Matt Tait infuses tech into Indy’s fine dining with Plat
Born and raised in a family of entrepreneurs, Matt Tait seemed destined to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. From lawyer to entrepreneur, Matt discovered that tech in Indiana was the best place for him to be, something he’s learning more about every day with his new venture, Plat.
Learning the ropes of Indiana tech
After earning his bachelor’s degree at Duke University, he travelled across the country, from Colorado to New York City. And though he loved seeing America, the people of Indiana drew him back in 2006. “I come from a very big family, and we’re very close. That’s what drew me back here,” Matt said.
He obtained his J.D. at Indiana University and worked as an attorney at Bingham Greenbaum Doll LLP in Indianapolis. “I always wanted to be an entrepreneur, but I’m thankful for the training I got both in law school and the firm that has had an impact on my job now,” Matt said. “It was a fantastic learning experience.”
BidPal (now OneCause) introduced him to several of his tech mentors, and in sales he learned many of the lessons he has incorporated into his later businesses. For an attorney entering the tech sector, some of those lessons could be surprising. “I had to learn it was okay to wear sandals in the office,” Matt recalls. “But BidPal was the perfect place to learn and cut my teeth.”
Through subsequent positions in other companies, Matt built his network and formed connections with companies throughout the tech ecosystem. Mentors and coworkers, such as Jonathan Runes, a former BidPal colleague and now Plat’s CTO, quickly became interested in the ideas he brought to the table. Matt kept spinning up side projects, informed by the challenges he experienced as an attorney and driven by his own passions.
One such project grew into Fude, a digital marketing automation firm for restaurants that Matt and Jonathan co-founded. “We’re all foodies, and we saw significant experience and tech gaps in the restaurant industry,” Matt said. “Fine dining restaurants and how they were building relationships with patrons after they left restaurants were particularly interesting to us. That segment is technologically behind, but it presents some of hottest startup opportunities.” With support from DeveloperTown and their co-founding team DTStarts, Fude launched and developed a platform for restaurants to better use email marketing to attract their customers and convert them into more loyal users.
A new market is tapped with Plat
While Fude could craft marketing options for the regular consumer, Matt saw another opportunity emerge from the data the company was gathering: corporate and business dinners. “We heard about the kinds of nuances that arose in bad experiences with company dinners,” he said. “It involves a totally different calculation than taking friends or family out. With these dinners, the service aspect is much more important.”
Plat was born to facilitate the best experience possible for corporate dinners by making it easy for restaurants to prepare for the group. To do this, Plat employs people to oversee the process while letting the technology handle many of the details. “The power behind what we’re doing is the tech behind it, but we’re in the land of Hoosier hospitality,” Matt said. “We always put a human being on it to ensure that the experience is as amazing as it can be.” Right now, Plat has nine full-time employees, with an additional 10-15 part-time workers.
When Plat’s users want to set up a dinner, they use an app to make the reservation and include every detail they want, from the location of the table to imprinting a company logo on a special copy of the restaurant’s menu. An invitation is then shared to the attendees, who can add information like a drink order or dietary needs. The restaurant receives everything ahead of time and sets up a unique experience for the diners. Once the dinner ends, the user can pay through Plat, removing checks and receipts from the equation. Documents needed for expense reports are emailed directly to the user to keep records tidy. “It takes out some of the awkwardness and quirks that appear during a meal, and it makes it so that it’s not a big deal,” Matt said.
The platform currently serves about 700 local clients, mostly lawyers. However, Matt sees many other openings in markets throughout Indiana, such as activating customers in financial services, medical device sales, and accounting firms. “We’re truly seeing a viral effect; people are telling their friends,” he said. Plat has also initiated a beta program for lunches and are planning out how diners in other cities could use their services.
Growing this business and getting connected to Indiana entrepreneurship has shown Matt what the city and state have to offer. “Indy is the perfect place: the growth in the tech community combined with Hoosier hospitality and what organizations like The Indiana Convention Center and Visit Indy have done to monetize hospitality, it’s really the perfect place to do this.”