Any real pizza lover knows the difference between local mom and pop pizzerias and big pizza chains. While the big pizza chains often have the resources to stay more technologically relevant and have the resources to run local shops out of town, one company is fighting for the local shops. Slice, the leading pizza ordering platform, provides an online pickup and delivery platform, a reliable payment platform as well as 24/7-customer service. With Americans consuming 350 slices of pizza every second, it is no question that people want to support their favorite shops, and Slice is here to make that happen!
AlleyWatch chatted with founder and CEO Ilir Sela about the Slice and how they secured their first round of funding.
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
We raised a Series B round from GGV Capital totaling $15M.
Tell us about your product or service.
Slice is the leading online and mobile pizza ordering platform that connects every pizza lover with their favorite authentic, local pizzeria. Customers can find pizza near them, place an order through Slice’s website, iOS or Android app, and check out with a stored payment method or Apple Pay, making the process as easy and quick as possible. Slice also champions local pizzerias in over 2,000 cities nationwide by giving them the tools, personalized marketing, and exposure to grow their business and maintain control of their brand. Every order is supported by Slice’s 24/7 customer service team to ensure all orders are successfully processed.
What inspired you to start the company?
Growing up in Staten Island, I was surrounded by pizzeria owners, like my parents and family friends, who asked me to help publish their menus online. Then, a couple of friends started asking about online ordering. It led me to start speaking to more and more local shop owners — all independently owned and operated — where I discovered that they relied on the telephone and paper, old-time methods that were inefficient and unreliable. That’s when I decided to launch Slice. I wanted to help alleviate some of the challenges faced by smaller mom-and-pop shops, and help to grow their businesses by making ordering more efficient, creating connections with new, loyal customers, and providing them with the technology and marketing needed to compete with big chains.
How is it different?
Slice is a loyalty driven platform. We want customers to continue ordering from their local pizzerias. We aren’t about discovery or pushing new food trends on you, we’re about making it easier to get your favorite pie, whether it’s pickup or delivery. Slice is the first end-to-end company that’s specifically focused on one food vertical — pizza. We take care of the ordering, the pickup/delivery, the payment, and the customer service with one consistent experience.
What market you are targeting and how big is it?
We’re targeting the U.S. pizza market, which is a $45 billion industry. Local pizza operations now account for 62% of all pizzerias in the country, and we want to help them compete with big chains.
What’s your business model?
We operate mainly as a Business to Consumer, connecting local shops throughout the nation with their customers. However, Slice is the only full-service marketing and tech platform dedicated specifically to pizzerias — making it a true partnership with our restaurants.
Did you ever think in your wildest dreams that your pizza company would have the valuation that it has now?
I did not. This all started as a way to help family and friends build their businesses and connect with their customers. I didn’t realize how big the pizza industry is and how much local pizzerias account for it. I couldn’t be happier with this growth, and the fact that we get to help more and more local mom-and-pop shops maximize their business, increase sales, and build deeper relationships with their customers.
What was the funding process like?
The whole process was incredibly exciting. I was able to meet so many amazing and smart people and kicked off some of the best relationships I have to this day. That’s really the key: you have to find the right partners and build successful relationships. Surround yourself with top talent, exceptional do-ers, and focus on building something great together. It was also very educational. I learned a lot about the tech community in general and how to identify solutions within my own business. It really forces you to dig deep and learn about yourself and your company.
What are the biggest challenges that you faced while raising capital?
Communicating our business model, because it’s revolutionary. Slice is the very first vertical approach towards solving problems in the food tech space. The number one challenge was conveying to the community exactly how this new model works, what we do, and why it’s helpful. We had to keep people from putting us in an aggregator bucket or an SAS bucket because we’re actually in between.
What factors about your business led your investors to write the check?
The fact that we’re still growing and continuing to add pizzerias to our platform. We currently have over 6,000 pizzerias on our platform and are partnering with major companies like Facebook and Google to make the ordering process faster and easier for consumers.
What are the milestones you plan to achieve in the next six months?
- Expand our network and the number of restaurant partners
- Continue to build out a world-class team
- Continue to develop and establish Slice as the number one in pizza ordering
What advice can you offer companies in New York that do not have a fresh injection of capital in the bank?
It’s all about efficiency. Whether you do or don’t have new capital, your core values on running and operating your business shouldn’t change. A cash infusion should never alter your business model. Always be looking for ways to increase efficiency and eliminate waste within your operations.
Where do you see the company going now over the near term?
We aim to deepen our pizza network, adding more pizzerias each day while entering more cities and metro areas, and growing the best, most talented team in tech.
Where is your favorite bar in the city for an after work drink?
Pergola. On 28th Street. When we had our first office in the city, Pergola was right across from us. Our space was tiny, with really nowhere to hang out, so we started heading over to Pergola to after work to socialize. As we grew the team, it became our go-to spot.