As it so happens, the idea for Appetize — a point of sale technology platform used by restaurants, entertainment and sports venues, attractions, and more — was born in LA at a Lakers game. Three native Angelenos, and later co-founders of Appetize, reconnected at a game in 2011 and witnessed an archaic ordering process: Why wasn't there a platform that improved the guest experience and business operations at events like this?
Fast forward to today, the company is 325 employees strong across three offices — and these days, it’s something of a homegrown success story.
To find out what’s next for the local tech company, we interviewed three Appetize employees about everything from product roadmaps and business forecasts to the lessons they’ve taken away from Appetize’s leadership team.
EMPLOYEES: 325; 105 in Los Angeles
WHAT THEY DO: Appetize’s point of sale technology is changing how enterprises manage and process customer transactions, from sports and entertainment companies and QSR chains to education and professional service organizations.
WHERE THEY DO IT: Playa Vista
REAL ANGELENOS: Appetize’s founding team is composed of native Angelenos, giving the company a local flair and a dedication to the city’s thriving tech scene.
Puneet Thakar, Director of UX & Design
As Appetize’s director of UX and design, Puneet’s job includes driving user experiences and design across all Appetize products; defining the UX vision and strategy for Appetize; and working with product, quality assurance and engineering on so much more.
BEYOND WORK: Puneet loves to travel, meet new people, see new places and experience different cultures.
You joined Appetize a little over a year ago. What was exciting about joining the company at that point in time?
I joined the company in July 2017 as a consultant and transitioned into a full-time role a few months later. The team was, and continues to be, fun and full of energy. I liked the simplicity of the product and the endless possibilities I could imagine with it. Everyone is open to new ideas and very approachable. Back then, I could imagine myself becoming an integral part of defining what the Appetize product line could look like in the future. It was a no-brainer to say yes when the job was offered to me.
I have worked for large companies where founders and leadership teams [...] can’t hear what’s going on. At Appetize, it’s the complete opposite.”
What has it been like building a team at Appetize? How has the company supported you in building out a robust UX and design capability?
When I joined Appetize, the team had really well-engineered products but needed a holistic user-centered evaluation. The company was at the point where the product needed a transformation to take it to the next level. Like many other startups, there was a learning curve in understanding what UX really means, and those who understood its value helped us evangelize the idea of a user-centered product approach.
How is the leadership team at Appetize different from other teams you’ve worked on?
The founders are some of the most humble and genuine people you could possibly meet. They listen to what their employees have to say and take Appetize’s culture very seriously. You’ll often see them engaging with employees from various departments, whether its touching base on product and client initiatives or just checking in on how they’re doing. I have worked for large companies where founders and leadership teams are buried deep down in the vertical chain, where leadership can’t hear what’s going on. At Appetize, it’s the complete opposite. They truly value your opinion.
Wayne Scarsella, SVP of Sales
As the senior VP of sales, it’s Wayne’s job to lead the sales team through everything from new market expansion and strategy, key client relationships and forecasting.
BEYOND WORK: A native of Buffalo, New York, Wayne is something of a foodie. He spends a lot of his spare time in LA touring the city’s many restaurants.
You were Appetize’s first-ever sales hire. What has it been like seeing the company grow and change in the four years you’ve been with Appetize?
My first sale ever with Appetize was for ten licenses at San Jacinto College. About a year later, I sold to U.S. Bank Stadium, where the 2018 Super Bowl was located — that came out to over 800 licenses. All that change happened just in my first two years. It’s really been eye-opening seeing how fast a company can move to meet market demand while building a state-of-the-art product.
How has the Appetize product changed in the time you’ve been with the company? How have you and your team played a role in these changes?
When I first started, the company was expanding its product set and moving more into full-scale point of sale (POS) and inventory management software. Coming in at the time I did with over 15 years of POS experience, I was able to help create a solid product roadmap and a go-to-market strategy fitting for a true enterprise product.
Even as we’ve evolved into a company with a big product and technology team, the sales team still provides constant feedback to help influence product development based on what clients need.
Appetize completely re-energized me. I went from a very stale, rigid, corporate structure to a real startup environment. ”
How has Los Angeles served as a backdrop informed Appetize as a company? What makes this tech community special?
Los Angeles is at the core of Appetize’s DNA. Our three founders were born and raised here. They went to middle school together and reconnected after college at a Lakers game, which was where Appetize was formed. Eight years later, we have hundreds of people working in our office in the city’s tech center in Playa Vista. Being from Buffalo, it’s an entirely different atmosphere, and it’s great to see how many technology innovators live in this area.
What are the biggest lessons you’ve learned working alongside the Appetize leadership team from early days to hypergrowth?
Appetize completely re-energized me. I went from a very stale, rigid, corporate structure to a real startup environment. I credit Appetize for getting me back where I wanted to be. It has given me the power to be more creative and strategic and to bring that energy, enthusiasm and creativity into my own leadership style.
Jenna Engebretson, Senior QA Engineer
As a senior QA engineer, Jenna tests features and integrations in a complex and constantly evolving workspace by writing detailed test cases, logically structured test plans and clear bug reports.
BEYOND WORK: Jenna is an avid practitioner of yoga, which she credits with teaching her to be present and patient.
Your career has taken you all over. What’s the story behind how you ended up on the Appetize team?
I grew up in Minneapolis and went to school at Iowa State University where I majored in computer science while working at a software consulting company. With the skills from my degree and previous work experience, I moved out to Los Angeles in 2017 to begin work for an e-commerce company. In August of last year, I was ready for a new challenge, so I followed a previous boss to a kickass startup called Appetize that was developing ordering software for exciting clients.
One thing I learned, and that I would want to pass on to others, is that the team genuinely wants people to succeed and will offer help to anyone that asks for it.”
What was the largest obstacle you faced during your training and onboarding? How did you overcome this challenge?
As a company, our back end is pretty intense and thinking about the countless number of configurations our clients could set was intimidating. But instead of getting stressed out, I listened and asked questions. One thing I learned, and that I would want to pass on to others, is that the team genuinely wants people to succeed and will offer help to anyone that asks for it.
What has it been like joining a company that is scaling as fast as Appetize is right now?
Unbelievable. Max, Jason and Kevin have created something pretty spectacular here at Appetize, and I’m so happy to be a part of it.