The founder of Deliveroo stepped out on stage at Startup Grind Europe wearing a uniform that has become popular among entrepreneurial masterminds. Tshirt, shorts and trainers; the polar opposite to the straight-laced Jared Smith from Qualtrics with his 5am starts and timekeeping obsession. Will Shu, despite his self-proclaimed laziness, is expected to generate £130 million this year with plans to make his company’s offering even better.
Deliveroo is one of those companies that suddenly came into existence everywhere and all at once. Within 3 years they had gone from a two-man team in a living room to 500 staff in 40 countries. Their restaurant food delivery service provided an alternative to Indian and Chinese takeaways and an opportunity for restaurants to reach a new audience. Known as fleas by Black Cab drivers (because the city is crawling with them), 10,000 couriers across the country deliver to hungry foodies who have adopted the service like no other. Their workforce is young, fit and mostly university students that want to make a few bucks to fund their Shoreditch lifestyles.
Will had moved to London from New York to work in investment banking. The long 80-100 hour weeks were made bearable by the 24 hour delivery of restaurants, but London had no such comforts. He told the audience that Deliveroo almost started life as ‘Boozefood’, a service to deliver food to people late at night after they get in from the pub. It was half-joke, but gave birth to the company he says has become part of the lexicon of the country.
Along with his co-founder, Greg Orlowski, the duo worked from their living room near Victoria with Will spending much of his time couriering to keep costs down. Greg left the company in February this year to spend more time with his family in America. Will continues to deliver food occasionally, but more for the exercise and novelty than to support a struggling business.
Deliveroo’s rapid growth and healthy revenue has allowed the company to experiment with kitchen silo’s. Portable shipping containers housing mobile kitchens let partner restaurants cover areas where customers are underserved. With the only staff being cooks costs are kept low for the restaurant and offer customers their favourite food nearby. As Deliveroo now works with 95% of restaurants their fast approaching obstacle is the pace at which restaurants expand into new regions, therefore it’s in Deliveroo’s interest to help their expansion.
But this isn’t Deliveroo’s only challenge. UberEATS; Uber’s new rival to Deliveroo, launched this year. Uber knows what it’s doing when it comes to this kind of thing. Seeing Deliveroo’s success they have pounced on the opportunity and copied the model exactly, albeit in a way that has confused customers into thinking drivers in black cars will deliver their food when in reality a cyclist in a Deliveroo uniform will turn up. 2016 will be an interesting year for Deliveroo. Will they lose out to Uber as Hailo did? I hope not.
Photo accredited to Startup Grind.