Campus and Community

Startup created by Técnico alumni joins Porsche accelerator program

Pleez is the first Portuguese startup joining the APX accelerator program, sponsored by Porsche and Axel Springer.

The Portuguese startup Pleez, created by two Técnico alumni, joined the APX accelerator program sponsored by Porsche and Axel Springer. Pleez is the first Portuguese startup to be part of this program, getting a 50 thousand euros investment in exchange for 5% of capital, which is now valued at 1 million euros.

According to the Técnico alumnus Diogo Santos e Castro (Electronics Engineering) and co-founder of Pleez, the team is focused “on making the most of the contact network that this program can provide us, namely European markets, which will allow us to expand internationally”.

A technological solution that allows to streamline ordering and reduce contacts in restaurants

The idea behind the company is very common: a group of friends get together for lunch, but they don’t have much time because they are in a hurry to get to a meeting. However, none of this has happened. The four founders realised that “there was an opportunity to simplify and to make restaurants more efficient. This is how we came up with the idea of creating Pleez, aiming to facilitate communication between customers and restaurants through the horeca channel”, explains the Técnico alumnus Vasco Sampaio (Mechanical Engineering) and also co-founder of Pleez.

The initial idea was to order the service through tablets (connected with a central computer) placed on the tables. Due to the pandemic situation, the team adapted the solution to the customers needs. “Our product was justified before, but at this point it becomes even more important since it gives total control to customers to check the menu and place orders whenever they want using their mobile device, without having to call the employee”, highlights Diogo Santos e Castro. “This is a simple process that generates a faster service and promotes social distance, as it avoids sharing menus and exchanging money or handling card payment machines”, he adds.

The team also created new features “based on what our customers asked us for, such as Click & Collect or Delivery”, says Vasco Sampaio.

Pleez began to operate after the first lockdown, on 18th May 2020, when restaurants were authorised to re-open. “In just 3 months we got 150 customers!”, shares Diogo Santos e Castro. “In June, there were very few restaurants that had digital menus, but in September it was difficult to find a restaurant in Lisbon that did not yet have one”, he adds.

The startup has more than 240 restaurants in its portfolio. According to Vasco Sampaio, “Pleez has allowed its customers to increase their sales”. Besides increasing the average customer consumption – “the easy ordering and an attractive menu increase consumption”, the platform allows to increase table turnover – faster orders result into shorter meals, so each table can serve more customers. All this without requiring any initial investment of restaurants. Pleez also presents several types of business allowing the restaurant to choose the package that best fits its needs and goals.

The great advantage for customers is that they can place their orders with ease: just check the digital menu of a restaurant and order from the menu without having to wait to be served and, of course, minimizing social contacts as much as possible.

“We want to be the next big Portuguese startup, and that can only be achieved through a lot of dedication and focus”

Vasco Sampaio believes that Pleez stands out from many start-ups due to its proximity to customers. “We started to develop the project on the street, near customers: both in the conception stage and in the product launch”, he highlights. “This is quite tough, but it is also the fastest way to validate ideas. We have a relentless team. We want to be the next big Portuguese startup and that can only be achieved through a lot of dedication and focus”, adds the Técnico alumnus.

According to Vasco Sampaio and Diogo Santos e Castro, the knowledge acquired at Técnico has been “absolutely essential” in this entrepreneurial adventure. “At a more technical level, the analytical skills we acquire are key to develop the product. On the other hand, the resilience to finish the toughest tasks, within the deadlines, and discerning what matters and what does not matter, are probably the most important”, says Diogo Santos e Castro. “Técnico also gave us access to a privileged contact network. Técnico professors have helped us to access investment funds and opened doors to the world of startups”, adds Vasco Sampaio.

When talking about the future and the inevitable desires for the new year, the two Técnico alumni recall “creating a company during a pandemic does not allow to make long-term plans, without these being constantly changed”. Even so, they ensure “product consolidation and drawing a solid vision of the company for the next 2 years that includes internationalisation, is the main goal”, says Diogo Santos e Castro. “The most likely markets are the German, because we have access to a very good contact network, or the Spanish due to its proximity”, concludes Vasco Sampaio.