The pandemic has been terrible for the restaurant industry. But that hasn’t
stopped tech startup Superb or its founder and CEO Zaedo Musa. Superb is a guest
experience management platform that created the first OS for restaurants.
Despite this being a tough time for restaurants, Superb has found great traction
and is being used by restaurants worldwide.
Zaedo joined mid-stage startup coach Roland Siebelink on the latest edition of
the Silicon Valley Momentum Podcast. They discussed Zaedo’s history in the
restaurant industry and how that experience has helped him make headway with
restaurant-based software during a difficult time for the industry.
- How Superb improves the guest experience and drives repeat business for restaurants.
- Why having a brand in mind from the start is essential for startup success.
- Why doubling-down on their roadmap was the right move for Superb when the pandemic hit.
- Superb’s journey to becoming a market leader in a new category.
- How niching down and starting small is the right move for companies with big aspirations.
- Why money should not be the most important criteria in the search for investors.
Roland Siebelink:Hello, and welcome to the Silicon Valley Momentum Podcast.
I am Roland Siebelink and I'm a scaleup ally for tech founders. And I have a
very interesting tech founder in the remote studio with me today. And that's
Zaedo Musa, the founder and CEO of Superb dialing into us from Copenhagen.
Hello, Zaedo. How are you?
Zaedo Musa:Hi, Roland. It's a big pleasure. Thank you so much. I'm good.
Roland Siebelink:Zaedo, to cut a long story short, tell us about Superb.
What do you do? What's your product and what difference do you make for whom in
Zaedo Musa:Superb is what we call a guest experience management platform or
a GXM. We are the world's first OS for restaurants. What we have done is simply
taken the most business-critical tools a restaurant needs to drive revenue and
manage the guest experience.
We've connected them all into one seamless platform. And we allow the restaurant
to simply collect the data they need to be able to build guest profiles, to do
upsells, to be able to manage their reputation, and so on. And also collect the
business data they need to manage the health of their restaurant.
Roland Siebelink:Okay. Can you explain a little bit more about what
concrete features or data that you actually have in the platform that makes a
difference compared to just the standard reservation solutions or some of the
other companies you must be competing with?
Zaedo Musa:When I looked at this market initially - I was part of building
Joe & the Juice, which you might know. It has arrived in the US. It's now a
global juice chain with a pink logo. Back then we saw that the key to driving
revenue and the key to making the guest come back was to remember small details
about them. It would be the name of their kids. It would be which kind of coffee
they would order and so on.
Obviously, back then, we did not know who the customer was when they came in.
And when I left that, we had around 200 juice bars. I looked at the restaurant
industry and I saw, "Do you know what? They actually have reservation systems.
You know who the customer is or the guest is before they arrive." And then I was
thinking, "Okay, they must have solved this problem. There must be so much
information hiding behind the system when you make a reservation." The reality
was that restaurants are using fragmented tools that they're trying to
integrate. But integrations do not really work and do not allow the transfer of
data between them.
I was really surprised how little information they actually had. The market is
very much influenced by legacy software that has been around for 20 years. And
you haven't seen that much innovation in the restaurant industry other than
maybe delivery services, delivery apps, and so on. And what we basically thought
of doing was initially to integrate all the tools the restaurant uses in one
dashboard that could somehow create this funnel of guest insights and business
insights that they could use to really control their business and the
Today, Superb is a native all-in-one platform for restaurants. We really
differentiate ourselves from the competition, especially in the US, by being a
platform fueled by native products connected to each other.
Roland Siebelink:Talk a little bit about your background, if you will,
Zaedo. You already mentioned you were with that juice chain that grew
enormously. You must have experienced that big growth. And what did you study?
Who did you work with in your first experiences? Tell us a little bit more about
Zaedo Musa:I've always been active in the startup field. I was the type of
entrepreneur who built whatever funny idea I got into my head. I've built
everything from an e-commerce business that ships products all over Europe to
building a platform that got hacked three times from China.
And while I was studying - I studied business administration and IT management
degree at Copenhagen Business School. I couldn't see myself ending up as a
consultant or something like that. I really had that eagerness to solve a
problem. I started actually working initially at Joe & the Juice. We built that
from four or five juice bars to 200. We hired more than a hundred people, fired
maybe half of them and grew that to several markets before I started Superb.
Roland Siebelink:What would you say is the big difference between running a
restaurant business, especially a franchise chain, it sounds like, versus more
of a software company?
Zaedo Musa:For Joe & the Juice, the brand was everything. And I definitely
think founders that built their startups and companies, specifically at the
startup stage, if they don't think branding from Day One, I really think they
will fail in building a big company. When I was at Joe & the Juice, I really
noticed that the brand had an enormous impact on the people working there. They
really put the brand under their skin and the brand values.
That is pretty similar to what I've transferred to Superb. We are building a
category, a new category of the market. We call it guest experience management.
For building an extra category and really fueling that, making the market
accepted, you also need a strong brand positioning. That's one of the key
elements that we are doing right.
Roland Siebelink:Talk about your traction a little bit. When did you
actually get started with Superb? When did the first product come to market? And
how far have you proceeded so far?
Zaedo Musa:Superb launched in the end of 2017 and in less than eight weeks,
we drove it into the first 10 customers and basically generated revenue after
that. That was really amazing. And I remember we hit around five, six, five,
seven thousand US dollars MRR before we raised a $1.5 million round from a few
Danish investors. And that's really where it took off. We started to build an
organization. We started to improve the product.
I would like to say since then everything is history. We had some good years. We
grew organically. Globally, we had restaurants using the platform in Guatemala,
Mexico, the U S Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and so on and so forth. But then
reality also strikes and you realize it's amazing to grow globally. You
celebrate it every time. But you also need to build up a base and really
consolidate your position on the market. Since then, we have become an industry
leader in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and Italy. We are probably the platform used
by the most top restaurants in Europe.
Obviously, then comes the big question with COVID and how that has impacted the
Roland Siebelink:What is COVID? I'm not sure I've heard about it. No, I'm
just kidding. That must have been a big rethink for Superb because we all know,
of course, restaurants and travel business have been affected immensely by the
pandemic. What happened there and how have you pulled yourselves through that?
Zaedo Musa:One of the key things I saw many restaurant platforms do around
the first lockdown was they quickly pivoted into becoming takeaway platforms.
Either they refocused their product roadmap for the rest of 2020 on building
takeaway tech or integrations to those models. What Superb did was we actually
took another route. We doubled down on our product roadmap. We even increased
the engineering team with six, seven new people and the rest of the team also.
And, just Had a laser-sharp focus on our roadmap.
We have a food pickup feature. We had that before, even. But instead of becoming
a takeaway solution, we assumed that it would be a trend that restaurants would
jump onto and then shortly after they would want to go back to their normal
business. Luckily for us, reality was that the customer segment that we are
targeting thought it was fun to do take away the first month. But since then, it
was easier for them to get compensation from their governments rather than
continue doing it. Superb has grown plus 100% since the first lockdown. We've
had an insanely amazing year in 2020 despite working with restaurants.
Roland Siebelink:That's amazing in this environment to keep growing, to
keep doubling - indeed doubling down. That's a very good strategy, right?
I wanted to go back a little bit to what you said in honing in on your best
customers. This is an area where we have a lot of discussions with founders. It
sounds like in your experience, you went from more of a focus on your total
available market, more to your actually serviceable available markets, right?
Can you run us a little bit more through the thought process there, especially
how you think about that if you were to advise other founders on a similar
thought process? Why is it so important to hone in from that worldwide big
opportunity to more of a market leadership position, as I understand it.
Zaedo Musa:As a founder, and especially sometimes I remember also as a
first time founder, it's very easy to get over excited about the first
customers, and the opportunity worldwide, and growing and so on. And I think
it's healthy. I really believe that some of the most successful founders that
have built billion dollar companies, they had that mentality from Day One. They
really want to build a global business and have to constrain themselves.
But I think it's very important for startups to - that follows exactly the same
strategy that we had to both learn the hard way but also since then have really
done well - is that you need to zoom in. You need to not focus on the total
addressable market and think you can build a one-size-fits-all product. And I
really see that with the Saas wave, we've seen a lot of software companies that
really try to do this to obviously improve the unit economics, the market
sizing, maybe impressive investors. But you need to really zoom in on your
specific segment to be successful.
They're not even the early adopters. They are the ones that are going to drive
your market bigger. That was also the strategy with my thought process of
becoming a market leader. I said, "Let's build a category." Let's not tap into
the reservations category or the point of sale category or the payments
category. Let's make the specific addressable market understand what is the
vision that we are actually doing and put it in a more understandable way for
them with the category.
Roland Siebelink:How do you reconcile that in your head between that huge
vision of we want to be so great worldwide, it's amazing to have restaurants in
Guatemala using our platform, versus let's just focus on these long-term
customers that will stay with us hopefully forever and make them understand.
That's much more of a niche approach and under-the-surface approach. That must
be hard as a founder to reconcile those.
Zaedo Musa:Very hard, very hard. And especially when you just start up,
that's not the initial mentality you have. You just want to get out there. But I
really believe in the notion of niching down. Niching down allows you to be the
best in that niche. And then you can always grow out. I even will argue it gives
you a better focus and a better overview after you've excelled for a specific
That's also why by niching down, Superb is the best out there. We have all the
advanced features - not built for the low end segment of the market - but built
for the casual to top end of the market. We have just started tapping into big
restaurant groups and so on. That has never been the target, even though it's a
super-attractive customer, because you can easily grow into 50 restaurants with
one sale. It's really a discipline, I would say, to learn to manage yourself,
especially as a CEO because whatever you do transfers over to how your team
thinks and sells and so on.
Roland Siebelink: Zaedo, you were saying that you are pre-Series A, and I
think in the pre-conversation you said you were looking at raising some funds,
possibly this year. What's your strategy there? How's it going? What kind of
investors are you looking for?
Zaedo Musa:The strategy is - we look at investors that have touched upon
vertical SaaS platforms out there. Platforms that offer a broad suite with the
tools that otherwise would be fragmented. And I think that Superb, I would say,
is a part FinTech and a part SaaS product. And our business model and product
value reflect that. We have a pretty strong case there.
It is obviously tough to raise money for a restaurant software platform in the
middle of a pandemic. It is super tough. But as I told you before, the VC market
is split into either they love it and see a huge opportunity and understand that
a huge boom in business is coming right or they completely do not touch
platforms operating in the travel industry or hospitality industry.
Roland Siebelink:Do you find that VCs are more looking to differentiate and
they are trying to be smart and invest before others? Or do you find, as I hear
so often, that it's more of a herd mentality and they all jump to the same
targets at the same time?
Zaedo Musa:Yeah, I would say probably 80, 90%, they follow the trend. And
there they are part of shaping that trend. Whatever is invested the most money
in today is the hottest industry. I think now people are looking at ghost
kitchens as the next big thing after delivery apps.
But that's okay. I think there's enough money out there. I think it's a matter
of finding the right investor. And I'm okay with the last 10% of the market
being potentially the right investor for Superb.
Roland Siebelink:When you as a founder start looking at all these possible
funds and angels that could invest, what are your selection criteria? If you had
the luxury of picking between a number of investors, which would be the ones who
pick? What criteria are the most important?
Zaedo Musa:There's a lot of money out there. I don't see that being the
number one criteria. Everyone has that attribute. What I actually look at is, I
look a lot on the investors that have spent their time within the specific
segment. For example, the hospitality or leisure industry. I look at that
because that's relevant for Superb. It's about not wasting time, obviously.
Then also look at the people behind, right? I look at how the teams are shaped
at the different VC firms. Is it two partners and 10 associates or is it six
partners and two investment managers and then one associate and one analyst? I
think there's an interesting dynamic there to look into. It says something about
Roland Siebelink:You built a lot of experience, Zaedo, first with the juice
company and now with your own company. Yet, being a CEO and founder can be a bit
of a lonely position sometimes, right? Where do you go for advice for getting
new energy, for new insights?
Zaedo Musa:I have an amazing team that really gives me the energy. And I
think if you walk into Joe & the Juice, you'll hear the music pumping. And what
I do is - Superb went all remote. We started during the pandemic, now we're a
remote company. And you really need to find that energy yourself. What I do is I
just put the music on and try to simulate it somehow. And it automatically
somehow becomes real. I really try to find the excitement in what I'm doing. I
have the freedom to do what I want. And then I talk to people like you. I think
that's pretty exciting.
Roland Siebelink:For me too.
Zaedo Musa:Yeah. It's amazing. I think you need to find the opportunities
yourself to keep getting smarter and keep getting motivated and stuff like that.
Roland Siebelink:Excellent. So much more to uncover there. But since we're
almost running out of time, my last question to you, Zaedo, is what advice would
you give to founders coming behind you that are just starting on their journey,
that may have just started to reach some degree of product-market fit? What are
some of the key learnings you have built over the years that you would like to
impart to other founders?
Zaedo Musa:I think one thing - I try to read at least one book every month.
That's not necessarily my advice. I'll always advise people to read and learn.
What I noticed across all those books, giving you so much advice on how you
build the company, how you excel in specific areas, is that there's some kind of
pattern that - in regards to what we talked about - you really need to think
big, but you also need to start small.
Don't think big and start big; that that's not a good combo. Thinking big,
starting small, and being super strong on that niche is the key to success from
my perspective. When I talk to founders today, I really tell them you probably
will have to think big and you probably will have to start big and you will
probably have to make that mistake to even think like I do.
Wow. You can save a lot of time by actually being really good, very small in a
niche where you can control the agenda, you decide what they need and build
innovation, and then outgrow that.
Roland Siebelink:I can feel your book hitting the shelves already, Zaedo,
"Niching down." I love that title already. And you're right. It's about being
able to reconcile in your head the dream with the actual reality on the ground.
And that's not something many people can pull off, right?
Zaedo Musa:And then I think the last part is more on the humane side. What
I did early on was I really wanted to be a founder. I really had this idea that
I had to work 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and so on. But I've never been
as productive, as happy and as energetic as when I cut down and I just said,
"I've accepted I don't have a nine-to-five job." That's not what I'm saying. I'm
working all day long and work is part of my life. But really taking the time
off, allows you also to recover. It allows you to reload. When there's a
Christmas break, try to actually take the Christmas break off and see how much
magic happens from that. You really come back as a new person for the new year.
Roland Siebelink:Excellent advice, Zaedo. I really appreciate it.
Zeado, if people want to hear more about Superb, where should they go? Is there
a specific piece of content that you recommend they download? And if you're
hiring, what kind of people are you looking for?
Zaedo Musa:They can always, if they would like to hear me speaking even
more, they could go to the Experience Matters Podcast on Spotify and Apple. They
can also visit our website superbexperience.com. Find me on LinkedIn, connect
with me, ask me questions. I'm very open to sharing any advice that I can and to
I think that in regards to the careers page, right now, we have some positions
open and they can find them via our website in the footer. We have an ambitious
plan to grow to around 150 people in the next year. We are looking for global
talent and we want to hire the best. Feel free to reach out to me if you think
you're one of those.
Roland Siebelink:That's excellent. Very good, Zaedo. And, of course, if
you're investors or other people that like to be professionally interested in
Superb, then I'm also happy to provide an introduction to Zaedo. Part of the
Thank you so much, Zaedo Musa of Superb, founder and CEO, calling us from
Copenhagen today and on the road to raising an amazing Series A for this
experience management category for top end restaurants.
Zaedo Musa:Exactly. Thank you so much, Roland. It was a big pleasure.
Roland Siebelink:Thank you everyone.
Roland Siebelink talks all things tech startup and bring you interviews with tech cofounders
across the world.