A pair of childhood best friends hope to become the Uber or Gorillas of Londoners’ nights-out, after cinching £2.3m funding.
Tech start-up Ambl, which was founded by Essex entrepreneurs Aaron Solomon and Jed Hackling, helps diners find an eleventh hour reservation.
The app has secured £2.3m in seed capital, with investors including Jon Spiteri of Sessions Arts Club, and venue partners including celebrity chef Marcus Wareing.
The cash injection will see the app launch in 100 restaurants in the City of London, with a wider roll-out to include 1,300 venues across the UK.
Restaurants haemorrhage £17.6bn a year to last minute cancellations and no-shows, while the pandemic has given rise to a pre-booking culture in the UK.
“It has got progressively harder to go to places [at the] last minute and you end up going to the same places all the time,” Hackling said.
Co-founders of the app, which currently employs 13 staff, told CityA.M. the app’s vision is to unlock nights out “on the fly” once more.
Ambl enables hungry Londoners to send out a “broadcast” to nearby restaurants, with venues only having to pay a £1 per head fee if they secure a new booking via the app.
For former City-worker Solomon, the light-bulb moment for the app came amid a panic after being asked by a boss to book a table for six.
Apps like Uber and Getir have focused on “click a button and what you want arrives,” he said, describing “the generation of convenience.” Yet, there seemed to be a gap in the market when it came to hospitality.
“The apps working well right now are anything that saves you time,” Solomon said.
Are the pair – who kickstarted their business careers selling ice-creams to classmates at secondary school in Southend – at all daunted by launching an app amid an economic downturn?
With no charges for consumers and a pay-as-you-go charge for venues, the duo remain positive.
In fact, the crunch may deter diners from booking far in advance and putting down deposits. “It’s going to be a feeling thing, but going out is an affordable luxury,” Solomon said.
“People aren’t going to cut down on being able to socialise with their friends or getting out of the house, even if it’s more of a luxury coming into this side of where we are in the economy,” Hackling added.
It has been a torrid time for tech firms, with the likes of Deliveroo warning they will struggle to maintain consumers amid a cost of living crisis.
However, Ambl was “focusing on the elements of a profitable and scalable business,” and the aspects that were “in our control,” Solomon said.
“We did start raising [funds] at a time when there were crazy valuations flying around,” he said, with rapid delivery grocery apps seeing billion dollar valuations in double-digits.
“We aren’t a business that is going to turn a profit massively quickly,” he said.
Investors were “not spending on maybes, but on absolutes,” with enthusiasm for “a proven problem being solved.”
Ambl’s co-founders have their eyes on international expansion in time, however Hackling said the start-up didn’t “want to go too quick”. For now, London is their “playground.”