded Turntable Media, one of the first companies that helped artists, and the corporations that signed them, grapple with the internet's impact on the music industry. The Beastie Boys, Eric Clapton and Warner Bros were on its client list.

In 2006, after immigrating to NZ, he became one of the co-founders of Xero. And at Upstock, he soon brought on another Xero alumnus, Duncan Ritchie - who as the cloud accounting GM of operations then chief product and platform officer ran its engine room as it grew from a handful of staff to more than 1700.

In July 2020, Upstock raised $3.5m from investors including Icehouse Ventures. The startup could have brought in $7m with the over-subscribed raise - but Fierlinger says he chose to cap it at half that amount in keeping with his "dream big but start small" philosophy to keep things manageable.

"Everything I do, the first question I ask is, 'What's the ultimate dream come true?'. And I think to myself, 'Somebody's got to do it so why not me?' And I think the trick is thinking big but starting small; to break things down into small problems that are easy to solve but constantly visualising that ultimate dream come true."

At the time of its $3.5m raise, Upstock had hundreds of hospo customers, including the likes of Mojo and Best Ugly Bagels. Today, as it fields offers from wannabe investors keen to participate in its new funding round (which is already 50 per cent committed), it has thousands of users (cafes, bars and restaurants can use a basic version of Upstock for free; wholesale suppliers pay a fee to supply them via the app).

Upstock has established a partnership with Foodstuffs (which it also competes with, in some contexts) and recently launched into Australia, where White Whale Coffee Roasters, a major vineyard and a Byron Bay distillery are among early customers, and where a sales team is being hired. The situation across the Tasman is different in that there are already established competitors, but Fierlinger says his company is winning clients from the incumbents.

The privately-held company has not released any financials, but Fierlinger says, "We're experiencing phenomenal growth - 1000 per cent over the past few months. We're currently experiencing 10 per cent week-on-week growth in orders."

If Fierlinger's name sounds familiar, it could be because the Herald recently profiled his son Emory, who won backing from Apple to develop Roadtrip, an app for calculating petrol costs.

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