Vendep Capital invests in Cluby

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Finnish startup Cluby, which has developed a loyalty system for the restaurant industry, has raised €2.9 million in seed funding to accelerate its growth both in Finland and internationally. The round was led by Vendep Capital, and also participating in the round were Elias Aalto, a founding member of Wolt and one of Cluby’s original investors, as well as Cluby co-founder Pekka Koskinen.

Cluby offers a mobile app-based loyalty system that allows consumers to join loyalty programs of their favorite restaurants. With Cluby, restaurants can efficiently acquire loyal customers, gather data on their clientele, market their services, and offer new digital products such as stamp cards, loyalty benefits, tickets, and both paid and free VIP and membership cards. While large restaurant chains have developed their own apps to meet these needs, Cluby is specifically designed for smaller businesses that lack their own app or customer management system. Cluby already serves nearly 500 restaurant clients in Finland, including well-known brands like Boneless, Momotoko, Green Hippo, Milliklubi, and Fat Lizard.

“We noticed over five years ago that most restaurants lacked a customer management system despite the clear need. Giants like McDonald’s have developed their own apps, gaining a competitive edge over smaller businesses unable to create their own. With Cluby, smaller chains and individual restaurants, cafes, bars, and nightclubs can easily create their own loyalty programs. Cluby is like a Hubspot for the restaurant industry. Hubspot is the world’s most popular CRM and marketing system, helping businesses worldwide manage their customers. Our goal is to connect restaurants and their customers through a single service,” explains Cluby CEO Kalle Ek.

Cluby’s growth story has seen many interesting phases, as the first version of the app was launched just before the COVID-19 pandemic. While the restaurant industry in Finland was in a state of emergency for over two years, Cluby used this time to study restaurant technologies and trends globally and to develop its service in close collaboration with the restaurant entrepreneurs using the app. Post-pandemic growth has been explosive, with the app already having over 100,000 downloads in Finland. With the recent funding round, the startup is set to expand into Europe.

“We will launch Cluby this fall at least in Sweden and Spain, and our goal for next year is to make the service available to restaurants in dozens of European countries. In the long term, our aim is to become a global player in a billion-dollar market with no direct competitors. We have tapped into a very promising market niche, giving us the opportunity to become the next major Finnish success story,” Ek continues.

Cluby’s founding trio includes seasoned startup entrepreneurs Kalle Ek, Joel Leino, and Pekka Koskinen, who is particularly known as the founder of Leadfeeder. Leadfeeder, specializing in sales lead identification, was sold abroad a couple of years ago in a €180 million deal and was backed by Vendep Capital from the seed stage.

“We decided to invest in Cluby because of their successful founding team and the enormous need in the restaurant industry for customer data utilization. Currently, there are no effective tools available for restaurant businesses to manage customer data. All of Cluby’s clients have praised the tool and derived significant benefits from it. The restaurant industry is digitalizing and increasingly leveraging technology, presenting an excellent opportunity,” says Jupe Arala of Vendep Capital.

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