The entrepreneur

With seemingly everyone carrying smartphones now, Swaptak Das couldn’t understand why no one had successfully figured out how to allow users to order items and have them delivered to wherever they are. He decided to develop such a system and spent the better part of five years working the kinks out of it at his D.C. nightclub, the Shadow Room.

“The concept has been around for awhile, but many other companies have not executed on this very well,” Das said. “We have now proven this solution can be done in a profitable model — unlike others who have come before us. Instead of rushing to market, we spent time developing our platform and processing over $13 million in sales through our system’s software.”

Das started his company in March 2013, and he’s initially focused on rolling out his mobile system at sports stadiums.

The pitch

Das, founder and chief executive of Dasdak

“We are a commerce platform. We started out at RFK Stadium. We provide a menu of a couple hundred items that you can order through your phone. You skip all the lines and have your order delivered to you directly at your seat, usually in less than five minutes.

Swaptak Das, founder of Dasdak

“We solve a problem in busy sports stadiums, where often there are not enough concessions stands to supply the demand for food and beverage, forcing fans to wait in long lines and miss a portion of the game. We also capture revenue that would have been missed sales for fans who don’t want to get out of their seats.

“For the sports industry, we actually fill orders of hundreds of menu items in a matter of minutes through a subsidiary company, located in the stadiums where we have contracts. For other industries, we offer a licensing model and train users. Fans log on through their phones, add food items or other purchases to their online cart through the platform, and minutes later receive delivery of their purchase at their seats. They pay a $1 fee for five hours of unlimited ordering, then a 15 percent delivery charge that includes gratuity.

“We started at RFK, grew to Nationals Park, and now we are at the Baltimore Ravens’ M&T Bank Stadium, the Superdome, George Washington University, the University of Florida and the Washington Convention Center.

“Our solution is white-labeled, so the site that users see looks and feels like the team’s site. Clients can add additional services as-needed on our system, such as mobile fan engagement and mobile ordering for team merchandise.

“Right now, we’re in the growth phase, meeting with a lot of potential clients, especially NFL clients, where there is a big push to make all stadiums WiFi connected, and teams are eager for solutions to help engage fans in the stadium.

“Our major focus right is how getting our data and our information in front of owners or companies to attain them as clients. How do we get that first meeting with the right people? It can be especially challenging if they have tried a previous solution that didn’t deliver the way we can. They may write us off as ‘another mobile ordering company.’ How do we get our foot in the door to change the perception?

The advice

Elana Fine, managing director of the Dingman Center of Entrepreneurship at the University of Maryland’s Robert H. Smith School of Business

“Your first step is to find out whose problem you are really solving. If it is my job to run profitable concessions, and I know fans are balking because of lines, I know I need to find a way to sell more peanuts and Cracker Jacks. Start with finding the right decision maker within the organization. Entrepreneurs often think they need a connection to the CEO or another high-ranking person, but often it is a middle manager whose job is on the line for their division. Your customer is likely the vice president of concessions or a similar title, and you need to do anything you can to find out if they’ve tried other vendors, what didn’t work, and how badly they need to solve this problem.

“Make their decision easy and with little risk (your current installed customer base should assuage some concerns, but they will still be worried about making a decision with a unknown company). Your current business model still seems like a big commitment for the stadium because of the training, so I’d consider a pilot that requires lower commitment. Is there a Dasdak pop-up shop where you take on more of the risk, bring the delivery staff and share any revenue with the stadium? If they aren’t happy, no love lost and you’ll be gone before the next game.

“Or consider partnering with a professional food services contractor, such as Aramark, who also benefits from increased sales. They might be able to bring you to more locations and vouch for you to the right people.