Jade Chiles's lightbulb moment happened in a lineup at Rogers Place on Jan. 29, 2020.
He had left his seat five minutes before the end of the period during a game between the Oilers and Flames, hoping to avoid the crowd at the concession stand. He was not the only one with this idea. So he was not alone in his regret as the roar of the crowd alerted him to what he was missing: a fight between the normally peaceful Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Sean Monahan.
Now, your mileage may vary on whether fighting belongs in hockey. But it was a moment that Chiles didn't want to miss. And it got him thinking.
"How, in 2020, do we still have these issues?" he said on Episode 27 of Bloom. "Tap one button, and you have a car that shows up. You tap one button, your hotel is booked. But I can't order ahead or have my order delivered to me."
That led to the creation of Ordr, an app that allows fans to order food, drinks, or merch from the stands, turning every seat into a point of sale. He and co-founder Evan Wain have been fairly quiet, but Ordr is starting to make waves now, with integration with stadium software provider SpotOn and deals with various teams and leagues, including the Canadian Elite Basketball League, home of the Edmonton Stingers.
They started work on Ordr just a few weeks before COVID-19 shut down practically every sport. That might seem like a setback, but the timing was actually perfect, said Chiles. It gave the team a chance to do market research and figure out how to differentiate themselves from competitors such as Yinzcam, StadiumDrop, and SEATSERVE.
"We actually built the company through the pandemic and launched it on the tail end, while our competition was hemorrhaging capital to keep their doors open, while all of these venues were closed across the globe."
They haven't hit the big leagues yet, but they have broken into the U.S. market, with Ordr in operation for the Chicago Sky of the WNBA, as well as a lacrosse team in Dallas, Texas, and a minor-league baseball team in Gwinnett, Georgia.
Chiles said his first foray into entrepreneurship was through dropshipping LED headlights after he found a market for a Malaysian brand that was otherwise prohibitively expensive. After that, he got involved in a startup called LoadErUp that aimed to be like Uber for delivering furniture and such. That venture fell down on the technical side of things, he said.
"We never had a fully finished app that was in the app store that worked how it should."
He found a technical co-founder in Wain, a computer science teacher in Leduc. Now they both work full-time for Ordr from an office in Scotia Place. They raised $100,000 from friends and family, and parlayed that into about $1 million from angel investors, Chiles said. They've got more fundraising on their roadmap, but they're concentrating on keeping their current customers happy and getting more, including Rogers Place, they hope.
Ordr is getting some help from Patrick La Forge, former president and CEO of the Oilers, who had his own lightbulb moment in line at a Spruce Grove Saints game. He saw an Ordr sign while he waited, scanned in the QR code, and placed his order. "He picked up his food before the person in front of him had even gotten to the till to order, and that kind of clicked for him," Chiles said. "He's like, 'OK, this is cool.'"
Learn more about Ordr's story in the Aug. 17 episode of Taproot's podcast about innovation, where you'll also hear about an award for Truffle and other local food-tech news.