Turning an idea into a successful business

May 16, 2019 11:51
Founded in 2013, British online food delivery company Deliveroo is now present in more than two dozen markets worldwide. Photo: Reuters

My motivation for starting Deliveroo was simple: I am passionate about food. Working in New York, I was used to restaurants delivering and being able to get a great selection of food at all times. When I moved to the UK and was working late nights I found that I wasn't able to order much even though I knew there were many great restaurants around the corner. I wanted to change the landscape and be able to get the food I wanted when I wanted it, where I wanted it.

In 2013 I ordered, collected, delivered and ate Deliveroo’s first order in London. And now what’s clear is that we’ve tapped into a market with huge consumer demand - we’re in 14 markets and over 500 towns and cities, working with 60,000 riders and over 80,000 restaurants worldwide.

I'm often asked for the secret to success for fledgling startups wanting to go global. The answer, of course, is that there is no one set path to success, yet there are a few things I have learnt along the way.

The first is that nothing replaces hard work. In business school, there were people who wanted to work at McKinsey during the week and then have a start-up on the weekend. That doesn’t work at all. You have to go completely all in. That’s the only way it can work. And you have to do that while knowing that this is not going to be an entirely rational decision. You may be passionate about an idea and want to turn into a great business, but there is guarantee it's going to work out. The only way this works is if you believe in your idea one hundred percent and have a very clear goal.

Second, you have to hire great people and motivate them. At the beginning of the Deliveroo journey I was doing deliveries daily and hiring people from Gumtree. Our first team set up in a windowless office and we each at some point performed every function the business needs, from customer services to marketing to signing up restaurants. Deliveroo may be bigger now, but I’m constantly reminding people of that initial hunger and scrappiness that helped us get going. For me, motivating an ever-growing team means getting everyone to still think and act with a start-up mentality.

Now that we’re scaling globally we’re focused on bringing in expertise - people with specific talents who can perform at the highest levels in their specialism to ensure Deliveroo is innovative, reliable and constantly improving. I spend almost half my time interviewing candidates and much as I can sometimes find this frustrating, this is in fact the very best use of a founder’s time.

Third, you have to need a heavy dose of luck. I was lucky enough to find a few restaurant owners who were willing to allow me to list them on Deliveroo, when the company was just me, my co- founder and a handful of colleagues. And I’ve been lucky to work with some great investors throughout our journey who have been willing to take big bets on the company.

Fourth, you have to obsess about your customers. At Deliveroo we have three sets of customers: riders, restaurants and consumers. I want everyone at the business to really understand what drives each group, so I encourage staff to deliver orders, do shifts in restaurants and, of course, order on the app themselves. We are constantly thinking about how we can improve our service for each of our customers. That’s what our team work tirelessly to achieve: to change the way people work, allowing them to work flexibly and fit work around their lives; to give restaurants new opportunities to reach even more customers through delivery; and - ultimately - to make sure consumers can get an ever-better selection of amazing food whenever and wherever they way it.

So, if you’re starting out and looking to turn your idea into a successful business, here is my advice: you are going to need a mix of passion, hard work, a hefty dose of luck and, crucially, a team that believes in and works tirelessly to bring your idea to life.

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Deliveroo founder and CEO