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Young Change Makers: Why and How Alex Canter Is Helping To Change Our World – Authority Magazine

By April 12, 2021May 13th, 2021No Comments
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We’ve wanted to give back since Day 1 when we realized we can leverage our network to do good for the communities that we serve. Although we are a venture-backed company, we’ve managed to align our company with investors who also care about giving back. We believe that our work delivering meals to hospitalized children of restaurant workers and their families exemplifies the power of delivery and hospitality.

As part of my series about young people who are making an important social impact”, I had the pleasure of interviewing Alex Canter.

Alex is a restaurant industry innovator, in-demand speaker, and passionate advocate for restaurant operators and workers. He was raised in the kitchen of the world-famous Canter’s Deli in Los Angeles, where he and his team invented Ordermark. A fourth-generation restaurateur, the restaurant business has been in Alex’s blood for over 90 years. In addition to being the visionary and leader of Ordermark, Alex is active with the Techstars network and enjoys mentoring other restaurant technology entrepreneurs and occasional angel investing. He is a 2019 recipient of the Forbes 30 Under 30 and Fast Casual Executive’s Top 25. Alex previously led several technology ventures and most recently, Ordermark announced the close of its $120M Series C funding round led by Softbank.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit. Can you tell us a bit how you grew up?

I grew up as the 4th generation of Canter’s Deli, a very large and well-known restaurant in Los Angeles. It was a very interesting upbringing. As a kid, everyone in the restaurant used to call me “Mini Patron”, which later I learned meant little boss. I loved working as a waiter, and eventually worked my way up through all the different positions. I enjoyed running around to restaurant conferences, signing up for everything and experimenting with new technology.

Is there a particular book or organization that made a significant impact on you growing up? Can you share a story or explain why it resonated with you so much?

I enjoyed the book Outliers. I was always fascinated by statistics, and loved learning about correlations. It eventually influenced me to want to study economics at UW-Madison, despite neither of my parents attending college.

How do you define “Making A Difference”? Can you explain what you mean or give an example?

Value creation. When we drive incremental orders into restaurants, sometimes it can be the difference between keeping their doors open or not. This means keeping hard-working restaurant workers employed, and neighborhoods and communities thriving. When we get letters from our restaurant customers telling us that we are literally saving their businesses, it keeps our team motivated. Our goal is to create a massive impact on the industry that we serve, by not just advancing it forward with technology, but making the restaurant model more sustainable.

Ok super. Let’s now jump to the main part of our interview. You are currently leading an organization that aims to make a social impact. Can you tell us a bit about what you and your organization are trying to change in our world today?

We are trying to create a more sustainable restaurant industry while giving back along the way. Our industry employs over 20 million people in the US, and unfortunately has been one of the hardest hit industries as a result of COVID. We are excited to offer a solution that’s helping restaurants to navigate the digital shift and come out stronger.

As a company, we also have found creative ways to leverage our network of restaurants and strong relationships with delivery companies to launch Ordermark Cares. Our mission with this program is to deliver meals to thousands of hospitalized children of restaurant workers that are not able to visit the restaurants that they love in-person.

Can you tell us the backstory about what inspired you to originally feel passionate about this cause?

We’ve wanted to give back since Day 1 when we realized we can leverage our network to do good for the communities that we serve. Although we are a venture-backed company, we’ve managed to align our company with investors who also care about giving back. We believe that our work delivering meals to hospitalized children of restaurant workers and their families exemplifies the power of delivery and hospitality.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. They don’t get up and just do it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and do it? What was that final trigger?

I come from an old-school family business where I was told “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” I really was passionate about showing that change could be good, and enjoyed opening my family’s eyes to the benefits of technology. If you are not absolutely passionate about the problem you are solving as an entrepreneur, eventually inevitable roadblocks and hurdles will burn you out.

Many young people don’t know the steps to take to start a new organization. But you did. What are some of the things or steps you took to get your project started?

One of the first foundational steps is a great founding team. It is extremely difficult to start a company alone. We had 4 original co-founders, and added some engineers that we also considered co-founders very early on. It is scary to go all-in on a new unproven business venture, especially knowing that you likely won’t be seeing a paycheck for a while. Luckily we were able to connect with some great angel/seed investors within the first year to help fuel our growth.

Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you began leading your company or organization?

There were some really challenging moments along the journey, from key people leaving, to lawsuits, to funding rounds falling through, but all of it makes the wins feel even more meaningful.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson or take away you learned from that?

The first version of our product was not built for enterprise customers, but we tried to deploy our system into larger restaurant groups anyways. Back in the first year of our business during daylight savings time, the clock jumped an hour, and it completely threw off our entire backend system which meant orders were no longer flowing into dozens of restaurants. This was a wake-up call moment that we needed to redo our backend systems and bring on our first full-time senior engineers to ensure we were enterprise-ready.

None of us can be successful without some help along the way. Did you have mentors or cheerleaders who helped you to succeed? Can you tell us a story about their influence?

Since the beginning of our journey, we’ve been collecting an amazing group of mentors/advisors/investors to prevent us from making great mistakes. As a first-time CEO, you face many challenges that are uncomfortable and unfamiliar, and I’ve leaned hard on my network to help me get through some really tough moments. At one point, we were trying to make a decision whether or not to expand our product offering to virtual restaurants, and there were some great conversations with board members and early advisors that led us in the right direction to move forward with Nextbite, our virtual restaurant offering. .

Without saying specific names, can you tell us a story about a particular individual who was impacted or helped by your cause?

One of our earliest investors helped us negotiate some of our biggest partner contracts. This meant walking me through the redline, and helping me understand how to negotiate these complex agreements. I likely would have signed some of these docs along the way without understanding some of the long term impact to our business and valuation.

Are there three things the community/society/politicians can do to help you address the root of the problem you are trying to solve?

  • Local communities can help support their local neighborhood restaurants by ordering regularly.
  • The Federal government can give greater support to struggling restaurants during this difficult time.
  • Local governments can help educate consumers of the benefits to the overall economy of supporting restaurants.

Fantastic. Here is the main question of the interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? (Please share a story or example for each).

  • Work with a CEO coach early and often.
  • Don’t hire assholes.
  • Fake it til you make it.
  • Only hire smarter people than you.
  • Never get complacent. Business is about continuous experimentation.

If you could tell other young people one thing about why they should consider making a positive impact on our environment or society, like you, what would you tell them?

Since most of your waking time is spent at work, you might as well enjoy what you do, and feel good while doing it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would like to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Jeff Bezos. I love how customer obsessed he is.

How can our readers follow you online?
https://www.linkedin.com/in/alex-canter-ordermark
Instagram: @deliboyswag

This was very meaningful, thank you so much. We wish you only continued success on your great work!

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