Finnish Startup Cluby Raises €2.9M to Digitally Connect Restaurants with Customers

Cluby, a Finnish startup changing the way restaurants connect with its customers digitally, has successfully raised €2.9 million in a seed round.

The funding was secured from Vendep Capital, Cluby’s co-founder and investor Pekka Koskinen, and Elias Aalto, co-founder of food delivery giant Wolt. With this investment, Cluby aims to expand its reach across Europe, offering its innovative platform to a wider audience.

The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digitalisation within the restaurant industry, prompting the adoption of tools such as table booking systems, food delivery apps, and event ticket platforms. While major chains like McDonald’s and Starbucks have developed their own apps to enhance customer engagement, smaller establishments such as independent restaurants, bars, cafes, and nightclubs have primarily relied on social media marketing, newsletters, and physical loyalty cards due to cost constraints.

Cluby addresses this gap by providing an affordable, user-friendly platform that enables restaurants and other venues to connect with customers, manage customer registers, sell digital products (including monthly subscriptions, tickets, and VIP passes), offer member benefits, develop personalised loyalty programmes, and create marketing campaigns to drive repeat business. This all-in-one app simplifies the process for restaurant customers, who only need to download a single app to engage with all their favourite dining and nightlife spots.

The founding team of Cluby includes seasoned startup entrepreneurs Kalle Ek, Joel Leino, and Pekka Koskinen. Koskinen is particularly notable for founding Leadfeeder, a company that specialises in identifying sales leads from website visitors. Leadfeeder was sold in a transaction valued at €180 million just a couple of years ago.

Cluby’s innovative approach and strategic expansion across Europe promise to transform the digital landscape for restaurants and enhance customer engagement like never before.

“We saw the market need for Cluby already 5 years ago, and we launched the first prototype in the summer of 2019. But then COVID hit the restaurant industry, and therefore us, really hard. For 3 years, we kept our team small and improved our product in a close relationship with hand-selected restaurants. In the beginning of 2023, we decided it was time to start scaling, and since then we’ve grown both our restaurant and our user base month-to-month. We’re proud of what we’ve achieved with our team so far, and we’re excited to finally expand Cluby to other countries in Europe,” says Kalle Ek, co-founder and CEO at Cluby.

Cluby’s innovative approach to digital customer loyalty has significantly impacted Finland's restaurant market. In 2023, Cluby's yearly growth rate was over 5x, and there are already over 500 restaurants in Cluby and over 100,000 users who have downloaded the app. This year, Cluby will start its expansion in Europe with the aim of becoming the category leader in every market the company operates in.

“We wanted to invest in Cluby particularly because of its amazing and experienced founding team with multiple serial entrepreneurs, including Pekka Koskinen, who led our portfolio company Leadfeeder to a successful exit with Dealfront. The second main reason is the market opportunity – there is a huge need in the restaurant industry for utilising customer data. “Currently, there are no effective tools available for restaurants. Overall, we see that the restaurant industry is becoming more digital and increasingly utilising technology, so we see an excellent opportunity here. Additionally, all of Cluby's customers we talked with praised the Cluby platform and stated they had gained significant benefits from using it,” says Juha-Pekka Arala, General Partner at Vendep Capital.