Cars, campervans and now food: There is no end to the sharing economy, and a serial entrepreneur is making your kitchen the scene of his latest venture.
Business is what Daniel Kieser breathes, sleeps and eats. Literally.
You might wonder why the South African-born entrepreneur wanted to launch his latest digital platform, Dine at Mine. He’s already the founder and managing director of another burgeoning venture, the crowd-sourced share valuation service Shareclarity. How many startups does one thirty-something need?
When you put that question to Kieser you might as well be talking another language. “I genuinely love doing business, so I do it,” he says.
But he also knows that things move like greased lightning in the world of peer-to-peer platforms.
Put simply, Dine at Mine allows users to share food. Yes, that same shared economy that started with Uber and Airbnb, before moving into campervans, cars and parking spaces, is now coming for your kitchen.
Available in the Apple app store and due on Android any day, the platform allows budding master chefs to create their own pop-up restaurant and feed customers in their house, or have them take meals away. Users set up their restaurant or food service in the app, describe what they’re making and how many portions are available, what it costs and where they are. Diners then book a meal or a place at the table via the app and pay the required amount. Dine at Mine clips the ticket on the cost, at a $1 minimum or 10% of the price.
Under New Zealand’s food laws the app isn’t considered to be trading so it doesn’t need to meet food safety regulations. But the Ministry for Primary Industries points out anyone selling food in this country needs to make sure it’s safe and suitable to eat.
“I was sitting waiting for a business meeting and I overhead two women talking about wanting to set up a pop-up restaurant,” Kieser says. “I thought, ‘what a great idea’, and made a note to download the app that helps you find these pop-ups. But there wasn’t one.
“So that night I did a bunch of due diligence and registered the name of the company.”
We’re going to pause here to call this point Entrepreneurship for Dummies lesson 1.0. Don’t spend weeks/months boring your friends and family with tales of your great app concept. Have an idea? Set the ball in motion straight away.
“Then I took off to South Africa where I literally sat by a waterhole for two weeks doing wiring diagrams.” As you do.
“I was just writing flow – what a person might want, how they might interact with the platform, what it would need to look like.”
In Perth, on the way back to New Zealand from that trip, Kieser contacted a designer in Ukraine he’d worked with previously and hired a Chinese-based Vietnamese software developer. Faster than you can say two-minute noodles, Dine at Mine became a reality.
Was he ever tempted to walk away from the idea, or sell it, given his hands are already pretty full going between Australia and New Zealand for Shareclarity? Short answer: No. Long answer: “I don’t think Dine at Mine is a unique idea. Thousands of people will have already thought of it, but of those about 1% will take the first step to making it a reality, and of that 1% only 1% will overcome the first hurdle they hit.” (Entrepreneurship for Dummies lesson 2.0).
Entrepreneurship is not linear, he adds. Working on one project need not subtract from another, because you’re learning things that will benefit everything you’ve got going on.
“I think doing this helps me from a Shareclarity perspective. What other people like to do in their spare time is play golf, read or cook. What I like to do is business.
“Doing Dine at Mine frees my mind to think about a different customer. It has made me rethink my creativity around delivering products to customers and what they want.
“Plus I can do it at night. When I’m awake at ungodly hours I am working on it with my two staff who are based in Europe.”
It’s possible what Kieser needs is a platform that allows people to share their extra hours’ sleep with him.
Not that he’s ever been one to let the dust gather on his career. He emigrated to New Zealand with his family 20 years ago, and studied software engineering at Otago University and later in Singapore. He worked one whole day as a software engineer at what was then Telstra Clear before coming to the realisation that this was definitely not his tribe and abruptly switched to the finance team on day two.
From there he became a research analyst at ABN Amro, before immersing himself in carbon credits trading in Singapore in the mid-‘00s. When the GFC hit in 2007 he diversified into building and operating power plants in Asia, until the European banking crisis put an end to that.
It was a particularly volatile period to be working in the finance sector so in 2012 he returned to New Zealand, “a country I know and a currency I know”.
After three years heading up corporate development at Vodafone he relaunched himself as an entrepreneur in 2015 with Shareclarity, an online platform providing crowd-sourced share valuations with the aim of making market trading more transparent and accessible.
The idea of business with a purpose beyond cash in the back pocket is, sadly, a recent concept and Kieser says it’s in part what keeps him going.
“Entrepreneurship is wonderful but it is an incredibly lonely exercise. It’s all opportunity cost. If you go to the movies that’s time you’ve take out of your business.
“There’s not a lot of glory on the front end, so you have to love it. And you have to realise that if you fail nobody cares and they’re just going to think you’re not very good at it because they don’t know the glass you walk on to get where you’re going.” If you’re counting, this is sobering Entrepreneurship for Dummies lesson 3.0.
Thus Kieser has an endgame for his entrepreneurial career; a point to the madness.
“What I would like to do… is at some point have the financial means to go and buy hunting concessions and convert them to conservation land.
“So I decided I have to give this entrepreneurial thing a really good push so that at some point I can go and do that.”
Which brings us nicely back to Dine at Mine. While there is commercial potential in cafes and restaurants selling off unused food at the end of the day, for example, Keiser would prefer it to remain in the peer-to-peer social space with regular people feeding other people.
It could be incredible home cooks who want the joy of feeding others without working in a commercial kitchen. Or it could be an opportunity for overseas tourists to dine with local families. It could also be the chance for people to help feed the lonely or less fortunate in their communities. It’s this aspect of the platform which particularly excites Keiser.
“Look at rest homes. It could be a great way to get their residents engaged in the community cooking meals for their local school. Or from the other point of view, loneliness is a big problem. It could be a way to get your elderly neighbour or someone who’s just moved in around.”
An early test run proved just such a success. A mate of Kieser’s and a former chef, Chris Kenyon hosted a dinner through Dine at Mine, at which he prepared a tasty salmon dish for eight to 10 people at $13.50 a plate.
Kenyon was impressed with the result. Kieser was one of the diners, but everybody else was a complete stranger who’d connected with the event through the app. One couple even brought their 91-year-old mum along for her birthday as a way to get her out of the rest home and meet new people.
“It was a really great night. A really random mix of people, but everybody was there to have a good time. I think the idea of being able to do that is fantastic,” Kenyon says.
So now we’re sharing our meals, as well as our spare rooms and cars, how much life can be left in the shared economy?
It’s here to stay, and where it could go from here is anywhere, says MYOB futurist in residence, Keran McKenzie.
The gig or shared economy is driven by people’s realisation they have assets or skills they can monetise. It’s not a new idea: Arguably Trade Me optimised the same impulse. What’s new is the technology that’s enabling the process, McKenzie says.
“The reality is we’re seeing a massive transition in the way people perceive and generate value. Previously you may have something like a car which cost a lot of money, and it earns you nothing. Now that has changed. You can find a platform that easily connects the thing you have, with people who need it and will pay for it.”
The key to a successful platform will always be a seamless customer experience, McKenzie says.
“Look at Uber. The car picks you up, you don’t even have to tell them where to take you, and you don’t have to get a card or cash out to pay,” he says, adding that expansion of this model is a given.
“The only issues holding it back will be around trust, credibility and identity. We’re seeing the rise of new technology like digitisation of passports that will enhance that.”
Payment will also evolve as crypto currencies mature, and move away from traditional credit card-based payments, he says.
For Kieser, he will keep growing both Shareclarity and Dine at Mine, hopefully with one foot among the wildlife in that plot of land he plans to buy. At least he knows there will always be a meal available. Perhaps that’s Entrepreneurial Lesson for Dummies 4.0 – create a business that will keep you well fed.
The Spinoff Weekly compiles the best stories of the week – an essential guide to modern life in New Zealand, emailed out on Monday evenings.