How to Learn from GrubHub’s New Tablet App’s Example

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How do you know when a company or a product is a big hit? Well, it doesn't hurt that even if you've never used it, you still know enough to be able to tell your friends about it. In my circles, GrubHub is an example of this sort of a success. Whether they're people who have tried it once, are addicts or somewhere in between, pretty much everyone knows all about the site that lets hungry Chicagoans -- usually made of felt, like in the subway ads -- order food from almost any restaurant in town online.

But then, the Chicago-based GrubHub decided to get a little more unpredictable and harder to pin down. Earlier this month, GrubHub debuted OrderHub, an app designed to allow restaurants to manage the online orders they get through GrubHub. Here, watch this:

As GrubHub Co-Founder/CEO Matt Maloney references in the video, GrubHub had always been streamlined and super-easy to use for customers, but for restaurants, not so much. Previously, orders would be faxed to restaurants from GrubHub, and then restaurants would confirm the orders through an automated phone service. For the 21st century, that's a positively Precambrian solution. Something definitely to keep in mind when thinking and rethinking your business: Who can you innovate for? 

It's a great idea, and the man responsible for it, interestingly, is choosing to bow out of the company just as OrderHub is finally coming to fruition. GrubHub Manager of Innovation Colin Wallace is going to travel and return to business school, but before all that, he spoke to Crain's not only about his departure but also about nurturing OrderHub and how other companies can learn from it:

As the (OrderHub) project hit certain milestones, I started to think about what I should be doing. One thing people tend not to realize with innovation is that when you plant a small seed, it grows into a big tree and then everyone has to take care of it and manage it. Because of that, there are only so many seeds you can plant at one time, because you're constrained by the number of people you have to water and prune. So that's what you run into with some companies, you have all these great ideas but only 25 developers, so you can only work on so many projects at a time. That's a necessary pace inside a company, you have to run at a speed you're comfortable with.

Sometimes moving on isn't giving up -- isn't the whole point of being an entrepreneur to come up with great ideas, share them and ultimately march to your very own drum?

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a columnist for EGM. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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