Developer Spotlight: KioskBuddy

Helping short-handed small businesses deliver seamless self-order and pay experiences

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We’re back with another installment of our Developer Spotlight series, where we share the stories and experiences of developers, tech leaders, and entrepreneurs building on the Square platform. In this round, we sat down with Marvin Trajano and Lisa Tran, co-founders and lead developers of KioskBuddy.

After discovering the need for a self-order kiosk solution through the Square Seller Community, Marvin and Lisa decided to combine their technical background with entrepreneurship to build KioskBuddy. Earlier this year, they raised funding from the TinySeed accelerator program, enabling them to quit their 9 to 5 jobs and transition their side hustle to a full-time business. Today, KioskBuddy is automating ordering and payments for restaurants to small retailers, farm stands, and even gyms.

We asked Marvin and Lisa to share their startup journey, why they chose to build KioskBuddy exclusively on the Square platform, and their experience integrating with Square APIs and SDKs. Keep on reading to find out how they use integrations like Loyalty API, Orders API, Reader SDK, and more to grow their business, along with some of their best advice for first-time entrepreneurs.

KioskBuddy NRA Show


Take us back to where it all began. What’s the story behind KioskBuddy? What inspired you to start the business and what was it like building it from the ground up?

Lisa: We met freshman year in college in our first computer science class. After graduating, the two of us worked as software engineers — myself at IBM and Marvin at CGTech. We always collaborated on group projects and, even after college, continued to partner on many other side projects.

In late 2018, we were brainstorming ideas for our next venture. A friend of ours had mentioned Square, so we browsed the forums on the Square Seller Community and found a bunch of threads mentioning the need for a self-order kiosk solution. We looked at the Square developer docs and the APIs seemed easy enough for us to build out a simple self-order kiosk app. From here, we built out an MVP and released it in the App Store in May 2019.

Building an app and business from the ground up is an entirely different ballpark from our previous software engineering jobs. In the beginning, we just saw it as a side project. Now that we’ve both quit our full-time jobs to go all-in, it’s both thrilling and terrifying … but we’re learning as we go!

“We browsed the forums on the Square Seller Community and found a bunch of threads mentioning the need for a self-order kiosk solution.”

Picking the right developer platform is critical, as it sets the stage for future growth and scalability. How did you decide which platform was best for KioskBuddy? What made you choose Square?

Lisa: The fact that Square already has such a large and active community to serve, and is what gave us the idea to start our business in the first place, was already a great foundation for us. The APIs also looked simple and clean, and the REST API design seemed easy to follow. Square also has a great reputation. It feels like a household company name — it’s innovative and revolutionary in the tech world.

Marvin: We’re both not mobile developers, nor have we worked with hardware before, so we did a lot of research and took a deep dive into the developer docs before even writing a single line of code. We looked at all aspects for taking payments first, and that’s where we came across Reader SDK. We learned that it would allow us to build custom applications that take in-person credit card payments by connecting to Square hardware. Once we realized that what we wanted to do was possible, we felt pretty confident and began coding up the MVP.

“The fact that Square already has such a large and active community to serve, and is what gave us the idea to start our business in the first place, was already a great foundation for us [...]. Square also has a great reputation [....] — it’s innovative and revolutionary in the tech world.”

KioskBuddy currently integrates with many Square APIs and we’d love to learn how you use them. In addition to Reader SDK, what other APIs did you first integrate with? How did you go about testing your first MVP?

Marvin: After Reader SDK, we dove into Catalog API so that we could import all of the items the merchant would be selling. There are many moving parts in catalog data, but thankfully the docs made it straightforward and easy to understand.

We also used OAuth and mobile authorization APIs to link up to a merchant’s Square account to take payments on their behalf. Merchants API and Locations API also made sure that transactions were being reported correctly.

Once we had an MVP, we posted on the Square Seller Community to let merchants know that we were beta testing and to contact us if they’d like to try out KioskBuddy. We connected with a boba shop and collected some really critical feedback early on. It was helpful to put ourselves out there to do customer development and gain feedback before making KioskBuddy available to the masses.

What APIs have you added since your initial launch of the KioskBuddy and Square integration? How do all of these APIs work together to provide your customers with a seamless experience?

Marvin: KioskBuddy has evolved significantly since then. The need to deliver an integrated and seamless ordering experience has been the main driving factor behind our evolution. Orders API really shined in bringing all of this together. We use it with Loyalty API, Inventory API, and Customers API to deliver that omnichannel ordering experience. Our integration with Loyalty API allows a merchant’s customers to earn points and redeem them for rewards whenever they’re ordering, whether that’s on one of our kiosks, a Square Online website, or a Square Register. We want customers to have the same seamless experience no matter where they place their order.

Inventory API similarly creates that connected experience by allowing merchants to accurately track inventory and prevent overselling — whether the sale is made on KioskBuddy or a first-party Square product. As for Customers API, we’re using it with Orders API to link Square customer profiles to orders so that merchants always have an accurate and up-to-date customer database. Despite KioskBuddy being a third-party integration, merchants really view us as an extension of the Square platform.

“Orders API really shined in bringing all of this together. We use it with Loyalty API, Inventory API, and Customers API to deliver that omnichannel ordering experience.”

Tell us more about the technical implementation for some of these integrations. What did you think of our documentation? How long, on average, did it take to build an integration?

Marvin: I found the docs to be pretty solid. Before even diving into the code and writing out the MVP, we reviewed them first to see how easy it would be to integrate with some core APIs. For the most part, we were able to build out an integration really quickly. Sometimes we could get it done within a week and I don’t remember things taking particularly long. For example, I remember when Loyalty API first came out, I was surprised to see how easy it was to integrate with, despite the API being so new.

“I found the docs to be pretty solid [...]. For the most part, we were able to build out an integration really quickly [...]. For example, I remember when Loyalty API first came out, I was surprised to see how easy it was to integrate with, despite the API being so new.”

How has integrating with Square APIs impacted your business’s growth and engagement with your customers?

Marvin: It’s been huge. The partner and marketplace ecosystem has been great for giving us a channel to talk to business owners and find those who may be interested in KioskBuddy. Merchants are expecting a seamless omnichannel experience and are constantly finding little gaps for us to fill in, so we really couldn’t have done it without Square APIs. On another note, we’ve also enjoyed attending the Square Unboxed developer conferences over the years! It’s been interesting to see Square evolve and turn into a platform that smaller companies like KioskBuddy can build on top of and add value to.

“The partner and marketplace ecosystem has been great for giving us a channel to talk to business owners and find those who may be interested in KioskBuddy.”

Why did you want to be listed on the Square App Marketplace? What value have you seen from being part of our marketplace?

Lisa: Getting listed on the App Marketplace was important for getting our foot in the door with the Square customer base, especially since merchants are extremely active in the Square ecosystem — like commenting in the Seller Community and writing reviews on the App Marketplace. We’ve seen immense value since joining! In fact, when a user first signs up for KioskBuddy, we always ask them, “How did you find out about KioskBuddy?” About half said they discovered us from the Square App Marketplace!

“ … when a user first signs up for KioskBuddy, we always ask them, “How did you find out about KioskBuddy?” About half said they discovered us from the Square App Marketplace!

What’s next for the KioskBuddy and Square integration? Are there other Square APIs you’ve considered adding as KioskBuddy grows?

Marvin: While we’re still focused on our growth in self-service ordering, we’re always looking for more ways to enable businesses with tech. One that comes to mind is expanding our support of Square hardware via Terminal API. Other ideas include offering online payments and in-app payments. The Snippets API also seems interesting. We may also consider the Gift Cards API. Right now, we can’t sell gift cards on our kiosk, but this has come up as a previous request.

To close it off, what advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs? Any tips for those that may be looking to build their business on the Square platform?

Lisa: My advice for starting a business is to look for the problem first. My general advice in your business journey and in life is: don’t overthink it! As for those looking to build their business on Square, my tip is to leverage the thriving community Square has built. People are extremely active on the Square Seller Community, Developer Forums, Slack, and even in posting reviews on the App Marketplace. If you make use of the community and these channels, you’ll find that Square is a great platform to build your business on.

Marvin: No two merchants are the same, and you can’t build a one-size-fits-all POS for everyone. That’s where I think there are a lot of opportunities to build on Square. You can leverage Square community channels to find problems and potentially build a niche product that can bring you a lot of success down the road.

“.... look for the problem first [....]. People are extremely active on the Square Seller Community, Developer Forums, Slack, and even in posting reviews on the App Marketplace. If you make use of the community and these channels, you’ll find that Square is a great platform to build your business on.”

We want to extend a huge thank you to Marvin and Lisa for sharing their story behind KioskBuddy and their experience building on the Square platform.

To start building, check out our developer documentation. And, as always, please share your feedback on our community Slack channel or Square Developer Forums. If you want to keep up to date with the rest of our content, be sure to follow this blog and our Twitter account.