Expat couple on launching their restaurant app, Kadusia
April 15, 2017
Entrepreneur Snapshot
  • Founder: Belen Garcia + Jean Payan
  • Company: Kadusia
  • From: US/Argentina + France
  • Lived in: Singapore, Australia, United States
  • Current location New York, New York
  • Favorite book: Rayuela by Julio Cortazar

Key takeaway: In my life, I focus on the other side of ‘What if.’ What if [the risk] goes right? If it goes wrong, so what? I’ll move on to the next thing. But what about all the possibilities if it goes really well?” Belen Garcia

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Jess Ainlay: Thanks so much for having me here. Let’s kick things off with how you ended up in New York?

Jean Payan: : I am originally from France, and was working as a trader there. In 2005, I went to Asia with work. My role was pretty vital for the company, so when I expressed interest in spending time in New York in 2008, my boss allowed me to work from here. I ended up having to go back to Asia, but in 2010, I again came to New York to work as a hedge fund manager - and have been here ever since.

Belen Garcia: I was actually born in the United States, but we moved to Argentina after I was born. I followed in my father’s footsteps and did a year of high school in California, in college I studied abroad in Australia and then traveled in South East Asia for a couple of months afterward.

During my flight back to Argentina, where I was going to go back and get a job, I had a layover in DC. I decided to extend my layover and look for a job. Argentina wasn’t great for starting my finance career, anyway.

Jess Ainlay: How did you make that decision to go off your planned path?

Belen Garcia: I was in South East Asia and I just had this feeling - I didn’t feel like going back to Argentina. I had only a little bit of money left, so instead of blowing all my money in South East Asia, I became the ultimate budget backpacker and saved every penny. I started eating only street food, staying in super cheap hostels. With the extra money I saved, I could job hunt in the US for a while.

Jess Ainlay: How would you describe the feeling of taking that risk?

Belen Garcia: Empowering. It was so empowering to know I was in control of my fate, even though people around me kept asking me ‘what if.’ ‘What if it goes wrong?!” In my life, I focus on the other side of ‘What if.’ What if it goes right? If it goes wrong, so what. I’ll move on to the next thing. But what about all the possibilities if it goes really well? What if I moved to the US and got a job in New York?

And that’s exactly what I did. I got a job with a consulting company in New York City.

Jess Ainlay: Jean, how have you handled working and living abroad as an expat?

Belen Garcia: I’m actually quite used to it. We moved around a lot as a kid - every two years we moved to a different country.

Jess Ainlay: So you’re more of a serial expat type than a traveler.

Belen Garcia: Yes, Belen has had much more of that ‘crazy backpacker’ life than I ever have. She backpacked through a Peruvian war zone, for example. That’s something I’ve certainly never done. For Belen and I both, our parents have also lived abroad, so it’s just second nature for us.

Jess Ainlay: Where is home?

Well, I’m from France, Belen is from Argentina, our kids are growing up in America speaking Spanish, French and English, so we could really live anywhere at this point. But New York is home. I have an unconditional love for New York.

Belen Garcia: New York is a perfect ecosystem. People come here to experience whatever it is that they want to experience. No one comes here to retire - you come to experiment, to form yourself. To make your mark.

Jess Ainlay: How did your travels prepare you for the entrepreneurial lifestyle you have now?

Belen Garcia: With Kadusia, I have to go into restaurants and ask people a lot of questions. That means going and knocking on doors, making conversation with people of all backgrounds and walks of life. If I had always been in a corporate environment, I don’t know how comfortable I would be doing that. Travel also taught me to be super resourceful. My ability to be flexible and do things differently can be directly attributed to the time I spent as that ‘crazy backpacker’ I suppose.

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Jess Ainlay: Jean, you live in New York, you have a very high-level job, a beautiful wife, two adorable young kids. Where in the world did you get the idea to become an entrepreneur and build an app?

Jean Payan: The truth is, we are really always thinking about building a business. We’ve had a few ideas, of course, but when we saw the gap in the restaurant market, we decided to work toward finding a solution for it.

Jess Ainlay: How do you divide the roles with Belen?

Jean Payan: I am the CEO, but Kadusia is really Belen’s baby. She works full time on the app. My brother is our Chief Technology Officer.

Jess Ainlay: Let’s shift gears and talk about your startup! What is Kadusia?

Belen Garcia: Kadusia is an app that creates loyalty between restaurant owners and customers using yield management functionality similar to the airline industry.

We knew we wanted to start an app, and we’ve watched our friends in the restaurant business having financial difficulties and making such sacrifices, and yet 80-90% of restaurants fail within the first two years. We started talking to waiters, bartenders, owners and learned that the window to ‘make it’ is incredibly short. It’s hard to cut through the noise for people to find out about you, to gain loyal customers and get a great reputation in that time.

Jean Payan: The hotel and travel industries employ the method of yield management to their business models, which means that businesses change different prices depending on whether they are busy or not. The restaurant industry doesn’t have that. But why not? It is a very sustainable win-win method that works in other industries, so why not in restaurants. Success requires you being able to be flexible and have control over your own business strategy.

That’s how we decided to create a yield management tool for restaurants.

Jess Ainlay: How is that different to Groupon?

Jean Payan: When a restaurant lists on Groupon, they do not have any control over what time guests come or how many people come in a day to use the coupon. Retention with Groupon is also a challenge - you are getting customers who are more interested in getting something inexpensive than being loyal to your restaurant.

I believe in creating sustainable win-wins. Enticing customers to come during normally ‘off peak’ times with ‘off peak’ prices and specials to fill up the restaurant, but also focusing on the relationship between the restaurant and the client – that’s what we are interested in cultivating.

Making someone a regular takes a lot of work. You need to allow restaurants to communicate with those people.

Jess Ainlay: Aren’t low hours inevitable? Don’t people just tend to eat at certain times?

Jean Payan: Historically, of course that was the case. But now the flexibility created in the new economy - in terms of freelancers, work from home, people eat all hours of day. People on both sides can have a good experience, being able to promote and having a better business.

Jess Ainlay: Let’s shift gears a bit and talk about the fact that you are still pre-launch. You have a family to take care of, why have you decided to take this big risk?

Jean Payan: We minimize that risk in various ways. First, I work full-time during the day, and I work on Kadusia evenings and weekends. Belen is not receiving a salary so we are assuming a financial risk, but still the time and emotional commitment are the real risks. We have set family time between 6-8:30pm. I am, however, incredibly tired. Between the full-time, high pressure job, two little ones and a start-up on the side, I’m actually nodding off in the middle of the day, so I am feeling the pain.

Jess Ainlay: Being in New York also has to add a little stress to this, too. It’s a very intense place to live.

Jean Payan: On the contrary, I don’t feel like we could do this in any other country/city quite the same.

First, there is a huge entrepreneur community here, so we have a bunch of fellow entrepreneurs to lean on. If we were in Buenos Aires, we couldn’t possibly pull this off at the same pace.

Belen Garcia: Most importantly, you have 24,000 restaurants in New York. It is the perfect laboratory to test our theories. If we can get a strong amount of restaurants participating here, we can get a real sense of proof of concept before trying to roll it out to other cities. We should have that within the month, so we’re very excited about that.

Jess Ainlay: Thank you so much for taking the time to share your story and for the peek inside what it takes to get an app off the ground in New York City.

Best of luck to you both!

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