Monthly Archives: April 2009

Back to the Mac future

I just got hold of my new Mac (13 inch, 2.4 GHz). I haven’t had a Mac since I left McKinsey in 1997, so “I am a PC“. But now I am back to that great experience I had in the 90’s – and it pretty much feels like the future. There is still a lot I have to learn, but it goes really quick, and the big upside from my perspective is the whole ecosystem that Apple has build around their hardware (iTunes, etc.). Apple is so much more than a box manufacturer – it is also a BtC solution provider. Very impressive what god old Steve Jobs has done after his comeback.

One anoyning thing: I can not run my Outlook webmail with full functionality on Safari or Firefox. Irritating.

But all in all: thank you Bo for pushing (forcing) me in this direction.

Team spirit

What a great weekend. The IE guys had really made a great event for all of us. Friday evening I came to bed quite a lot later than normal after having participaring in arm wresting with people from Ireland, Denmark, Italy, Canada, etc. I pretty much laughed continuously for several hours.

Saturday the competitive gene of the company came out 110% when we played Gaelic football. My team reached the semifinals out of the 8 teams which I am not quite satisfied with … but at least we managed to play a lot of games on a wet football pit without injuries which is impressive given the energy people put into it.

In the evening we went to a classic Dublin pub, watched some rugby on the tv monitors (it is truly an impressive game I have to admit, very-very powerfull and entertaining) and got ordered some great pizza takeaway from the national Irish pizza team.

Great event that contributes to building the bonds and stories that makes us more than just an ordinary company.

Dublin – here we come

I have been working like crazy lately, but tomorrow I will fly to Dublin together with all my colleagues for a weekend of work and fun. First, we will have 13 sales teams on the streets of Dublin covering almost all of Dublin to visit a lot of restaurants – and at the same time, around 50 Just-Eat’ers will be running up and down O’connell Street and other high traffic points to create some buzz. Great PR and visibility.

Then on Saturday, we will play some Gaelic football (don’t have a clue as to what it is, but it has been played since 1308!) and party-party in the evening. Really looking forward. The Irish take-away scene will never be the same.

Work/life balance – and a good takeaway curry

When you are involved in running a high-growth international company, then a lot of hours has to be put into working for the company. There is no easy way out. It is either take the job, and do the job – or stay away. Doing the job means doing what ever it takes to keep up the momentum. Rewards are absolutely their: building a truly international success, getting a passion for takeaway, working with great people, potentially earning good money, etc.

In my case, with a family of parents and three fantastic kids, the work/life balance is tricky, so I am 100% dependent on my wife will run the home front. I can be close to my kids even though I work an insane amount of time every week, but it is completely dependent on my wife being very close to the kids 24/7. If she is close to the kids, then she can help me to get the most out of my time with them and understanding where they are in their life. If my wife had not accepted that split of roles (and she is a well-educated lady with her own work experience), then I would not have been able to do what I am doing today.

Of course, we could have done what many do: outsource everything to an au-pair, etc. It might work for some, but it is important to understand, that if too much time with the kids is outsourced to other people than Mummy and Daddy, then you do risk, that the parents are not completely intimate with the kids, knowing exactly where they are in their life etc. “Quality time” is fine, but if both parents only have “quality time”, then a lot of stuff is lost. Often it is in the dull or maybe stressfull moments that bonds and insight is build. Life is not straightforward rides through Disneyland, and it is important (my opinion), that parents and children are together in all aspects of life.

So am I a hypocrite when outsourcing a lot of this this to my wife! I don’t think so. Takeaway and running companies is a passion of mine, but it will business part of the equation will have to be scaled down at some point in time. I am trying to very disciplined and being together with the kids every evning for 2-3 hours before they go to bed and I start my work day part II. And my wonderful wife accepted the split for some years completely voluntarily!

Anyway, that is my take. At the end of the day it is up to everybody to find their balance – just important that you are honest about what is achieveable and how great it is to follow your kids up close. And share a good curry takeaway from time to time when you want good food but don’t have time to cook.

V6 Beta

Yes, after a looooong time we finally have our new website in full beta in most countries (we call it V6, not after the typical engine size of the cars our owners are driving, but because it is the 6. version of the front-end). You can check the UK version here. In Just-Eat we have for an amazingly long time had very limited focus on our website. I guess it is because conversion rates very already so high, and we grow very well  anyway. But at the end of the day, a big part of what we are is a well functioning website where users easy and conveniently can find their takeaway and order it. So there has for a long time been a major improvement potential.

And when we finally got around to it, the project moved excruciatingly slow. Delay on delay while everybody fight-ed to get the work done. It happened to be, that there were quite a lot work to be done, because we used the project to clean up the code, and we also had to extinguish some fires here and there.

But now we are here, and it is looking great. Conversions are up, user satisfacton is up and we are more visible on long tail search terms. And this time we will remember, that this is an ongoing process. Never again shall Just-Eat experience to loose focus on our website – it’s time to set new standards as we the coming years will put more ressources and smartness into product development. Time to realise we are ALSO an internet company after all. And time for me to get back to the family and the Easter “hygge”.

Evaluating VC’s

It is important to be spot on when picking a VC. We are in the fortunate situation that we can actually pick among the best of the best, so we don’t really have an excuse if we end up with anyone but the VC that is the best for our company.

So, what do you do? You need to focus on a couple of things!

1: Chemistry. And this is not only related to the lead partner, but the partner team in general. Those VC’s which make sure you get one-on-one with several partners early in the process are the ones that impress me the most. At least they should make sure you get a feel for all the relevant partners in the company before detailed discussions on terms starts.

2: Industry. Always a help, if the VC has relevant experience, and not only the kind of general VC talk of “we once invested in an internet company, so we understand web 2.0″ logic. Dig into the actual portfolio companies

3: Reputation. Image is everything – and it is the image of a VC that can open doors to new top employees, partners, resources. “Ah, so they invested in you, ok, let’s talk business because you must be serious” – that is what you want from a VC. One of the side effects of partnering with a strong VC is, that they will be able to intimidate some potential competitors from entering certain markets. Few wants to battle a VC with an aggressive reputation and a war chest from a fund of hundreds of millions.

4: Network. As complementary to the reputation, you want access via the VC to the best possible network of talented people (advisers, employees, board members, etc.) as well as partners. If you want to knock on the door of Apple, it is really beneficial if the VC can give you access – and if they on top of that has the reputation then you have a lot, and the rest is up to you.

5: Ethics. Well, some people say that all VC’s are lying, cheating bastards, and that the good ones are just better at lying and cheating than the not so good ones. I don’t think (hope) it is so. One of my colleagues has worked for a VC backed company that went belly up, and he could tell about how some senior partners actually were very supportive in the process of cleaning things up. So, when on the way up, get a feel for how your VC will be if things turns around.

The next issue is how to dig up information on the VC’s! The easy solution would be to use www.thefunded.comand bet that the information on that site was updated, complete and valid. Well, that is probably a stretch, so it is back to more basic research, and the most powerfull tool is to talk to CEO’s from portfolio companies as well as people in the VC and tech community that can prove some kind of impartiality. And that does NOT include VC’s that are no longer part of the process (amazingly, many VC’s say that I can call to get advice on other VC’s, but I simply can not believe that to be without a hidden agenda).

To pick your CV is more irreversible than picking your spouse, so you better get it right – the divorce process is really ugly, and risks hurting the offspring quite severely. And also remember, that even though you might end up with the most fantastic VC, it is still up to you and your colleagues to make it happen. In Just-Eat we are very aware of that – what ever it takes.

The fog of war

Investor processes are really interesting. And especially so when you are getting into the final phase. It gets very messy. Information requests bombarding everybody in the company, digging out detailed numbers no one has ever considered existed. VC’s inviting you for drinks and calling you to get you over to their side, maybe bridging a valuation gap. Owners with very different interests and knowledge of what this is all about, and how this will dramatically change the company. Management team that also sees very differently on what a VC and millions of GBP can do for the company, and what it means for their personal ambitions. Employees who who get a bit confused about all the talk of “enterprise value”, “exit strategy”, “growth plan”, “product road map”, “option pool” and what have you – what does all this mean to them?

It is all a bit messy for the CEO, but it gets really messy for everybody if the process drags along, management lose focus on running the business and information spreading is becoming erratic and random. Luckily, I think in our small company, we have so far managed pretty well. Not perfect, but we are doing ok. We are also helped by the fact, that we are only three months into the process, and I honestly think we are getting closer. In the autumn when we started preparations for the process, we said we should close a round with a great VC in April or May. And know what – I think we will do that. We are starting to have great offers on the table, and they are from great VC’s.

I have my one or two favourites, but most of them are good, and I would be happy to work for them. Now we just want to close this and move on with full speed. Let the fog of war be cleared and be replaced by sunshine and the view of the land that flows with milk and honey!