In a few months it is 2 years ago I left mighty JUST EAT and the online takeaway industry. I have not spend much time on the industry since I left, it’s important for an old CEO to let his old company move on. But now it is a while ago I left, and I have been thinking a bit on, where this industry is heading.
In some ways a lot has happened in the industry, i.e. more consolidation, a couple of impressive IPO’s and continued uptake of mobile usage. In other ways, the industry is very much it’s own self, i.e. same business model, same service and same issues scaling such a market place. It is therefore relevant to think about, what is the next big thing that can really disrupt this industry in the next 5-7 years. And it’s not mobile, because mobile already happened and is just fueling more growth for everyone now that all the big players have managed to make mobile a core part of their product road map and service offering. It’s the same service wrapped in a more accessible format. Great, will make penetration go faster and longer, but not upsetting anyone except those smaller players that didn’t adopt.
There are a couple of other areas where I think disruption could come from, and one of them I have been talking about at such an early stage, that most of my old colleagues believed I was joking or just mad. It’s distribution – the logistics of getting the food from the restaurant to the consumer. As anyone involved in the takeaway trade will know, the main operational hassle of running an online takeaway market place is not cooking food, running the website or running marketing campaigns. The hassle is to make all the moving parts work together, and the cog in the wheel that causes most trouble is distribution.
The big chains have their own logistics departments, that often does a very decent job, but in most countries the sector is completely dominated by small, independent takeaway restaurants that are struggling to operate small, sub-scale and inefficient delivery operations without technology, focus or professional management. This causes lots of pain for the consumers, and their main complaints are mostly related to exactly delivery, e.g. “where is my food?”. Too often great food entrepreneurs/restaurant owners get into trouble because of the logistics, and that also mean that too many restaurant owners decide not to do delivery food at all. In some cases, this has been spotted as a business opportunity entrepreneurs, who have build RDS’s (Restaurant Delivery Services) who have slowly build out to some scale, but none has become really big.
JUST EAT has for quite a few years operated a RDS in Denmark. I used to argue, that this operation was not core to the JUST EAT Group strategy at the current time, but that it could be in the long run. The Danish example should learn the company all the tricks on how to run such an operation, what technologies could drive efficiencies, what management processes would support scaling, etc. The idea was, that the day a market place had received lots of scale in a country (like JUST EAT did already a few years ago in Denmark), then the time was to take the service to restaurants and consumers to the next level. Restaurants would love to get rid of the logistics challenge, and would get happier customers because a professional RDS would do better. The consumers would love to get a more consistent delivery. And on top of that, well-known technologies could be used to create much more transparency on the infamous question “where is my food”, since a technology based RDS would always know where what delivery vehicles were with what food to what customers, and this information would be available to all involved incl. the consumer. Most consumers are ok if there is some delay in delivering the food on a busy evening, but the lack of information on what level of delay is causing frustration. And adding lots of costs to the market place in terms of extra customer care calls, loss of customers, frustrated restaurant owners, etc.
So, my basic thinking is, that the combination of taking charge of logistics at scale + technology + integration with market place + professional management will create a much better experience for both restaurants, market place and consumers, and it would also drive more restaurants onto the market place, which again drives more scale, etc. Furthermore, this has to be taken into the perspective of companies like Über having insane valuations by disrupting local logistics with an innovative, crowd-sourced model. Imagine a company, that in the period from 16.00-21.00 had hundred of cars in a city like London busy deployed to deliver takeaway food in an efficient way, and then used the same cars as logistic assets for other stuff at other periods of the day – some cars could be owned by the company, other were crowd-sourced. It could be used as taxis (many taxi rides are single rides, so the classic delivery van would still be good for that), groceries (check out e.g. Hubbub), or maybe as part of the massive delivery infrastructure now being set up by the big e-commerce players like Amazon, Rakutan and eBay. Everybody in the now huge e-commerce space knows, that one of the key battle grounds in the future is physical distribution, and the online takeaway market places are very well positioned to build an infrastructure that has all kinds of synergies both with the existing core business as well as other even bigger industries thirsting to add logistics infrastructure. And if the online takeaway companies doesn’t build the infrastructure, then maybe Amazon is coming to their business from another angle – or maybe startups basing their RDS on technology, crowd-sourcing, professional management processes, etc., for example Index backed Deliveroo who are using some of these tools.
JUST EAT already has the skills and technology, so they already have a solid base if they pursue this vision. Apparently, Grubhub is testing how to build a delivery network in the USA, and there are rumours on other European players testing the waters as well. If the two big guys in the next couple of years decide to build out this part of their business to be part of their core, they have the scale, financial muscle and expertise to take the industry to the next level, and gain a competitive edge that will be much appreciated by restaurants and customers. My guess at least.
On top of this, I believe the longer term perspective (which is what really made people believe I was crazy back in 2009 – and probably also a bit in the years after) is that “delivery technologies” is changing. Google Cars to supplement delivery drivers and Amazon drones to deliver small packages is happening, and it is moving much faster than what most people realize. Yes, there are a few legal issues, etc., etc. (details, details!) but the technology is almost there today, and as (almost) always technology will prevail in the long run – and the forward looking and bold will reap the benefit.
Everything for those that are hungry and lazy!
It’s a bit more than one year ago I left JUST EAT, so it’s time to reflect on how things have panned out in the next phase of my startup life. I don’t want to share everything here (a bit of privacy, thanks), but a few relevant things are worth noting – a rundown in numbers:
- ∞: I have met a LOT of great people the last 12 months. JUST EAT had a big concentration of talented and energetic people, and I don’t want to change beingin that kind of environment , but now it is instead spread out over several smaller projects and organizations. That changes the dynamic, but it is as educating and thrilling as ever.
- 1: Co-founded a company with the vision to change the way communication and collaboration happen in small and medium sized construction companies
- 3+1: Gotten involved as partner in three exciting startups (beauty market place, workflow management for elderly care/platform for welfare technology and workflow management for churches) and also as chairman of a bigger fashion e-commerce company.
- 3: Done 3 angel investments in travel, fashion e-commerce and a market place for entrepreneurs and angel/seed investors.
- 4: Run four funding rounds, i.e. one angel round, one seed round, one series B and one private placement.
- 14,000,000: The approximate total funding (in EUR) that was raised in the above four mentioned funding rounds.
- 50: The approximate number of projects I have looked at. A lot of them deserved to be funded, but not all for me.
These numbers are only some of the data points, and don’t paint the whole picture of my new journey, but it does say something about the route towards building great, tech based companies in another capacity than CEO. It’s still early days, and no one knows how much of this that will work (other than for sure some of it will not), but I’m confident there is lots of substance in these companies. Lots of great personalities for sure -;)
It is very different being a chairman/partner than a CEO, e.g. it is no doubt much tougher being the CEO than being in my current shoes. But it’s not all fun and creative thinking to fulfill the role I have now, it also has it’s share of frustration, doubt and risk. But the point is, that without proper involvement it gets too fluffy, and not at all satisfactory for me personally. If you want the fun and joy, you need to take a bit of pain as well.
And what have I learned – a lot of interesting details of how very specific industries and products work, but most importantly I have seen again-and-again that talent & energy is what makes all the difference when building companies.
Thanks to all those, that helped make the last 12 months exciting!
(nice picture from Norway to encourage an entrepreneurial spirit)
We, the construction genies from GenieBelt, just raised an angel round of $½ Million, yehaa! That’s not a lot of money compared to some bigger funding rounds I have done in the past, but it’s exactly what we need and the feeling is as good as when I did £40 Million rounds. And what will the money be spend on?
Together with a few other guys I founded a new company about half a year ago. A company which has high ambitions of helping the small- and medium sized businesses in the construction industry to improve the way they handle construction projects. Digital tools has been used in many years in construction, and also among the SME’s, but what we are building will be different than anything else the industry has seen. Here’s a bit of background.
Back in February I met up with my old mate, Peter Bang. Peter and I studied economics together many (many-many, too many-many) years ago and also had a stint abroad as well, where we broadened our horizon in business, British ale beer, and snooker. Peter left Uni and has stayed loyal to the same company ever since, which is a very rare thing these days, but that is probably also because it’s a very successful company, Velux. They make building materials and is especially renowned as a world leader in roof windows, i.e. Peter knows a bit about the construction industry.
We ended up talking about how his recent experience from refurbishing his house had been less than good, and since I was planning to refurbish my farm, we came to the conclusion that someone should build a work-flow management system that could help construction managers to better run small and medium sized projects. Mobile, cloud, super slick UI and all that – done deal, easy peasy, next!
I started doing research in the area, which – despite my fascination with big construction machines and power tools – is not that familiar to me, but then (the usual story) I started meeting a couple of people that had a much more personal angle on the Construction industry, and also supported the idea, i.e. Nikolaj/CTO and Joachim/everything-commercial.But the big event that took this forward was meeting Gari who just happens to have a construction engineering background and was putting together the pieces of his own start-up with two other guys (Francisco & Kacper). Their project was as a starting point more narrow than what I was considering (they still won Venture Cup twice though), but Gari and his team did have a longer term plan. And so it began …
It’s been half a year now, and our 10-12 man team is now running full speed ahead. We just recently partnered up with a guy who knows more about our space than most: Bob, who is the co-founder and CEO of a company that some years ago tried to do partly what we are doing now, but the technology was not quite ready, and he never had the kind of resources we are deploying now. Bob has taken our UX capabilities to new highs, stellar person.
Some of our team members are in London and Poland, but the main part is sitting in Copenhagen, where I’m spending a couple of days a week at our office, and it’s nice again to be involved at the very early stages of company building. That is always a very humbling experience.
“So again; what exactly is the product”? you might think – we will get back on that. Right now the entire team is chasing our product vision, by doing use case research, UX’ing and developing so we are moving quickly ahead. Some time in by summer 2014 we can show version 1, and we plan to amaze you. Building companies based on new stuff is not easy, but the team, the idea and the market is there.
NB: thanks to the angels which have supported us so far, e.g. Ditlev, Claus, Troels, Mat & Giorgio – we will do our utmost to make you look good!
Everyone knows the demograpic facts: the human population is not only growing, but in the developed part of the world (and increasingly so in other major regions, e.g. China), the proportion of elderly people is growing even faster. And the old are also getting older! That poses a big challenge, since it is a core responsibility of any society to take care of the elderly, those that worked hard so those following would inherit a better world (preferably!), and with a bigger and bigger portion of the population being older it gets costly for the working population to sustain a good level of elderly care.
As in so many other situations, part of the answer to that challenge lies in technology. Biotechnology and innovation in health care in general is of course part of this. An important part of the many elements that needs to get in place, is how to make existing assisted living/elderly care more effective. In Scandinavia there are thousands of homes for elderly people, that no longer can live by them selves, and need daily support – and you can add tens of thousands more in countries like Germany, UK, Japan, USA, etc. If you visit these homes, you will see how the nurses and assistants are running very fast to cope with all their daily routines and the constantly appearing emergency situations. They are also acutely aware, that they will not get a lot of extra resources to cope, maybe on the contrary – so how can the work be organised more effectively so they can maintain a good service level with sufficient “warm hands” to take care of the elderly?
Half a year ago, I was contacted by some of the founders of Sekoia (not the VC of more-or-less the same name) who had worked on a solution for exactly that: work-flow management for the elderly care homes. At first, it might sound like a simple issue, but I am working/has worked with several teams doing work-flow management for specific industries, and the devil is always in the detail. You can use some generic solution, but the big productivity gains always come from customizing to the specifics of the industry. And the Sekoia guys had spend nearly three years fine tuning the concept before they recently went into sales mode, i.e. they knew very well what the needs are of this sector. And with their open platform concept, I believe this is a winner.
The team ticked the boxes for me (chemistry, potential, progress, I can help, etc.), so we quickly decided to team up, and I became investor and active chairman some months ago. I have spend some time working with parts of the team, and last week we had a couple of days off-site (in a cabin used by kindergartens that needs a bit of nature – proper!) where I got to know the whole team. That only gave me more confidence in that we have something really good brewing. Lately, the team has turned up the volume and sharpened the philosophy behind the solution and seen even better customer feedback. The team has also started to get more into sales mode, and talked to the relevant institutions (p.t. only Denmark, but we have big plans …) about the philosophy behind the solution, and there is great reception, it really is a way for the sector to both drive effectiveness as well as quality. Even without significant sales activities, Sekoia now has dozens of solutions sold. That might not sound like a lot, but in Scandinavia, where we have a relatively sophisticated set-up for assisted living, no other player has more than one pilot in action. And in the rest of Europe, we haven’t seen anything like our approach – this might end up as a good example of Scandinavian welfare technology being exported for the greater good.
The number of 85+ year olds will grow by more than 150% between 2005 and 2030, and the population which is 100+ years old will quadruple, so wish Sekoia good luck in succeeding with the mission of making assisted living better and more cost efficient. As a minimum, the solution needs to everywhere when I need a warm, helping hand some time around 2070!
Those that know me would not say the “hair & beauty” segment is a natural fit for me. My wife would even say I’m the anti-thesis to hair & beauty (she married me because of wit, charm and money …) so how did I end up as chairman of Wahanda?
Earlier this spring I got a ping from Lopo Champalimaud. Lopo is co-founder and CEO of Wahanda, Europe’s biggest destination for salon – and spa bookings. Initially I was a bit baffled, because why would people in the beauty space talk to me, they obviously had never met me or seen pictures of me, but when I then started chatting to Lopo, I quickly realised the logic for why I should talk to Wahanda. A while ago, Lopo had decided to go all in on the booking part of his business concept, i.e. if you need to get you hair done or want a beauty treatment, then go to Wahanda, check out the local salons in your area, and book directly into the system. Obviously, that is quite similar to the underlying model of JUST EAT – however, there are also some critical differences which team Wahanda has spotted and are getting the most out of.
Lopo’s Wahanda journey has so far been 5 years long, and lots have been achieved, but I am particularly excited about the focus on building up the best and biggest network of local merchants that can offer great supply of hair and beauty services through out the UK, and internationally as well. Lopo and his team (incl. the latest add-on of Simon and Chris) has more experience than anyone else in this space, and the size of the business is also well ahead of the many smaller players in the industry. Building internationally leading companies in emerging industries is one of the greatest professional experiences I know of, and I think Wahanda has a great opportunity to do exactly that.
A chairman role is very different from the many years where I was running companies, but I hope that background is a strength. I need to help & support those that leads the organisation & strategy, not be the big leader or strategizer my self. This transition is massively helped by the fact that Lopo and I get along very well, and through a very open discussion atmosphere we get everything on the table and leverage our different backgrounds and perspectives. I’m looking very much forward to the Wahanda journey, this will be both very fun and very big. And I might even learn a few beauty tips along the way.
Three months ago, I heard about a small company in Copenhagen called Kirkeweb, which is Danish for Churchweb. Religion is always an exciting topic (too exciting for some!), but the key reasons why I got interested in the Kirkeweb story was, that the company was a start-up focusing on a clear niche (Churches) in a highly fragmented “industry” (most parishes and deaneries are fairly independently run organizations) where the need for a work flow management system is very clear, but no-one else in Europe seems to understand how to build and market to this highly specialized sector.
I met the founder and CEO, Christian Steffensen, and then I quickly became hooked on getting involved. Christian could explain clearly how churches has significant benefits from using the system to streamline administration processes, internal communication & coordination, web site management, etc. and thereby have more time/resources to focus on the core tasks of the church (Love!). So, all the classic benefits of good work flow systems were also clearly seen in this “industry”, and on top of that Christian through his long history with the church (programming church websites and admin systems since he was 11 years old) knew how to interact with the church community. Also (and Christian will hate me for writing this), Christian is a smart cookie who is a proper entreprofessional mixing the best of entrepreneurship with the desire to do things in a smart way.
This means that since the Danish part of the business is doing really well with critical scale of churches signing up, then it is now becoming important to move out of tiny Denmark. Kirkeweb is engaging with the Church community in Germany, the first churches has signed up and much more is coming. This ticks the last box for me, since my background and skill set is a great fit to help Kirkeweb and Christian in the coming years as Churches all over Europe will see the benefits of easy-to-use Church Management Software.
I joined Kirkeweb as chairman/bestyrelsesformand in April, and I think this is the beginning of a long and fruitful journey, amen!
Latin: Professio ingredieris
Person who is mixing the best of entrepreneurship and professionalism.
Can be viewed as a person that balances the below dimensions:
The word was defined in 2011 when a Klaus Nyengaard tried to explain his ideal organization. Mr. Nyengaard later went on to write a book about this concept, but the book never became part of mainstream management litterature, but was instead a bestseller among teenagers in Scandinavia and Germany diagnosed with ADHD.
DING-DONG – It’s been a while since I’ve posted last time, so here’s an update. My plan in February was to do research on a couple of project ideas I had, and then to talk to all kinds of people to see where exciting things happened, especially in Denmark and London. The plan was also to move not too fast, since it is easy to become enthusiastic and commit to all kinds of interesting ventures, and then suddenly be fully booked up. And now, I have partly fallen into that trap – but for good reasons!
What is it I want? The stuff that motivates me the very most, is to do great things with great teams. Everything flows from the people on the team, and if it is great people working together in the right, high-performance, entrepreneurial fun-loving way, then amazing things can happen. From these kind of teams flows great products, happy customers and oodles of respect from investors & partners. And that again attracts even more good people, and if the leadership continues to step up, then Nirvana can be maintained for a very long time. That is awesome to be part of, can’t get enough of it.
Many people with my background do one of two things:
- Become a classic investor, building a large portfolio of angel- or VC investments. That is very exciting, and you get to help all kinds of entrepreneurs, but my issue is that I don’t think I’m ready for such a passive role. Any investor would say that they “add value hands-on”, etc., but the truth is that with a portfolio of 15-20 investments and spending most of the time chasing new deals, then they are not really close to the action (and typically doesn’t have any real, hands-on experience related to your challenges, but that’s another story). And I don’t like being distanced to what I’m doing, and the people involved.
- Become a CEO for a big company. Well, first of all, there are not really that many companies based in Copenhagen where it makes sense for me to get involved full time as CEO, and I’m not interested in moving my family to another country for a long period of time. Secondly, the reason why I enjoyed running JUST EAT even though it was a 1,000-man company was that I had been there from when it was a small 35-man Danish company, so I had directly or indirectly hired almost every single manager in the company, and I had skewed the company culture exactly in the direction that I felt was right for the company – and me! Chances are, that if I got on board another company that was already big, then I wouldn’t be a great fit for the culture and all kinds of “culture wars” would have to take place (had enough of that in the initial phase, when I joined JUST EAT five years ago). Thirdly, working for one company only would not leverage all the knowledge I have today about leading, developing, internationalizing and scaling companies. That is a skill set that is still a scarce resource in Europe, so I might as well leverage it across several companies.
So, the sweet spot for me seems to be working with a handful of companies in a more integrated, intimate way. Obvious choice. So, that is what I have chosen to go for the last few months. To be more specific, I will spend most of my time the next many years being chairman for companies that are still small compared to their overall potential, and where 1) I believe in the team (“Entreprofessionals”), 2) there is a great chemistry fit with me and the team, and 3) good fit between me and the challenges in the coming years. Geographically my focus is Denmark and UK/London, but I might still do a bit in other places. And I will also be doing a little bit of angel investments with a hands-off approach, but it will be limited with clear expectation management around my involvement.
So far, I have started working with 3-4 teams, mostly companies with a clear focus on a specific vertical, and dominated by SME’s that are under utilizing technology. One company I’m co-founding and will spend a very big part of my time on, for the others I will be an active chairman. None has been announced yet, but it will happen in the coming months. All very exciting, especially the project where a team has found a way to integrate 3D pizza printing, crowd sourced drone swarms and big data customer analysis with a social CSR twist – that will change the world as we know it!
A couple of days ago I had my goodbye dinner in London with many of my old JUST EAT colleagues. It was a great evening (and very bad the day after) that hammered home the fact that it will take a very long time before I again can work with so many good people in one, great company (working on it, but it will take time, more about that another day).
My dear ex-colleagues had also been so considered to give me some gifts. Already some weeks ago the Danes gave me a toy robot, and funny enough on Wednesday evening the “one-day-technology-will-take-care-of-food-delivery” theme had also been the starting point, so me (and my kids) just got this shiny new toy, yehaaa, time to fly!
However, most unique of all, was a poster that some of the marketing guys had made, since I have always dreamt of being a super hero, especially one with a hot dog in his hand. I’m not sure exactly what the message is, but there is a lot of details and stories on this poster – the revolution is coming to a takeaway near you!
Again-again: thanks for all to those who helped make it possible. And now on to new adventures that needs a hot-dog equipped viking super hero – the Universe and Beyond!
When I joined JUST EAT in March nearly 5 years ago, the original plan was to take one year at a time. I had never been involved in anything for 5 years, and thinking 5 years ahead seemed impossible, so one year at a time seemed to be the sensible thing. By August 2008 I had moved to London with my family, and very soon after that I 1) fell in love with the company and 2) realised that JUST EAT could become much bigger than anyone could imagine. I knew it would still be one year at a time, but I also knew that it could be a long and very interesting journey.
In the beginning of 2008 JUST EAT was still a fairly small company, but it had build a very solid business in Denmark that earned money, 90% of our revenues were in Denmark. We decided to make UK the core market for us, and then launch in other markets as much as we could given the UK priority.
Then the rocket really started. For me, the inflexion point was summer-autumn 2009. In spring/summer 2009 we negotiated and finally closed our series A round with Index as a lead, and in the autumn we did the first TV campaign in UK which together with solid restaurant growth and a lot of other activities saw the orders go through the roof.
In those 5 years, the company went from being a 35-man Danish company that was one of several companies in the online takeaway ordering space to becoming the world leader with 1,000 employees. Very few world leaders have roots in Europe, so everybody who contributed should be happy. And it is not at all the end for JUST EAT – more about that later.
Why and why now
Once every quarter my wife has asked me to stop working for JUST EAT. We moved back home to Denmark nearly 2 years ago, and since then I have travelled more than 3 days a week, a lot to London obviously, but also to many other countries. And that is tough when you have a family with small kids. You can do that for only so long – and I planned to do it for a bit longer despite a bit of home front scepticism.
But, that is not really good enough from the company’s perspective, I have to accept that. A company such as JUST EAT, with it’s ambitious plans and momentum needs a CEO who is committed for many more years, and it “might” also be a good idea to have a person who is more often in London where we have most of the central functions, the Group exec team, etc. So before the “next phase” of the company it makes sense to get a new CEO on board, it is not healthy to change the leader when crossing a river, it has to happen well before that.
Ideally I would have staid a bit longer, but there is a logic that I can’t argue against. Tough for me, right for the company.
The future of JUST EAT
Regarding the future of JUST EAT, there is only one thing to say: it will be awesome. There are so many things happening in the company, so much momentum and so many good people that it can only be better. Some of the areas where I am particularly excited is what we will do the next 6-12 months on the technology side. Also, the continuous improvements of all the small details of sales, marketing and operations are happening all the time. Customers and restaurants can look forward to a lot of good stuff.
So, it is time to say thanks to everybody who helped move the company forward. I don’t want to mention any specific JUST EAT’ers, each of you know how much you have contributed, and there are so many of you. Also thanks to restaurants and consumers, investors, advisers, partners and friends. You all deserve a slice of the success.
The JUST EAT journey will continue – and I will quietly follow it from the distance, but start on another journey my self. What that will be I don’t know for sure (a few ideas though, and let me know if you have any as well …) – it will be something with good people and growth for sure.
Here is the internal, amateur goodbye video I made to all my great colleagues. If you don’t understand the quirkiness, then join the company and you will get it -;) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZHTyvUkfAXo