Just-Eat is more than 10 years old, and was originally launched in Denmark with a local focus, and was kept like that for several years. This began to change in 2006-07 where UK and SE were launched and a partnership was cooked up in Holland. I signed up to the food revolution in spring 2008, and even though 85% of the revenues were from Denmark it was evident that the company had started to become more international. More was needed obviously, so in the coming years we have grown like crazy, and that has affected how we view our company today.
Almost all great companies are shaped significantly by the their national background. Most people know that IBM and Google has an American feel to it, that Siemens and SAP are heavily inspired by German engineering values and Japanese diligence and discipline is still shaping Toyota. This is natural – for an illustration of what national culture can mean see e.g. here or this fascinating one tracing the origins of different languages. The trick for these companies is to sort out how their culture develops and adapt to them spreading out into the world. Successful start-ups/tech growth companies has the same challenge, but in general they are a bit more international from day one (a lot of founding teams are a mix of nationalities and cultures), but it is also helpful for them, that often they are very centralized, i.e. a dominating HQ and a big tech team all sit in one place (typically around the Bay Area) and has no need for big foot prints locally.
In the same way, the Just-Eat culture has been shaped by our history, so there are quite a lot of Danish traits, but are we therefore culturally a Danish company? No, we have strong Danish roots – and the CEO is a fanatical Danish nationalist. Being a very local company (local management teams has quite a lot of autonomy, many people works locally, etc.) means that what ever roots we might have had, these roots will come under more pressure as more and more non-Danish people are joining the company. Today, of the 8 people in our Exec Team only 2 are Danish, and among the 25 people in our Group Management Team (“GMT”) only 3 are Danish. Top of the list are the English which contribute to 8 of the GMT members.
It is interesting for me to compare this to other great (and “somewhat” bigger) companies that has originated from Denmark and are world leading companies today, and it is puzzling for me to see that they are still heavily skewed towards Danish executives at the top. I am very-very happy these companies are still mainly based in Denmark (sadly that was too risky for Just-Eat if we should accelerate and be an international success), but maybe they should consider to add a few foreigners to the upper levels of their company, e.g. Novo Nordisk (5 execs Danish), AP Møller-Mærsk (1 of 6 execs is a foreigner – but from Norway which is very close to Danish culture), Lego (1 exec is a foreigner) and Vesta (1 exec is a foreigner). In my quick survey, Carlsberg is the one standing out, since both their top execs are Danish, but next layer has plenty of non-Danes.
Formally Just-Eat is registered in London, so are we then a British company? No, but we are influenced by our host country, especially the British humor is something we take quite seriously.
So what cultural background can we say we belong to? Today we are a mix, and the mix luckily transcends borders. We can not argue that the Just-Eat Jam is for everyone, absolutely not, but there are people all over the world that can thrive in our company. Talented people that want to build a success with other people in a frank and fun environment comes in all shapes and colors. Good for us – and good for our customers and restaurant partners. Maybe in relative terms, more people from N.W. Europe understand the quirkiness of our company, but that doesn’t change that we can find of people all over the world that can make our company tick.
My British colleagues often jokingly tell me, that now Just-Eat is a British company. I always respond they are very wrong, not because we are still a Danish company (sadly …), but because the right thing for our company is to make sure talent from all of the World can thrive in our company, and being arch British (or arch-some-other-nation) does not build the optimal platform for a tech company like ours with a clear local focus (post code by post code, etc.). Again, our company is NOT for everyone, a culture that is for everyone is not really sharing anything, and therefore such a company ends up being average and that is the first step towards being below average and so on. But the edge our culture has is not based on being “British”, it is more universal than that. And for all of those talented people out there that wants to join our company (or are already working here), it is important to know that being culturally British or Danish is not the direct way to success in our company. The path to glory in Just-Eat is more fundamental than that, and is based on our own unique blend of values that is open to all entrepreneurial and open minded people that wants to use their talent to build a great company.
I.e., we are an INTERNATIONAL company with our own, unique culture. So be it!