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Hungry? Tapingo aims to make ordering food a wallet-and-wait-free process

Above: This burger could be yours in just a few taps.

Image Credit: Simon Willison/Flickr

Humanity has come a long way since the days of hunting and gathering. Now finding food is as simple as a few taps on your phone.

Mobile ordering system Tapingo has tucked away $10.5 million in new funding. Using the startup’s web and mobile apps, you search for nearby restaurants that offer pickup and delivery. You browse through menus, customize orders, and pay online. The food will either be delivered or ready when you arrive at the restaurant, and Tapingo has an integrated reward system.

So how is this any different from the dozens of other online food ordering systems out there? GrubHub/Seamless, Eat24, Caviar, OrderAhead, and Delivery Hero operate similar services.

Tapingo’s focus is on mobile. The app knows your location and learns about your preferences over time to make contextual recommendations. For example, the app will know if you get a latte every morning and offer to place the order for you.

The startup bills itself as a “mobile shopping platform” rather than as a food ordering system. The long-term vision is not about pizza and lattes but about making mobile commerce more mainstream.

A majority of people in America now have smartphones. They have become an indispensable utility with tools for every part of our day: waking up, getting work done, or coordinating plans with friends. But mobile commerce has been relatively slow to gain momentum because entering payment information on a smartphone can be frustrating.

The momentum is picking up now. We are seeing the “Uberification” of everything, meaning location-aware apps that automatically take care of payments and deliver services to your door.

Tapingo wants to become the indispensable utility when it comes to ordering food. It is building up a network of merchants and customers, starting on college campuses. Such places tend to be retail dense, with people pressed for time. And college students are active smartphone users.

The company is currently active on more than 25 major university campuses around the country, including New York University, the University of Southern California, University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, and Louisiana State University. It claims that at some campuses, up to 50 percent of all transactions are being made through the Tapingo system.

Tapingo’s technology and deployment strategy brings to mind Clinkle, another mobile payments startup. Clinkle is still in stealth mode, but we do know that it is building a mobile payments platform that aims to replace physical wallets. The goal is to create a transactional network of merchants and consumers, and it is starting out on college campuses. For this vision, Clinkle raised a whopping $25 million seed round from some of the most well-known investors out there.

One of the biggest challenges facing startups like Tapingo and Clinkle is achieving that critical mass of merchants and consumers. It’s a chicken-and-the-egg problem — people won’t use the app if merchants are not on it, and merchants won’t sign up if people aren’t using the app.

This is the startup’s second round of funding, led by Khosla Ventures with participation from existing investor Carmel Ventures. It is based in San Francisco and Tel Aviv.

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