Jul 28, 2023
Corey Hewitt, co-founder of Gimmer Vending, was a part of the inaugural cohort of CREATE-X’s GT Startup Launch (originally Startup Summer). Through the program, he found a community that he still taps into today.
While at Tech, Hewitt studied electrical engineering. He met his co-founder, Evan Jarecki, through an internship with Gulf Stream Aerospace. They had complimentary skills and similar goals, so they decided to go into business together.
What did you think about the way you and your co-founder worked?
It’s surprised me how much of a superpower it was. That just turned out to be magical.
How did you and your co-founder decide on what startup to create?
The way that vending machines order food, or the way that grocery stores invoice the people who make deliveries, happens with a super old-school technology called DEX. When we got started, you literally had to carry a guitar jack cord around to be able to plug into these DEX ports to communicate with the mainframe of the grocery store or the control board of the vending machine. The other end of that would be like a Zebra or Motorola PDA, and that's how you communicate with them. I think it’s bizarre when people learn how old-school information happens in vending and in grocery stores.
Why did you join CREATE-X?
Knowing that it would take both hardware and software kind of raised the bar of what we needed to get this idea off the ground. We knew that instead of just two guys on two laptops working in a garage coding their way to a solution, we were going to need a couple more people with different specialties. Doing those things usually involves cash. CREATE-X means to me an ecosystem and a support system for innovation.
How did your startup develop?
The idea definitely got more refined. There was still this process of experimentation and accelerated mini failures that gave us a lot more confidence. Even though we came into the program with an idea of what we wanted to solve, it became a lot more refined through this constant iteration, experimentation, and customer discovery throughout the program.
What were your biggest challenges?
Money issues were some of the biggest challenges. How do you fund a lot of these initial projects with no budget? There’s this romantic view of being a startup. It’s not as romantic as the movies make it seem.
What gave you confidence despite the challenges?
Our customers wanted us to be successful because they wanted the solution. That felt so validating, not only that we can solve a problem, but people value it. We used one customer’s investment in us to talk to other investors. That gave a lot more confidence in the ultimate solution that we decided to pursue.
How did the Georgia Tech community benefit you during the beginning stages of your startup journey?
We were getting all the right attention from different people. You've got nothing when you make a startup. You don't have HR. You don't have legal. You don't have office space. You don't have a training manual. You hire the first employee, and you make a bunch of mistakes. All of these things are brand new. I was able to lean on the network at Georgia Tech and ask people through the program, “Who can I talk to who has done this before?” And they would say, “Talk to this guy. He's either failed at it or he's succeeded at it. Either way, you'll learn something.” I think that helped us sidestep a number of mistakes. I would have failed without the help of others. That was the biggest lesson.
What advice would you give someone who wants to build a startup?
I’ve noticed that those who try tend to still leave a dent on the world. If you put yourself out there, what I’ve seen is the Atlanta startup community is actually supportive. We have connections to people now.
Where are you now with your startup, and what are your plans?
Instead of being a founder, I want to work with a founder.
Gimme Vending has been named product of the year, 40 Under 40, Tag Top 40, #1 B2B in Georgia, and received other recognition. After almost nine years as CEO, Hewitt will now try something new. He’s leaving his startup this month and is excited about electrification and emerging tech in developing community support. He plans to work with founders in those areas. Hewitt also plans to be a CREATE-X mentor and a mentor in pitch competitions across the state.
Speak to our next cohort of CREATE-X founders at Demo Day, Aug. 31, 3-5p.m., at the Georgia Tech Exhibition Hall. Register for Demo Day today to reserve your spot at this free event!