How three middle school pals built the software that feeds the Super Bowl

LA Times

Kevin Anderson, Jason Pratts and Max Roper are co-founders of Appetize. The trio started the company out of their Santa Monica apartment in 2011 as a simple app for ordering food to be delivered to your seat at sports games.

Today, it’s a full-service point-of-sale software company in Playa Vista that handles orders for edibles in hospitals, colleges and music venues such as the Wiltern and Hollywood Palladium, and a majority of the sports stadiums in the country. Appetize, which has almost 300 employees, has raised $50 million from investors including the Dodgers, the NFL and Shamrock Capital Advisors, a successor to the investment fund founded by Roy E. Disney.

Schoolmates in the 818

The trio met in middle school at Los Angeles Baptist High in North Hills. Roper, the company’s chief executive, and Pratts, chief operating officer, were both from the Valley, but Anderson, who now serves as chief strategy officer, made the daily trek from Santa Monica.

The friends took different paths after graduating from L.A. Baptist. Anderson gave professional golf a shot. Pratts went to Cal State Northridge for a business degree, starting up small businesses as he went. Roper, the technology guy on the team, took one class at UCLA, dropped out and then started working for Apple Inc., before joining the Red Bull Stratos team in Roswell, N.M., where he built equipment that would let a skydiver jump from space.

The Lakers break

A 2011 game at Staples Center brought the trio back together and sparked the idea that would turn into Appetize.

“We saw this awful ordering experience, where the waiter jots down your order on a piece of paper, grabs your credit card and disappears for 30 minutes to do God knows what, and then charges you a $15 delivery or convenience fee,” Anderson said. “We had paid 100 bucks to go see Kobe, and we’re sitting there saying, ‘There’s gotta be a better way.’ ”

The friends had been bouncing around ideas for how to make an app for food delivery, but the stadium experience opened their eyes to a different business model.

“At the game we thought: ‘Why don’t we put a seating chart in here instead of delivering to a house?’ ” Roper said. “It was one of those very logical ideas where you say it in one sentence and it makes complete sense — an app for ordering food to your seat at the stadium and have it delivered — and everyone’s like, that’s awesome.”

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