Heard on the Street, Episode 4: Growing the SMB Pie with Ilir Sela | Street Fight

Heard on the Street, Episode 4: Growing the SMB Pie with Ilir Sela

Heard on the Street, Episode 4: Growing the SMB Pie with Ilir Sela

What are the nuances and tactical imperatives of selling pizza locally? For one, it compels a highly verticalized approach: It’s all about focus and specialization on the sector’s unique operational challenges, according to Slice Founder and CEO Ilir Sela, our latest guest on Heard on the Street.

In fact, Slice embodies “SMBOS” more so than most local startups today. This is the growing paradigm in local that addresses the full gamut of SMB needs—not just advertising and marketing. It’s inventory, loyalty programs, payment processing, etc. And pizza shops need this edge to compete with chains. 

“We empower local pizzerias with the technology, marketing, and data in order for them to compete and digitize their business,” Sela told us. “And we do this in a full service way. It’s not where we simply give them the tools to do it on their own; we actually do it for them from A to Z.” 

Notably, this offers the good parts of a franchise model without the bad parts, Sela says. In other words, it supports rote functions like menu creation, marketing, and ordering leverage. But it doesn’t impose parameters on the food itself (unlike chains), thus allowing shops to maintain authenticity. 

As for the range of services in its suite, we’re talking everything from marketing and loyalty programs to operational and back-office support. For example, with 9,000 shops on its system, Slice sees customer behavior (think: regional demand data) and can apply that to individual shops’ marketing strategies. 

As for the size of the opportunity, 2/3 of U.S. pizza revenue is from independent shops, which is a rather large pie (sorry) for Slice to go after. Federating that otherwise fragmented universe onto one platform can outweigh large pizza chains. And the suite of services continues to expand.

“Today we solve mostly for the demand component of the business, but also some back-office stuff,” said Sela. “As we go deeper into that relationship, we’re now launching some supply-side marketplace economics for the owners. They’re all buying pizza boxes individually. Why not buy them together?”

Check out the full episode above, which also includes a discussion of Sela’s background as an ethic Albanian, born in (then) Yugoslavia before growing up in the thick (or thin, as it were) of the New York pizza world. Find out more about Heard on the Street here, and stay tuned for episodes every two weeks. 

Editor’s Note: Sela will be a speaker at Street Fight Summit, joining a panel discussion about the “SMB Operating System.”

Mike Boland is Street Fight’s lead analyst, author of the Road Map column, and producer of the Heard on the Street podcast. He covers AR & VR as chief analyst of ARtillry Intelligence and SF President of the VR/AR Association. He has been an analyst in the local space since 2005, covering mobile, social, and emerging tech.

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