Odeko’s CEO Dane Atkinson on Supporting Small Businesses Through Technology
From GGV Capital, Evolving for the Next Billion podcast interviews local champions and global giants who are reshaping the lives of the next billion internet users. On this episode, GGV Capital Managing Partner Hans Tung sits down with Odeko CEO and Founder Dane Atkinson to discuss his career, the impact of technology on small businesses, and what drives Odeko forward in a post-pandemic economy.
Odeko started off based on a gut instinct, based on the success of the coffee industry over time. “As a huge category with a net $80 billion in the US,” Dane explains, “[I]t is also the third largest commodity with a very long tail, meaning that there are less than a dozen chains that have over 100 locations, so it’s almost entirely independently-owned.” Now, Odeko is a platform supporting thousands of coffee shops with the technology once only held by the public giants. It uses AI and automation to provide a single source of necessary supplies that are loaded into stores overnight, and builds consumer apps that make all cafes under the Odeko umbrella easily discoverable and accessible by locals and tourists alike.
“It’s a better world when it’s driven by care, love and community, and we’re part of that spirit and try to bear it as much as we can. I would like to visit a town and see how it expresses itself through the small businesses, and what franchises around the corner have been saying.”
Launching in 2019, Odeko had to navigate the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic first hand, fighting to keep the independent coffee shops and cafes they had partnered with afloat. Dane looks back on March 2020, saying that, “It was apocalyptic, every single shop closed, and we couldn’t foresee the future better than anyone else. We became really critical and understood the necessity for the role of being a partner for the community.” By taking pay cuts and personally driving delivery vehicles, the Odeko team fought to keep operations as normal as possible, eventually reaching a more sustainable point where shops were able to begin re-opening and serving customers once more. Dane summarizes the efforts of the team, saying that, “People have thrown their savings and, and done everything they could to make it work. On the other side, those who fought through became harder, the fires made them stronger, and they’re very eager to adapt and start a smarter new chapter for themselves.”