Planet Jeffro

Product Owner for Grockit (a Kaplan company).
Email me at jeffnovich [] gmail

Companies/Products I created:
Patient Communicator | half patient portal half CRM for doctors (was part of the Blueprint Health accelerator)
Poachbase | find talent at floundering startups
Fare/Share | iOS app for sharing taxis
VocabSushi | learn vocab from news
Cnvrge | meet people via SMS
Supermarket Classroom | teach your child while shopping | foursquare for the 99% | online SAT prep
Recent Tweets @jeffnovich
Posts I Like
Who I Follow

… And #winning the @venmo prize.

Check In Take Out

Yesterday was the Foursquare Hackathon, a full-day event where about 300+ hackers participated in SF and NYC to build something using the Foursquare API.


I got to work with one of the best teams ever.

(top to bottom)

  • Rory - an awesomely talented designer who I just met last week. This was his first hackathon.
  • Kennedy - aka “The Machine”, an insanely talented designer/UX guy
  • Zac - a great developer who was on Startup Bus, who lives in Chicago but was in NY for a week or two to visit his girlfriend and somehow convinced her it would be cool to spend one of those days hacking. That’s dedication.
  • Pinzler - we’ve been doing this for a while


The idea was to make it easy for someone to sort of “pre-order” for a dine-in experience.  So imagine you’re just getting to a cafe. You check in on Foursquare and then immediately get to see a menu page of that place, check off what you want and pay, all without waiting on a line, looking up at a menu, and handing over a credit card.  When your food is ready, you get an alert to pick it up.

Another use case: I’m a block away from a cool place I want to go to for lunch.  I can check in, order and pay. Then get an alert when it’s ready and simply roll into the place, pickup my order number and sit down.


The night before, pinzler and I brainstormed the idea until we had a pretty clear vision and I wrote up this little spec with some amazing screenshots.

Google Docs isn’t exactly the easiest place to create wireframes at 2am…

1) User authenticates connected app:
Auth with foursquare
Capture user’s email and phone number if available in foursquare
Auth with Venmo

2) When user checks in to venue,
- Get venue they are checked into
- Get venue’s twitter handle (
- Check if venue has menu available
- If menu, link to “order web app” (if the venue is “live” on our system)
if the venue is not (ie, every venue), then add an “invite” option which lets you tweet at us (and the restaurant?) to get this restaurant on the system: “Hey RESTAURANT! I really really want to order food and pay you through @checkintakeout. Can you get on it?”

3) User clicks to “order web app”
Use jquerymobile?
Display a list of grouped menu items (ie starters, entrees) with prices
Each item has a + to add it to the cart
Cart with purchased items and total
Checkout button to make the purchase

4) When user clicks “Checkout”
Confirm payment with venmo TO the venue for the items in their cart
Display “Thank you for ordering” page that also includes instructions
Your order for x y and z has been sent to Pinzler Express
When it is ready, you’ll be notified by SMS OR email and you can pick it up at the counter
Send a SMS to the venue’s phone “You got a new order from Check In Take Out. Click here to see it: xxxx”.  Link goes to POS app.

5) Venue “point of sale” web app
Incoming orders list (populate when a user pays for an order)
Order number on left (this identifies who gets which order from the counter)
Lists all the items and prices in the order + total amount paid
“It’s ready” (green) button: When the order is ready for pickup, venue clicks this to change order state.  
- Clicking this triggers a SMS and email alert to the user saying “Your order for x y and z is ready for pickup.  Please mention #27 when picking up.”  Email would contain their full receipt.

“Picked up” (red) button: When user picks up the order, venue “clears” the order by changing status to picked up, and it moves to “Completed” tab list.

The Day:

We had a little powow but were able to get to work pretty quickly. (I wasn’t on my phone the whole time, just in this picture!)

I set out to make sure my team was properly situated.  Foursquare has a cool office but the seating arrangements were all wooden picnic tables. So I poked around a bit, talked to my buddy Hoff (a developer at 4sq) and got a table set up along with 4 legit comfy chairs.  I’d like to think that had an impact!


Kennedy brought his awesome camera and snapped some great pics.

Meeting Restaurants:

I thought it would be awesome if we could present the hack along with a restaurant that was actually using it.  So I talked to the Venmo folks and told them all about the idea and asked if they knew a few venues that accept Venmo as a payment option.  A few hours later, I headed out with Jesse (android dev at venmo) and Ana and we hit up three spots: Loving Hut, Cafe Grumpy and Pita Grill.

I explained to each what foursquare and venmo were and that we were building a new app that day that would allow their customers to make a purchase through Foursquare. They all seemed pretty interested but obviously this is a tough thing to get people to use and to convince restaurants to adopt.  But, as startup people say: GTF out of the building. So that’s what I did.

Loving Hut:

Pita Grill:

Cafe Grumpy:

The Pitch:

This is the pitch I cooked up.

Lines suck. Credit cards suck. And awkwardly waiting for your food sucks.

Check in Take out is a connected 4sq app that lets you check in as usual, order directly off the menu, pay with venmo and get an alert when your order is ready. Complete with a merchant view for handling orders.

So let’s go to Loving Hut, an awesome vegan spot in Chelsea that accepts venmo. But there’s a crazy long line. I’ll check in and get the option to order from their menu - straight from the foursquare api.

I like the Edamame and loving hut chips so i’ll add em to my cart. Then i can checkout and pay for this on venmo directly to the restaurant. Now I can go back to something other than waiting on this long shitty line….

At this point, the lovely lady at loving hut will get an SMS that there’s a new order and see that I paid on venmo. Here’s the merchant view. When my order is ready… she’ll click “its ready”.

Then, I get an SMS alert saying to go pick up my order! - and there it stands.

This is pretty awesome. We streamlined the entire in-person order experience using foursquare and venmo. But “Check in Take out” is more than just a little hack idea. This afternoon I went to three cafes and restaurants that accept venmo - including Loving Hut - and demo’d the app and the idea. They loved it.

Check In Take out dot com - We cut the line for you and ate up your credit card. This is how ordering is meant to be done and it’s here now.


(when I get the video of my actual pitch, I’ll embed it here)

Here is a demo of the app w/o narration.

The profile for Check In Take Out is on Hacker League.


We won the Venmo prize - $500 - which was pretty sweet.