Monthly Archives: April 2012

The big C

We did it again! Went through a few months of focused effort and then suddenly the Just-Eat bank account has been filled up. The press release says we raised $64 Mio., but with the exchange rate on the day it was actually $65 Mio. – but as they say, what is a Million between friends? Officially this is called a series C funding round, because that is what logically comes after A and B funding rounds, internally known as “the big C”.

The new guys we have chosen to work with are Vitruvian Partners – also great for us to see we got full backing from our existing investors, thanks to Index, Greylock and Redpoint. For those that follow the European internet scene Vitruvian doesn’t pop up as the traditional VC, but more of a Private Equity company (“PE”), which is true. So, why are we suddenly getting money from spreadsheet driven PE’s instead of the sexy “big picture” VC’s? The answer is simple: it is difficult in Europe to raise that level of money from traditional VC’s. $65 Mio. is a lot of money, and well beyond the scope of the traditional VC model. In the US it is different, but if you want someone that has a European presence to support you then an important option to explore is the mid-cap growth focused PE guys with internet experience. Another argument for inviting PE’s on board is that they in general have another set of expertise and support infrastructure which is helpful in our situation.

We got – as usual, I am cocky enough to add – a fair amount of interest, and most of those potential investors were PE companies, typically US investors with a good European presence. Several of them we really liked, but we ended up with Vitruvian partly because they had a different feel to them. Of course Vitruvian offered the right terms, but several investors did – most of the people we talked to in the process were also really good people we got along with, but the specific Vitruvian guys on this transaction had a great rapport with us. It probably helped some of them in the past worked as VC’s, entrepreneurs or executives in high growth companies.

And what will we use the money for? Other than the usual jokes about corporate jets, there are only a few specific things on the list, and the rest is dependent on what happens in the future. We already run a tight ship, where we generate enough money in profitable countries to fund loss making countries. But there are so many growth opportunities out there in terms of new countries, consolidation/M&A opportunities, new technologies etc. so it makes a lot of sense to have a very strong balance sheet so we can move fast if the right opportunity arises.

Just-Eat is ready for the next chapter in our history, thanks to all who contributed so far! Back to running the business – money is nice, but the real deal is what you can do with those money, and that is all about satisfying restaurants and consumers.


Professionalism in an entrepreneurial company

Yesterday, I was in Holland where I did a Q&A session with the Dutch team. Every once in a while I like to meet my colleagues locally the countries, where the local teams has the opportunity to ask all kinds of questions, and I have the opportunity to hear how they view the world and explain what direction Just-Eat is going. It is interesting for me to see what aspects are being brought up, and even though there always are some classics then there are some surprises here and there.

One of the issues we spend some time on yesterday was “professionalism”. Several people asked questions that were related to getting more structure & planning, more defined roles & responsibilities, better coaching & training, etc., i.e. all the stuff you would expect from a professional company.

Any successful, high-growth company goes through the different phases from idea/concept, early start-up, early growth, etc., and the trick is to get it right in each of the phases which are often very different from previous phases. And if a company doesn’t adjust quickly enough to a new phase (often pro-actively pushing into the next phase), then coming to the next level is only more difficult, if not impossible.

The challenge is that people also need to change. Some people are brilliant in one phase, but out of their depth (or just not motivated) in the other phases. A few can actually master many phases, extremely few work well in all phases. Nothing new here, this has been part of the technology and management literature for many decades, but the interesting thing is that it is still so difficult to get right, and the key reason for this is that “people” don’t get it. Or rather; they might understand to some extent, but they are not actually taking the full consequence.

In Just-Eat, one of the challenges we have is that we want our culture to represent both professionalism as well as entrepreneurialism. Entrepreneurialism I believe is about energy, willingness to take risks and mental flexibility. Key elements of professionalism is for me about applying the necessary levels of intelligence and structure. Some people believe the two things are not compatible. That is absolutely not true! It gets harder as a company grows, absolutely, but if you roll over and surrender to one view then it only gets worse.

Of course sometimes the two will clash, but at a closer look it happens less often than what we normally would think. Sometimes people that are out of their depths will complain about things no longer being entrepreneurial enough, and things are now “corporate and bureaucratic”. Likewise, sometimes some would say it is difficult because a situation is not handled professionally enough, “more time/analysis/structure/money” is needed, but maybe the problem is difficulty in getting on with fixing the problem, and taking a bit of calculated risks (“sometimes” is the key word here …). In many cases where I hear one of the two sides it is more excuses than real problems. Yes, it is tough sometimes to get it right, and I don’t always have the ultimate silver bullet either, but I am certain that the two sides can live together in healthy competition. When building high growth companies it is the right thing to balance the two. The right mix will change over time, but they both need to be there. Those that believe professionalism is equal to bureaucracy lose out on major opportunities.

At the personal level, I think it is important for all who loves to participate in building and growing businesses, that you do as was stated across the Apollo Temple in Delphi: “know thyself”. Understand what part of company building you are good at, and motivated by. Don’t fool your self into believing you are great in all phases. And be happy to leave the organisation the day you can see things are no longer good for you – and move on without moaning about how the company will now be destroyed and everything was better in the old days. You could of course be right, but the future progress of the company (or lack of) will typically tell the story.

Get the balance right in your culture for each phase, and I promise you have one of the most important things in place when building and growing a company. Very banal in theory, very difficult in practice.