How a Sydney Entrepreneur Pitched His Startup Idea to McDonald’s

The idea

For nearly three years, Richard Savoie spent sleepless nights thinking about a problem and an idea that could solve that problem. He had a comfortable job, with plenty of opportunities and room for growth, but this particular problem itched away at him until he said to himself: ‘I need to follow it through to the end. If it fails, then at least I can get it out of my head.’

The problem came to him from a friend’s daughter who worked at McDonald’s part-time. She complained how every day, she would drive past three other McDonald’s to reach the one she worked at. Digging even deeper, Richard discovered that this was a very common scenario, not just in McDonald’s but in the entire service sector. He found another McDonald’s worker who travelled from the Blue Mountains into Sydney for part-time work — a two and a half hour drive.

“As soon as you hear that, you think, that’s insane, and it is! For me as an engineer, I started to think about what we’re currently doing to fix that problem. Of course, at that time, nothing was being done,” says Richard.

“We’re building more roads to accommodate more cars, trains, and public transport. White-collar workers are trying to telecommute, but that doesn’t help anyone working at a brick and mortar store.

We’ve hit a period where we have access to more data and analytics than ever before. Between Google Maps API and the API of transport networks around the world, over 200 global cities could potentially map the routes of their employees — and this is exactly what Richard has started to do. He created a map for companies to relocate and redistribute their employees based on where they live and how they commute. He transformed this map into a company called Staybil — stability through mobility.

When Richard was in the midst of creating his startup, he could immediately see what the benefit would be to an employee, but what would the benefit be to a business?

“I conducted lots of research on the impact of commuting and one of the fascinating stats I found was people who commute close to or over an hour, think seriously about quitting their job,” reveals Richard.

Therefore, the upside for businesses was employee retention.

Combined employee retention data from firms like Xerox, KeyBank, and Gate Gourmet found a connection between commute time and new-hire retention. According to research consultant, Jeff Parks, an employee with a 30–45 minute commute has a 92 percent probability of quitting.

Richard found that a company like McDonald’s spends $77,000 per year, per store, just on employee training and recruitment. For Richard, if he could help lower retention rates, than that would be a huge value proposition to the fast-food giant.

The pitch

But, how does one man pitch his idea to one of the largest fast-food chains in the world?

The simple answer is: Guerilla style.

“I just wandered into McDonald’s off the street and it goes to prove the old adage that if you wear a suit and carry a clipboard, you pretty much get access to anything,” admits Richard.

Richard’s pitch to McDonald’s was very different to how he would later pitch at Academy Xi’s Pitch X competition. In three sentences he had to explain his idea and what that would mean for McDonald’s.

“The first McDonald’s I walked into was Stanmore. The manager could only spend a couple of minutes with me, but he gave me a bunch of great information,” remembers Richard.

“When I started speaking to the managers [at McDonald’s] they were busy and a bit annoyed because it was taking time out of their day. But, they were so compelled by the idea that they couldn’t help but share. You could tell it was really hitting close to home for them and their team.”

Richard took many learnings away from McDonald’s and his research led him to explore other businesses that may have an easier entry point. For McDonald’s and also other companies working in the service sector, Richard is currently working with them to conduct pilot programs.

Since June this year, Richard has been plugging away at his idea and he’s still just a one-man team — an entrepreneur searching for a co-founder. His exploration for a co-founder landed him at Academy Xi’s Pitch X competition. Pitch competitions are important for entrepreneurs like Richard, because of the feedback industry experts share with them about their idea.

“Pitch X was one of the best competitions for sure,” says Richard. “It’s because of the sheer volume of people at the event and they’re all there to see what other people are up to and to practice their pitch.”

“I found, being able to pitch effectively is one of the absolute most important things you can do.”

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Use the startup community to help you validate and grow. Academy Xi’s next Pitch X competition will take place on January 31st, where anyone has the chance to pitch for a co-founder, investor, mentor, support, or just simply practice their pitch.