Since launching in 2014, Gimme Vending has changed the game when it comes to building software for vending machine operators and other grocery, convenience, and micro market operators. The business’s main goal? To help these companies keep track of inventory and avoid losing income on out-of-stock items through innovative technology with cutting-edge capabilities. We were curious to learn more about the startup that we’re proud to call a client, so we sat down with co-founder and CEO Cory Hewett for a short Q&A.
If you’d like to skip the transcript, you can watch the full interview at the bottom of this post.
What has been your favorite milestone along the way?
My favorite milestone happened early on, when we got that first customer check. For us, that was the validation of product-market fit. We had endeavored to build something we thought people would want to buy, and when they first wrote that check, that’s what proved it.
What has changed with Gimme Vending since you started with Acuity?
A lot has changed in the five years since we’ve been in business. When we first got started, we were an add-on to existing warehouse solutions, and they used our app to do things better in the field. It would also send the data back to a warehouse. Last year, we launched our own warehouse management platform, so now we’re the total solution. We are the front end and the back end, and that’s been such a big change for us as a team to kind of grow up and mature as a software provider.
What is the most rewarding part of being an entrepreneur?
I think it’s twofold. One is seeing what you build; when you build something new and see it actually make a difference in somebody’s life. To be able to see what we’ve built, improve the lives of our customers, and make their businesses more profitable, I think as an innovator or as an entrepreneur, that really means something. The second part is seeing our team grow. Seeing the people we hired a couple of years ago reach new levels of competency and confidence is exciting to witness as a leader.
On the other side of that, what is the biggest risk that you’ve taken either in your professional or your personal life?
Relying on a startup for income is risky. Your bills, your house payment, feeding your children all relies on this uncertain source of income. I think a lot of Atlanta startups are software-based, and we’re a little bit different because we have hardware as well. Having hardware has benefited our ability to be innovative, it’s also challenging because that hardware means more upfront costs and overhead compared to software. So, having hardware is probably the biggest single risk within the startup.
What are some things you enjoy doing outside of work?
I really enjoyed my motorcycle, which I recently sold when we had children. But I loved being on the road, and even now that the motorcycle is gone, I still enjoy driving and taking road trips. We do road trips to visit our customers and see how our technology is making a difference for them across the country, and these multi-hour drives to go see them are actually a lot of fun.
Do you have any tips for maintaining a healthy work life balance?
At the very beginning, there was no balance. It was a hundred percent focused on work and there were definitely challenges in my personal life because of it. Realizing that life needed to be more balanced helped me create that balance. We’re investing in what’s happening at home and what’s happening with our growing family. As far as secrets go, I think the trick is to just do your best and it’ll figure itself out. It might be bad advice, but it’s been working in my life.
What is something that people don’t know about you?
I actually dropped out of Georgia Tech my last semester to found this company. So, I’ve put it all in to make sure that this is a success and I don’t think success requires you to drop out, but what most people don’t know is that I was just a couple of credits short of graduating.
That had to have been a scary jump. Was that intentional?
I remember it was in the summer and I was going to take one more semester in the fall, and when we started the company I was like, I’ll delay that last semester, get the company up and going, and see how this plays out. And then we got our first customer, then we signed more customers and then I realized, oh, I guess I’m not going to go back and finish the semester. It’s a choice that I’m glad I made because it really forced us to go all in.
Do you think you ever go back and just get those credits? Just because?
Maybe, but we’d have to get the company to a place where me being here doesn’t have a material impact on the success of our business. I think that if I were to just withdraw that attention, give it back to finish a degree, it would be personally fulfilling, but I think it, at least at the present stage, might hurt the team. So for now I’m going to stay on, stay on the path and make sure I do everything I can to increase the probability of success.
Considering your journey with Gimme Vending, do you have a life motto?
One that comes to mind for us is inkwell forum or basically forever forward. Looking back at the mistakes we made, which are plenty, now we’re focused on applying our learning to the future; how we can stay focused on what we can do better next time instead of getting hung up on what we didn’t do right the first time.
Are there any exciting updates or changes on the horizon for Gimme Vending?
The last year has been a blast because we released three new products. We released an app to help manage unattended retail points of sale called micro markets. They’re like little convenience stores, with self-checkout. So we launched that. Then right after we launched something called Auto Drive. It’s a supervised computer vision AI machine learning tool where a cell phone, iPad, or iPhone is used to scan and detect products, placements, and their counts on a shelf. It saves our customers a ton of time while providing crazy increases in accuracy.
It’s groundbreaking for our industry. And then right after that we released a solution to be the frontend and backend all at the same time. So, it’s been a lot of new for us just in the last couple of months. In 2020, we are applying the same obsession with execution to delivering Artificial Intelligence (in Gimme VMS) and computer vision (in AutoDrive) to bring great operating efficiencies and value to our customers.
How can potential clients get a hold of you?
The best way to get in touch with us is through our website, www.vending.ai.