Before the concept of social distancing entered the lexicon and people finally learned how to use QR codes, three Melbourne-based entrepreneurs were hard at work building a service to give hospitality operators an edge.
The idea of Mr Yum was to give restaurants, bars and hotels the chance to improve customer convenience and spend through QR code ordering, along with delivery and pick-up options.
Fast forward just over two years later and the company - founded by Andrei Miulescu, Kim Teo, Kerry Osborn and Adrian Osman - has secured $11 million in a post-seed investment round backed by Brisbane-based TEN13 and Sydney-based AirTree Ventures.
The funds were joined by a varied and vibrant cohort of investors including Australian Venue Co, Myles Munro and Daragh Kan from 100 Burgers Group, music and events company Untitled Group, artist manager UNIFIED Music Group, basketball star Patty Mills, Linktree founders Anthony Zaccaria, Alex Zaccaria and Nick Humphreys, Andrew Banks of Shark Tank, acclaimed angel investor Matt Allen and electronic dance act Rüfüs Du Sol.
"When Kerry, Adrian, Andrei and I founded Mr Yum in late 2018, everyone thought we were crazy to be adding QR codes to printed menus," co-founder Kim Teo said in a statement today.
"QR codes were dead, so we had to add detailed instructions on the menus on how to hold your camera over the code to launch Mr Yum.
"Startups are all about making big, contrarian bets - we're glad (and a little relieved) this one paid off!"
Teo said the capital raise was a great validation for what the company was building, although at their core her team measure success by how much their customers grow with the help of "exceptional innovative features well ahead of other products".
The proof is in the paella (because who really eats pudding anymore?) with more than 1,000 venues in Australia and New Zealand now using Mr Yum, although Teo says the business is "only just getting started".
"Dreaming up how we can make the consumer experience 10x better and a more sustainable business model for venues is what we obsess about - and this fresh funding will allow us to execute on more of our crazy ideas!" she said.
"We're also excited about adding more new verticals than ever before - airports, stadiums, festivals and shopping centres."
She said the company's fast-growing team of 65 full-time staff was set to triple down on both growth and customer support this year, while also scaling a global presence in the UK.
"We're so grateful to have an amazing group of investors on our team who have blown us away with their big thinking, constructive support and valuable introductions," she said.
The post-seed investment round was led by TEN13, whose partner Stew Glynn is joining the Mr Yum board.
"We're so excited to support the team at Mr Yum, they continue to deliver on a product that has become hugely valuable for the reviving hospitality industry, their customers love them and the spectacular growth curve shows how much value they deliver," Glynn said.
"What's even more exciting is the special culture they are building at Mr Yum with a real love for the industry and their customers, bold plans, creative products, fast execution, and amazingly high-quality people joining the company - they have the core ingredients of what you need to become one of Australia's next breakout companies."
Australian VC firm, AirTree, took the other major position in the round.
"We're thrilled to partner with the Mr Yum team to support the evolution of the hospitality and entertainment industry. Mr Yum is one of the fastest growing startups we've ever worked with," AirTree Ventures partner James Cameron said.
"And, what's more impressive is that the majority of that growth has come from organic, word of mouth acquisition.
"This is what happens when you build a product that makes businesses more profitable, but also makes their customers rave about the experience to their friends."
Teo said additional highly respected partners from the hospitality, entertainment and tech sectors brought a breadth of experience and connections that will only make the team and product better.
"We're proud of our Aussie roots and Melbourne HQ, and this funding round opens doors for us to hire the top talent to build the future-state of Mr Yum," Teo said.Never miss a news update, subscribe here. Follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram and Twitter.
Business News Australia
Get our daily business news
Sign up to our free email news updates.
Help us deliver quality journalism to you.
As a free and independent news site providing daily updates
during a period of unprecedented challenges for businesses everywhere
we call on your support