Dimmi founder Stevan Premutico

The entrepreneur helping restaurants book bums on seats

Your Friday Entrepreneur Fix this week features Dimmi founder Stevan Premutico, who changed the way the restaurant industry takes bookings.

Stevan Premutico says entrepreneurship is in his blood.

It must be, because the 31-year-old quit his high-profile marketing job with Hilton Hotels on the eve of the global financial crisis and turned down a job offer from Richard Branson to launch Dimmi (‘tell me’ in Italian), his industry-changing restaurant reservation website.

In his time as marketing director at the Hilton, Premutico had become frustrated with the lack of cost-effective channels for restaurants to get bums on seats. Approached by Wotif and Lastminute.com to help fill hotel rooms, Premutico realised there was nothing similar in the restaurant space. He’d found a gaping hole in the market, and within a week he had left his job – and the rest is history.

Over 2,000 restaurants now use Dimmi and the service has seen two million bookings made at eateries around the country. Premutico’s team now consists of 27 employees and the entrepreneur wouldn’t change a thing about his journey – not something you’ll hear many business owners say.

Q. How much time and research went into launching the Dimmi business?

I spent the next year on my mate’s floor in London, researching the business. I always wanted to launch it in Australia because it’s home and it was always my intention to get experience overseas and bring it back here. I researched international models.

During that time, I was offered a job by [Richard] Branson to head up the launch of V Australia. I said no and decided to come back to Australia and start raising capital to launch Dimmi.

Q. So I guess you could say you caught the entrepreneurship bug then?

When it’s in your blood and you know you have to do something, you can’t even sleep, you just have to do it or you’ll always have an itch.

Q. Did you always suspect you’d end up running your own business one day?

It was always a case of what, not if. Being an entrepreneur has always been in my blood.

At Hilton there was so much opportunity and potential but it was like steering the Titanic. Everything took too long and had to go through too many people. I wanted to create my own business, which could be fluid, reactive and nimble and respond to the needs of customers and restaurateurs.

Q. How did you know you had an idea that would take off?

I knew Australian restaurants were starting to embrace technology and knew the Australian consumer was ready for it. It’s an amazing time on the Australian dining scene and there’s been a massive evolution. It’s easy for restaurants to be great in the kitchen but they now have to be great with their marketing and great with their online presence too.

I had an idea that was already internationally proven and had worked well in other verticals. I raised about $2 million from family, friends and colleagues; basically high net worth individuals. People loved the idea and jumped on the bandwagon. Every capital raising since has been relatively quick and the business’ valuation has increased significantly at each stage.

Q. What kind of impact has your board had on the business?

Some of the members are investors, some aren’t, but they all bring something different to the dynamic. It’s really easy to get involved in the day-to-day of your business so the monthly board meetings bring the focus back.

The board has been key to our success.

Q. Looking back, would you have done anything differently?

No. The shift from employee to employer is never easy but I’m fortunate I have an amazing team.

Everyone knows they’re part of the bigger picture and that’s a beautiful thing.

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