“Good idea kids, but…” – the moment that changed everything for Lisa Falzone

When Lisa Falzone stepped into a meeting with her first client, she knew her company Revel Systems had a bright future as an ordering app. Except it didn’t. That one meeting would change the course of Revel Systems entirely.

How did Revel Systems begin life as an ordering app and end up as a point of sale system? We caught up with Lisa Falzone, co-founder and CEO of Revel Systems, to discuss its pivot into a new product.

But before we get into Revel Systems’ sidestep, let’s take a look at Lisa’s own journey. If you’d guessed that she always wanted to be a software entrepreneur, you’d be half right. She did always long to work for herself and operate on her own schedule. But she was adamant: it wouldn’t be in software.

“I really didn’t want to do a software company because I didn’t have that background and I thought that everyone was doing that,” she told us.

Except, in 2010, she ended up doing just that. The company she founded was the iPad point of sale system Revel Systems that would go on to secure millions in funding.

How did an entrepreneur who wanted to do anything but software end up founding and running a software company?


Stumbling into software

“I tried several different ideas,” Lisa said. “I tried distributing bathing suits from Brazil to the United States. I worked on a toy company. I thought of different business plans for restaurants.”

As she researched these customer-facing industries, stumbling blocks became evident. The biggest barrier of all being the upfront capital needed to get these kind of businesses off the ground.

“It’s a lot of risk. You have to have a huge amount of capital to start. So in order to do a restaurant, you’ve got to get the restaurant spot, you’ve got to acquire all these costs.”

Software, on the other hand, is far less capital intensive. “With software you just create the software and deploy it,” said Lisa. “It’s the most scalable [kind of company] that exists for entrepreneurs.”

Revel Systems is a clear example of the scalability in the software industry. Since the company was founded by Lisa and the CTO Chris Ciabarra it has grown and grown. In the past year, it experienced growth of a staggering 250 percent. Today, there are around 400 employees working for Revel Systems, most of which are based in the head office at North Beach in San Francisco.

The turning point

The turning point came in a meeting with the local fish and chip shop. Lisa recalled Revel System’s first client meeting, with Michael Lappert of Lappert’s Fish and Chips in Sausalito, San Francisco.

“We were trying to sell him the ordering app and he was like ‘good idea kids, but what I really need is a point of sale system’.” Lisa and Chris had been thinking about creating a point of sale system and the client’s comments reinforced that there was an opportunity in the market.

“We were like, ‘okay we’ll build that for you’. That was the pivotal point.”

Currently there are over 20,000 payment terminals operating on Revel System’s software.

Of course, it wasn’t straightforward. Back in 2010: the iPad had only just been released. The only way to go was trial and error –

“We had to figure out how to connect a card swipe through the 30 pin connector to the iPad, while simultaneously powering the device, and we had to discover a way to connect a printer to the iPad. Everyone kept telling us that what we were trying to do was impossible, and even Apple hadn’t figured out how to connect a printer to an iPad,” she said.

Lisa and Chris persevered in spite of the naysayers. Investors took note and Revel Systems became a $500 million company.

“Software is a new frontier. It gets you on the forefront of innovation,” Lisa says now.

Related Articles

“It should be shocking” – 20/20 with The Onion’s CEO Four years’ time. What’s the world going to look like in 2020? We’re asking people in our network just that, for our new...
Berlin: The Startup City Guide A simple search for ‘Berlin Silicon Valley of Europe’ brings up hundreds of results in Google. Articles that debate, dec...