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OpenTable founder Chuck Templeton ’06 spoke to Kellogg students and alumni Oct. 1 about the company’s journey from early funding to the initial public offering stage.

Chuck Templeton

Solving the dining-out dilemma

Chuck Templeton ’06 serves up a banquet of reservation options with OpenTable

By Amy Trang

10/7/2009 - Chuck Templeton ’06 likes to solve problems.

In 1998, when his wife was calling restaurant after restaurant to secure a weekend reservation without any luck, Templeton set out not only to solve his wife’s problem, but one shared by thousands of other diners in the quest for a restaurant seat.

Templeton founded OpenTable that same year, an online reservation system that allows customers to search for available restaurants and select times and dates for reservations.

“Find the niche market and see the world in a way that no one else is seeing it,” Templeton said.

Templeton spoke to Part-Time MBA students and Kellogg School alumni Oct. 1 about OpenTable’s journey from early funding to the initial public offering stage. OpenTable was one of the only Silicon Valley companies this year to have an initial public offering, opening at $20 per share in May.

Templeton launched OpenTable after raising $750,000 in initial investments from friends and family. As the company’s momentum built, Templeton was able to obtain $36 million in later rounds of funding from venture capitalists. His timing during the Internet boom proved crucial, as venture capitalists were eager to fund Internet-related businesses, Templeton said.

OpenTable provides restaurants with a computer terminal and network connection for a monthly fee. For each diner reservation made through the OpenTable Web site, the company receives an additional $1. The OpenTable software also acts as an organization system for restaurateurs, allowing employees to monitor the number of open tables and to keep track of which customers ate what and how often.

Templeton discussed some of the firm’s early challenges. Persuading restaurants to get on board was difficult, especially in terms of logistics, Templeton said. Host stands at restaurants weren’t equipped to hold a computer terminal and a DSL connection. In one case, Templeton said the company had to rebuild and tear up a restaurant’s concrete floor to put in OpenTable equipment.

Those early efforts paid off. “We got the five to 10 top restaurants in each of our markets and they were our top influencers,” Templeton said. “From there, the next 50 restaurants would follow them and so on.”
OpenTable now lists more than 11,000 restaurants worldwide.

Since OpenTable’s success, Templeton has stepped away from the company and focused on environmental causes. His goal is to make Chicago a sustainable city with a high quality of life by 2025. He hopes to create a business focused on sustainable food, transportation and energy.

“We are at a critical point with the fight against climate change,” Templeton said. “There are challenges to our current system that we need to figure out.”