A former DJ turned tech entrepreneur has launched a mobile order and pay start-up aimed at revolutionising how the hospitality industry works.
Prask Sutton is CEO of Wi5, a mobile order and pay solution based in London, that enhances the guest Wi-Fi for restaurants, cafes and pubs to enable customers to seamlessly place and pay for orders directly from the Wi-Fi splash page, without the need to download an app.
In two years he has raised almost £9 million in funding for the project and is now poised to go live.
Hospitality venues can engage their customers and generate additional revenue over their Wi-Fi network, with no barriers to entry. Other benefits from introducing the Wi5 solutioninclude reducing queue times and increasing operational efficiency.
Wi5 has recently finalised a deal with O2, which has helped immensely with the start-up’s UK strategy, with a ready-made market of over 26 million O2 Wi-Fi users and hundreds of merchants across the UK now available to them. Access to O2 was made easier through Wi5’s involvement with Wayra, Telefonica’s start-up accelerator. Since working in concert with O2, Wi5 is now focusing on restaurants, cafés and bars, having recently secured entertainment venue, Bounce London.
Founder of Wi5, Prask Sutton had an unconventional journey creating the mobile order & pay solution. Originally from Brixton, he studied Physics & Astronomy and Computer Science at University College London, but after graduating followed his passion for music and became a DJ in Sweden, where he ended up working for ten years.
Being a native English speaker, the DJ found himself helping a Swedish marketing agency write English copy. From that Prask developed a career in advertising, which evolved into a specialising in interaction design, first in Scandinavia and then globally. As a skilled creative technologist, Prask was soon helping international brands develop apps and other digital solutions for their customers but knew this was not the silver bullet that would get millions of people engaging via mobile, especially for impulse-driven and one-off engagements.
He now believes the time is right for mobile payments to transform the hospitality industry, with Wi5’s mobile order & pay solution offering much-needed convenience for modern dining customers.
Sutton says: “I was getting briefs from clients expecting customers to devote 15 minutes of their life to find an app, download and interact with it, all just to get a free sample of a can of drink. My team and I were developing world-class apps for companies who had invested millions, but still only had a few people downloading them globally. The ratio of effort-versus-reward just wasn’t making sense to me. That’s when I started making a concerted effort to think of a better solution.”
A self-confessed maverick, Sutton wanted to understand people’s behaviour and find a solution that integrates organically into that, rather than asking anything of them.
“I guess the part of my brain that should tell me something isn’t possible doesn’t exist,” he admits, “I knew I needed to address this flawed system of customer experience, but apps were so en vogue, with everyone was insisting they were the sole future of mobile interaction.
“I wanted to create a frictionless way for brands to interact with consumers, with no apps and no need for a certain type of device. The customer just needs to be present in a venue with their out-of-the-box device, then we’ll do the rest.”
From this idea, Sutton, having moved back to London, co-founded Wi5 with former colleague Jon Clarke, who became COO of Wi5.
He continues: “At first Jon and I put in some very long hours engineering and developing software to make our dream a reality. We were starting with events for large companies but had an appetite for scale. We reimagined the product as a Software as a Service offering and approached O2 Wi-Fi to secure a partnership with its parent company, Telefónica.”
For Sutton, the future is bright. He says: “The food & beverage sector and entertainment venues are just the tip of the iceberg for Wi5. We have our sights set on many other verticals and geographies, where Wi5 can solve real problems for both businesses and their end users. We’re still very much UK focused, but we definitely have global aspirations.”