Lemay Sanchez remembers talking with his childhood friend, Daniel Galano, about building a business together. They lived in Cuba and weren’t even teenagers yet, but they proclaimed to each other they wanted to build something big and important when the time was right – “something that matters,” Sanchez said.
Fast forward a decade, and Sanchez, who moved to the US when he was 13, graduated from Florida International University in business administration. Galano earned a dual bachelor’s in computer science and electrical engineering. Then, each one pursed careers in their fields for a while – Sanchez started and ran two companies, one in marketing/branding and another that created a CRM product. Galano worked in the fields of automotive and defense industry technology.
But now they are building that big, impactful company they talked about as kids . Sanchez and Galano teamed up with a third co-founder, Arian Acosta, also an engineer who earned his bachelors in computer science at FIU and his master’s at University of Florida, to co-found Boxie, a Miami-based startup that helps restaurants manage the deluge of online orders they are experiencing today – and will set them up for the future.
Boxie makes “smart lockers” that adapt perfectly to existing restaurant workflows to maximize efficiency for restaurants, customers and delivery service. These days, restaurants from the neighborhood mom and pop pizza shop to the finest restaurants are delivering – and most of them don’t have the technology solutions to make the process efficient, particularly with the proliferation of online services like UberEats, GrubHub and DoorDash.
“It’s a huge pain point for the industry sorting through all these orders that come in,” said Sanchez, who is the CEO. “We hope Boxie will be their solution.”
This month, Boxie won the FIU track of the Miami Herald Pitch Competition.
“We live in a world where efficient and innovative online ordering and delivery solutions are more critical than ever. Boxie presents a business model that allows delivery with minimal staff interaction by automated locker assignment. This is truly a simple but innovative idea that can help many businesses. We liked that Boxie adapted to the current need and found a niche that may be very well explored,” said Anna Pietraszek, a judge for the pitch competition, an assistant professor at FIU and Faculty Fellow in Entrepreneurship and Innovation for the Pino Global Entrepreneurship Center.
Before building their product, the Boxie team conducted 105 interviews with restaurant owners and industry players, including large restaurant groups, and over 50 delivery drivers. What they learned: It takes a lot of valuable restaurant staff to quarterback the orders, and with rising labor costs, this is something that restaurants must fix.
Boxie’s smart lockers are modular and easy to install right out of the box. Restaurants can buy more as they grow; the average need is about six units, Sanchez said. The smart lockers, connected to WiFi, share information with one another and the kitchen, such as when a particular food item has been sitting too long, as well as providing business metrics. A number of llocations have been using them and Boxie is getting ready to fill hundreds of pre-orders. The startup is officially launching at the giant National Restaurant Association this month.
“This is the future,” Sanchez said. “We 100% know in the next three years, every single restaurant out there that engages in online orders will have to figure out a way using technology. We want Boxie’s smart lockers to be their solution.”
The startup makes money through product sales and monthly subscriptions. The smart lockers cost $595 each, and a $12 monthly fee per unit ensures integrations with any point-of-sale software and third-party delivery service. Want to see the product? Boxie’s showroom in South Florida is open from 9 am to 4 pm at General Hotel & Restaurant Supply at 13900 NW 82nd Ave. in Hialeah.
Boxie has been self-funded so far and Sanchez plans to seek funding this fall.
What’s Sanchez’s advice for future entrepreneurs? “That they don’t spend $1, they don’t write one line of code, they don’t buy one set of business cards until they speak with at least 50 people (and more is even better) that will be potential buyers of your product,” Sanchez said. Tell the potential buyers what you plan to build, what you plan to charge and ask them if they could buy your product, he added. “If at least 90 percent of those people who say ill buy it, then go ahead and start going through the process. Because time and time again, a big part of why startups fail is because the founders thought they knew all the answers.”
He also stressed the importance of a great team; his co-founders, both longtime friends, are highly accomplished engineers that bring complementary strengths in hardware and software development to the team. Sanchez said.
What keeps him going? It’s the challenge of building something that people need, Sanchez said.
“I’m really excited for the first time ever to be working with a product that can be, hopefully, synonymous with the word smart locker in the same way that Google is synonymous with search,” Sanchez said. “That’s certainly a big challenge, and we’re not taking it lightly.”
Stay tuned to GrowBiz for a story on the two FIU runners-up in the Miami Herald Pitch Competition. Read about all the winners in the Miami Herald here.