How Lisa Falzone And Revel Systems Secured A Landmark Contract With Gas Leader Shell9905013
When Revel Systems announced a significant deal with Shell to install its point-of-sale systems across Shell’s gas stations in September 2016, the startup gained access to up to 43,000 retail locations producing $6 billion in sales. To CEO Lisa Falzone, the deal was “huge,” proving Revel’s software across 1 of the biggest retail provide chains in the world—a far cry from the smoothie and pizza chains that gave Revel its start.
For Shell, the deal represented a run-in with the fast-iterating, hustling startup culture. How Revel pulled off the deal, however, was a long, at times nearly farcical process that started more than two years ago.
It was the summer of 2014, and Shell downstream CIO Craig Walker was agreeing to take a meeting with a young San Francisco startup. Falzone had gained some early buzz with Revel, making the FORBES 30 Under 30 list in 2012. But she and cofounder Chris Ciabarra were a lot rawer as executive than they are today, as Falzone prepared to speak on Monday at the Below 30 Summit in Boston from the perspective of an established entrepreneur.
When Falzone and Ciabarra met Walker in 2014, they knew they had been obtaining their first taste of the big leagues. A contract with Shell could mean access to the 43,000 retail locations it owns or co-operates with licensees, worth potentially millions of dollars in repeat revenue. “You couldn’t get a larger chain,” Falzone says. But as she and Ciabarra asked Shell how they could adapt their iPad-based point-of-sale system to match Shell’s needs, Walker and the Shell executives discovered themselves providing a crash course in how gas stations function. ”They were there busily Googling pump controllers simply because they had no concept what they had been,” Walker says.
But Shell knew it required a change. Each time the company tried to upgrade its personal software program, “we just made it worse.” Revel seemed about 18 months ahead of its competitors with its technology, particularly its API integrations that would allow Shell to connect much more of its personal systems to the data streaming in through Revel, important to its plan to develop its personal apps.
Revel’s large customer wins previously had been largely chains like Smoothie King and Pizza Patrón. The company scrambled, nevertheless, to built its own solution for cloud-primarily based gas station sales. In just 1 month, they had been back at Shell presenting a totally operational prototype with an interface much better than what Shell had seen prior to.
That speed and eagerness to learn won Revel the deal. But lengthy months would follow, as the company had to function through a regimented development process determined by the approvals and assurances needed for Shell to be in compliance with its bankers. A complete version went live in September 2015 six months later, Shell had its first Revel systems up and operating in Thailand.
Large businesses like Shell will not install a product like Revel globally overnight. It chose Thailand because the nation was a reasonably sized geography currently in need for an upgrade, and close to Singapore, exactly where Shell was buying new retail locations the company knew it would have to revamp.
Following four or 5 months working out some minor interface issues, Shell is now ready to plan its expansion of Revel into Singapore and Poland, then likely a lot more. The businesses wouldn’t say how much the contract is worth to Revel, but Falzone says that as more top 500 corporations approach Revel following the Shell deal, the company’s broadly moving into multi-million dollar and tens-of-millions of dollar contracts. Intuit is another significant retailer, and Revel has now worked with big events like the Super Bowl and Indy 500.
The deal was announced this September amid rumors that Revel might be in talks to be acquired by IBM. Falzone wouldn’t comment on particular rumors, but tells FORBES “Chris and I have said prior to that our objective is to be an independent company,” and Walker says he believes them. From his perspective, Revel has already figured out one of the most tough jobs for a startup: navigating working with a significantly bigger customer.
“I worried when we connected with them, simply because I know how simple it is for a large company to demand all sorts of issues and the next factor you know they’ve bastardized their own system,” says Walker. “We said this needed to be a generic petroleum retail version, not just for Shell. I have noticed large companies insist on code just for them, and destroy the smaller company.”
And most of all, startups can learn from Revel and Falzone’s patience, the Shell executive says. “Could we have gone faster in the roll out? Yes, most likely. We are a pain in the ass to work with for a startup, but you have a brand reputation to protect. And they had been comfy with the way we worked.”
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