Photo courtesy of CNBC

Lone Star Success

When imagining the scene of a young entrepreneur pitching investors for major funding, what comes to mind? A boardroom or luxurious office space? Wealthy financiers in expensive suits?

Adam Garfield’s experience? He was in West Texas, standing across from two guys named Butch and Rooster—who weren’t timid about downing beers while Garfield pitched his idea.

For the chance to put some much-needed capital behind Garfield’s venture, SpeedETab – a mobile ordering and mobile payment solution – the unique setting was fine by him. Garfield (BSBA ’09) secured a $250,000 investment—which could turn into a half million dollars based on performance metrics—during the debut episode of CNBC’s West Texas Investors Club.

West Texas Investors Club is like SharkTank meets the Dukes of Hazzard. The investors didn’t make their millions in technology, real estate or fashion like on SharkTank—they made it in the oil pipe business. Wayne “Butch” Gilliam went from cleaning his father’s machine shop to selling a patent for $100 million. Mike “Rooster” McConaughey, the older brother of Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey, has made millions in numerous ventures, including his oil pipe machine shop.

Garfield, 28, was contacted by CNBC to appear on the show after meeting with SharkTank producers at a TechCrunch event in Boston. While his SharkTank talks fizzled, the team behind West Texas Investors Club saw him as a great fit for its show. Garfield, however, was skeptical.

“I almost backed out five or six times,” he said. “There’s a lot of uncertainty when dealing with reality television. While there’s no script, you’re aware the editing process is going to be done in a way that creates drama for the audience. That lack of control can be a little unsettling.”

But Garfield took the plunge. The show’s producers flew him to Midland, Texas—about 100 miles east of the Texas/New Mexico border—in April. When Garfield arrived, all he knew was he was scheduled to pitch to investors.

“I started to wonder what I got myself into,” Garfield said. “Those were some of the most nerve-wracking moments of my life. The entire experience was very clandestine. I didn’t know where I was going or who I was going to meet. Normal venture capital pitches are already pressure-filled, but knowing a national primetime TV audience would be watching me pitch certainly took my jitters to the next level.”

Ultimately, Garfield and SpeedETab won over the investors. SpeedETab is an app that allows users to order food and drinks from their mobile device creating what Garfield envisions as a “world without lines.” Users select their desired food or drink with a tap of a button, and complete purchases using SpeedETab’s mobile payment process. SpeedETab then notifies users when their orders are ready for pick-up.

“I was frustrated by the way waiting in line to order and pay had seen so little innovation, especially within the hospitality industry,” Garfield said. “I saw that other people had the same frustrations and wanted to create a solution that would benefit both customers and merchants. In the end, leaving my job was a difficult decision, but I felt I was at a time in my life, at 26, where I’m able to take those kinds of risks and try to build something special.”

Garfield said the idea for SpeedETab had been on his mind for some time. Although enjoying a successful career in corporate finance in Boston at Kaufman Rossin Fund Services, a national firm that provides accounting and financial services to hedge funds and similar entities, Garfield said the long hours and corporate grind eventually got to him after almost five years.

“Even though it ultimately wasn’t the career path for me, it was a great experience,” Garfield said. “As my first job, the skills I learned there—professionalism, communication, attention to detail, having pride in your work—I took with me to build SpeedETab.”

Although Garfield had the business plan and general sketch for SpeedETab, he needed an engineer to build it. He found a partner in Ed Gilmore, a computer science major from Purdue and former engineer at Blackberry and Motorola. SpeedETab took 15 months to build, and launched in March.

Garfield’s current focus is to continue to gain traction in South Florida, and later expand regionally and nationally. Currently, SpeedETab has partnerships at more than 50 locations in South Florida, including the Adrienne Arsht Center for the Performing Arts of Miami, Senor Frog’s, and, most recently, Miami Subs Grill. When SpeedETab surpasses 250 locations, Garfield will receive an additional $250,000 in funding from Butch and Rooster.

“Being on the show has been terrific for brand awareness,” Garfield said. “You can’t put a dollar amount on what the show did for us.”