“Pre-order, prepay, pickup—it is as easy as that!” explains Charles Azrak, recent Concordia finance graduate, about his latest business venture. The company he co-founded with his other business partner, Richard Btaiche, a graduate of Concordia’s computer engineering program, is called LEX-IT.
LEX-IT is an ideal solution for busy students or business professionals, too famished and far too impatient to wait in a long line for their lunch or dinner. Once you visit www.justlexit.com, you can access a list of LEX-IT partner restaurants from which you can order food for pickup at a specified time in the future. Food can be ordered through the LEX-IT website or iPhone app. Other smartphone devices are on the way too.
Once food has been ordered, LEX-IT partner restaurants prepare it to your specifications for you to pick up at an indicated time. All you have to do when picking up the food is to tell them your PIN, which is provided when you order through LEX-IT. You can do all of this while sitting and waiting for class to finish, or on your way to your morning class, or in the shuttle while switching between campuses, all conveniently at your fingertips. “Students can pick up their breakfast on the way to the class or a snack during classroom breaks, something that they usually have no time for,” said Btaiche.
Some of the LEX-IT partner restaurants include: Subway, Liquid Nutrition, Thai Express, Gourmet Burger, Al-Taib, Chateau Kabab, Lunchbox and others. Many more are on the way, explained Azrak. “It took us months to build relationships with restaurant owners and to find out the best way to work with them.”
But what’s the best thing about LEX-IT? It’s free—the price that you pay is the same that you would pay if you purchased your food at the restaurant. The way LEX-IT makes money is by taking a percentage of the sales through an established contract with the restaurants. “This [service] is a new concept that we are certain will be used by many Concordia and other university students,” said Azrak.
The idea for the name “LEX-IT” was inspired by Azrak’s friend who, during the period where they were brainstorming to find a company name, had a baby and called her Lexia. “We realized that there was a good definition behind it because the Latin term lex mercatoria refers to a system of custom and best practice. We also wanted for people to view LEX-IT as a way of being, a system of established norms and behaviour. It all really came together,” said Btaiche.
Azrak and Btaiche teamed up on this project in October 2010. “From day one, Richard and I clicked,” said Azrak, beaming as he explained how both of them are similar in their ambition and hard-working attitude. “In addition to us working so well together, we must also give a lot of credit to our board of directors, who provided an invaluable help on our business strategy and legal matters,” said Azrak.
“He is a machine,” said Azrak of Btaiche. “Richard has the best memory, he is a perfectionist, he likes to balance everything in his life. If a pixel is missing in a picture Richard will stop everything and fix it.”
Btaiche spoke highly of Azrak too. “He is very patient, and he is a very positive and creative person, a machine too,” said Btaiche.
Btaiche was one of four students who received a co-op entrepreneurship award during his last year at Concordia. He was born in Lebanon, grew up in Saudi Arabia, and came to Montreal in 2007 to complete his studies at Concordia. Even in Lebanon, Btaiche could not turn off his entrepreneurial extinct, as he started creating small businesses, such as an Internet cafe. “Even when I was very young I was an efficient person, always thinking of ways to save time and to optimize whatever there is,” he said.
Azrak, on the other hand, took a less direct path. Originally from Syria, but born in Montreal, Azrak moved around from Saudi Arabia to Dubai and back to Montreal. “I never really knew what I wanted to do, I switched programs a few times [between MIS, finance, marketing and one semester of law at the Université de Montréal], but I knew whatever I decided to do it was going to be interesting.”
This is not the first start-up idea that Btaiche and Azrak have embarked on. While Azrak was studying finance at Concordia, he teamed up with Btaiche to start a charity that would raise funds to purchase laptops for orphanages.
Btaiche explained to me that starting a business is not as easy as it seems, specifying that they work 12 to 14 hours a day on perfecting their product and growing the business. “People don’t understand the drive and the energy that we have. When it is 1 a.m. on Saturday and you are shooting business ideas to each other through texts and emails, something is wrong,” joked Azrak.
In the beginning, LEX-IT struggled finding technical talent to help build their product, invested large amounts of money, and Azrak took the risk of quitting his job to dedicate himself to their creation.
Many young student entrepreneurs may have their fears of not having enough money, being afraid that the competition would be overwhelming, or that the product won’t sell. For them, Btaiche offered some advice. “I think that Montreal is a really good place to start a business, there are a lot of resources and support that you can benefit from and you should follow your gut and don’t be afraid in venturing and investing some money, because the experience that you get from it and the journey that you go on is really priceless,” he said.
Azrak emphasized the importance of keeping your eye on your goal, maintaining focus, avoiding distractions and choosing your business partners wisely. “If you will ever have business partners, make sure you’ve worked with them before. Being friends with someone does not mean that you will work well together, it is completely different. Also, I suggest reading biographies and books of interesting entrepreneurs to give you ideas and a better understanding.”
Ambitious plans lie ahead for the LEX-IT team. “What we are focused on right now is making sure that Concordia students love LEX-IT. We want them to just LEX-IT every day! It takes a lot of work, often through trial and error, to come up with the best experience, but with the support of the students, university community and our partner restaurants, we are certain to get it done,” said Azrak. “Our plan is to revolutionize the way people order food, one order at a time.”
For more information, visit www.justlexit.com. and just LEX-IT!