Details about Chris Todd and his story

The ideas that became Theatro grew out of a collaboration between Guy Van Buskirk, Steve Russel and myself. Steve is a serial entrepreneur out of the Bay area and Guy is his good friend and Texas-based business executive—we began iterating about retail and how there needs to be a high-tech approach that could improve the clunky in-store experience.

We met with John Thrailkill, EVP of IT and Business Development at The Container Store and brainstormed on technology solutions that could improve the in-store customer experience. From this conversation, we opened our first office in Dallas in a shared space by SMU and began working on ways to create a mobile communication solution that is affordable enough for all associates and one that keeps them heads-up and hands-free while using it.

Through our work with The Container Store team, it became obvious to all of us that the mobile revolution that was taking the world by storm would likely leave the hourly worker behind. From this realization came the idea of a mobile device without a screen that could be controlled with just your voice. At the time, Siri was introduced as virtual assistant on the iPhone, but the value she delivered was very low.

We envisioned a “purpose built” virtual assistant that could help an hourly worker do anything they needed in order to get their job done. After working in stealth mode for 2+ years exclusively with the team at The Container Store, we ended up creating a truly disruptive mobile app platform not only for retail, but also for hourly workers in many other market segments such as hospitality, restaurants, manufacturing, gaming and many more.

Now that we just turned six years old, Theatro is proud to partner with many of the world’s most notable brands, including Neiman Marcus, Total Wine & More, Nordstrom, Cabela’s, The Home Depot (Canada) and of course The Container Store. From our first TCS store with 30 employees to today’s 500+ locations with over 65,000 employees, we are very excited about the prospects for our future.

Has it been a smooth road?
One of the biggest challenges with launching a new start-up in Dallas is access to capital. With the Silicon Valley being the home to most venture capitalists (and their money), we were constantly asked to move our new company to the Bay Area so it would be easier on the investors to be involved.

We were determined to stay put and were fortunate to raise funding for our fledgling company from investors outside of the valley (Dallas, NYC and across the US). With our funding secured, we faced typical start-up growing pains as our company grew and needed to scale to meet the opportunities created by our team.

Fortunately, the Dallas area has a wealth of software and hardware development engineers who were eager to join our small team to help us achieve our vision.

We’d love to hear more about your business.
As the pioneers of the world’s first voice-controlled mobile app platform for retail, hospitality, and other sectors, we are on a mission to reinvent the mobile revolution for the hourly worker. Our motto is “creating innovations for the forgotten hourly worker.” We feel that our new mobile platform has the ability to unlock the true productivity potential of all hourly workers in order to elevate them way above minimum wage and thereby fuel our economy to greater heights.

By connecting employees to each other and to critical enterprise information, we enable them to play their role in providing an incredible customer experience while increasing sales, employee productivity, conversion rates and operational profitability. Employees at our customer’s store for the first time are empowered, connected, and agile, and report a higher level of satisfaction with their jobs once they get to use Theatro.

We run our business operations each day with the clear objective and understanding that the employees working in aisle at each store are our customer, not just those at HQ making the buying decisions.

Is our city a good place to do what you do?
Dallas is a great city for start-ups, especially now with new incubators like Revtech and the emergence of new seed stage investors opening up shop here. Dallas has a very pro-business environment with several world-renowned universities that are churning out a pipeline of talented engineers and business leaders.

Not to mention the affordable real estate, central-US location and no state income tax. We would have never made it as far as we have on the capital we have raised if we were located in a high-cost, high-tax place like San Francisco.

 

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