Tag Archives: internationalising

Why I got on board StarOfService

I have been involved with StarOfService since the end of 2015, so it must be about time to briefly explain, why that is the case.

StarOfService (“SOS”) is a Paris based market place for local services. It was launched by CEO Lucas Lambertini and his old friend Toni Paignant and CTO Mäel Leclair.

I have a long history of being involved in online market places with a clear vertical focus. All the way back when I did my first startup (sol.dk), we experimented with market places in e.g. cars. During my time building JUST EAT I learned a lot about the vertical focus, and it’s the same with Treatwell, ClickMechanic etc. However, many years ago (10 yrs is a long time in this industry), a colleague showed me some services, that tried to aggregate all kinds of local services in one platform, and make it bookable, ie. like the old school directory sites but with a booking and service platform on top. None of those companies made it, but it always stuck in my head, that maybe one day technology advancement and user adaptation would make it possible to create a successful local services market place that was not vertically focused.

Imagine if such a service could be designed to work for both consumers and the local service professionals. In my youth, I was used to the yellow pages phone directory, and I would use it quite a lot. Seldom would I use it frequently for the same service category, but because yellow pages were the portal to all local services, then I would use that big, yellow book every month. One month for looking for this, another month looking for that – but I always knew where to find that book, and how to use it – I would flick through the pages, find a couple of professionals offering the service I was looking for, and make my calls. Later the internet came along, and it became easier to find the relevant professionals, but the service and booking experience was still old school.

My thesis is, that for all those services out there, where there is not a high-frequent use case (auditor, plumber, tax lawyer, etc.) + where the underlying scale of the category is limited (DJ’s, event organizers, numerologists, photographers, etc.) there is a real need for an aggregater service. I don’t want to go to Google every time I need to interact with all these services, because then I will be send to a new interface, a new registration platform, new evaluation of trust both ways, etc. for every category, and even for every professional. I want to go to one service, which I trust for local services and where I can easily find the relevant and trustworthy professionals and book them safely. And I know, that most of the (typically) small entrepreneurs running these kind of businesses are also ready. They are already using digital services for accounting, tax registration, etc., and they understand that the internet should be a source of business for them. In both their private and professional life they buy and book product and services, so they should of course use the same channel to earn a living. Both demand and supply needs a market place that could make the interaction a better and more efficient experience for everybody.

How difficult can that be? Why did this not happen a long time ago? Well, because as usual, it is difficult when you get into the details. How do you bridge the use case of different verticals? How do you create economics that work, e.g. who is paying who? How do you with algorithms match demand with the right supply? Etc., etc. I spend more than a year looking at various companies in Scandinavia, the UK and throughout the rest of Europe, but even though I met some great entrepreneurs, I didn’t meet someone that had metrics I could believe in. I continued, also fueled by the fact, that an American company, Thumbtack, had made it work. It took them a few years to figure out, but around 2014-15 they seemed to have had a major break-through in their business volume and they raised significant amounts of money.

There had to be someone in Europe, that had also understood how to do it, and I badly wanted to part of that venture. Building leading international companies is what I really like to do in my professional life, and when it is in a local services market place I simply can not be involved.

Through an introduction from Guillaume Durao of ID Invest, I then met Lucas from SOS. My first call and then later meeting with Lucas I will never forget. I knew very little about Lucas before I met him, other than he was quite young, having launched SOS straight out of school, so I was surprised to see such a “solid” appearance from his side. Some would call it French arrogance, but let’s just say that Lucas had no intentions of being impressed by a punk like me. In normal circumstances that attitude would be a major turn-off for me, but Lucas managed to play it in a way so I instead got respect for him. He really knew his stuff, he was smart and stood out as a world class fighter. And I like a smart general in charge of his company, also if he has a bit of personality and edge.

In some strange way, the first discussions in the autumn 2015 went well, and we decided to move on in our discussions. That revealed four things for me. First of all, Lucas is a stellar guy. Funny and very easy going when you get on the inside – he just had to test me a bit, and after that he became one of the easiest people to work with I know. Secondly, where my first meetings with Lucas was maybe a bit on the edge, then meeting Lucas’ partner and friend Toni was a pleasure from day one, super nice guy that was all over the business. Thirdly, the SOS organisation was three guys in a room in Paris, and then another 40 people spread out over the world. Given that SOS already had very decent traffic, usage and revenue, then I had never seen such a distributed organisation run so well before. And fourthly, the metrics SOS could show were a revelation. They had made it work in France! Traffic was growing fast, they had done it with very limited money (from high profile French angels and seed money from the stellar guys at Point9) and their unit economics made sense.

It did not take us long to agree I should join the battle and become advisor and board member at SOS as well as investing in the company. It’s been 15 months now, and I have enjoyed it thoroughly. There has been lots of changes in the company for sure, but overwhelmingly positively. The company raised a decent series A round, and now there is a real organisation in the Paris office to supplement the international organisation, incl. great people in the exec team like Jean-Francois Rochet (ex-eBay and PayPal), Andy Wilson (ex-GetYourGuide and Rocket Internet), Nicolas Garnaut (ex-AppTurbo), Augustin Neyra (ex-Melty) and my old colleague Guillaume Dellamare (JUST EAT/Alloresto).

SOS wants to be the international leader in the space, and Lucas & Co. is leading the charge to make it easier for everybody to engage with local services. France is the core country now, but the international roll-out is gaining momentum. Good people, I like it!

Billedresultat for death of yellow pages

GenieBelt – the Genie to help Construction, now with funding

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?

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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 …

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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!

Wahanda – why I get involved in “hair and beauty”

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.

Why I’m involved with Kirkeweb

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!

Scaling a business – learning and performance focus

One and a half year ago we/JUST EAT decided to move forward more ambitiously with the JUST EAT Academy. The objective is to supplement the valuable on-the-job training with more structured learning and development. In practice, the set-up has been running for less than a year, and there is plenty more to do, but from my perspective we can already see some really good results, e.g.

  • Most of the managers in JUST EAT have now been through our Management Assessment Centre (“MAC”). This means that as a supplement to their line manager’s view on their performance and development needs, then we have a structured, 360 degree view on the person from many of the traditional management/leader dimensions, e.g. communication skills, presentation skills, collaboration skills, analytical skills, etc. The MAC is definitely not the final truth, and the line managers qualitative view is still key, but it all adds up to a better understanding of what the manager need to do to develop her- or himself. It is challenging to be a manager in a fast growing company, so if JUST EAT can support with a few tools then great.
  • Together with an external agency, we have developed a really good sales module called “Sweet & Sour”. A lot of sales reps and managers have already been through this program, and it is getting very good reviews. The important thing now of course, is to make sure the learning’s are actually been put into use when the participants come back home, so that is a key focus area for the sales managers.
  • We have a lot of people in JUST EAT, who have their first management job, or which have the biggest management challenge they have ever had, so a course in basic management skills can come in handy. We have therefore put together a course (“JUST about people”), where the participants goes through a catalogue of the fundamental management tools, and we have run this course for the first time some weeks ago.

We want to institutionalise learning, and it is of course not only about fine courses, but it all helps. To build a truly great, international company, having the most talented people that are constantly upgrading their skillset is fundamental. And that breeds a virtuous circle, because as people in one part of the organisation shows how to improve, there will be peer pressure on other parts to improve as well. In a performance environment such as JUST EAT, where there is focus on improving all the time, healthy competition drives the company forward, and it is important that the company support this with tools and infrastructure, such as the Academy. We are not yet where we should be in rolling this philosophy out, but we have made a good start.

If you want to scale your business beyond the small-company level, you have to put learning and development at the core together with a performance culture. Deliver, then learn to deliver more/better/faster/funnier/cheaper. It’s all very Jammy!

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Consolidation in Spain

JUST EAT launched in Spain December 2010. It was a bit of a bet, because everybody said Southern Europe is not a place for delivery food, but that scepticism was proved wrong very quickly. Spain is not one of the biggest markets in the World, and there are “a few macro economic issues” on the Iberian Peninsula, but we have been so fortunate to build an absolute kick-ass team lead by Jerome Gavin, and the growth has been better than anything we ever imagined. Thanks guys for the hard work over the last nearly two years.

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There was also another team that launched just before JUST EAT, it was team Sindelantal. The company is co-founded by Evaristo Babe and Diego Ballesteros, and they also managed to involve the experienced angel investor Michael Kleindl. In the last two years JUST EAT and Sindelantal has competed full throttle and in the process pushed the market to migrate online ever faster. JUST EAT has grown a bit faster, but both companies has done very well – and today we are very happy to announce that JUST EAT.es and Sindelantal has joined forces!

At JUST EAT we believe in investing heavily in 1) building the best possible, national restaurant network and 2) communicating the advantages of online ordering to customers. Our acquisition of Sindelantal makes it possible to roll-out the online takeaway concept even faster in Spain. That is good news for restaurants and consumers, and in the long run it will also be a good story for JUST EAT.

Congratulations to Evaristo & Diego – well done in founding and building a company with real substance. And we look forward to follow you as you scale up your business in Mexico.

And congratulations to Spain, JUST EAT loves you more than ever!

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JUST EAT World Party 2012

The biggest event of the year in JUST EAT is without any comparison our annual World Party. The event was first tested some years ago and has since changed a lot as our company has changed, but one thing has always been at the centre of the concept: fun and socialising. And for sure, that was also at the centre stage of the World Party we had last week at a venue outside of London.

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There is no need to spend a lot of words on the event, I will instead try to capture part of the atmosphere with a series of pictures, enjoy – we did. But if you only have 8 minutes available, then go straight to this heavily cut down video of traditional JUST EAT Got Talent Show, it was a lot more fun than what you can see here, but it might give some feeling for the evening: JUST EAT 2012 Got Talent Show

(NB: there are also hundreds of pictures on facebook page following the event if you can access the FB group).

Nearly 400 people from all over the World came to Berkshire, UK, ready to get started all dressed in fashionable JUST EAT t-shirts:

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First a presentation on what is going on overall with the company, people came to have fun, so we spend less than an hour on that, here I am showing some creative sizzle the marketing guys has dreamed up:

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We quickly moved on to the team events, we like to do competitions, so everybody were send out with their teams to solve all kinds of   missions, here some of the teams:

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Some people (the Celts) took it all more relaxed:

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And others put in an effort and won:

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Then we “nearly all” did Little Fish, Big Fish, that was pretty hilarious, but we didn’t get the World Record for most people dancing in sync because 100 people decided it was better to sit outside and enjoy the 25c with a cold beer (grrrr …):

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But then our very own Mr Beat Box got the Jam back:

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We also tried to see if we could get some other official Guinness Books of World Records, and we succeeded (not sure how long those very important records will last, but we made it!). One record was in keeping as many balloons as possible flying for 1 minute:

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And one in undressing 10 t-shirts as quickly as possible, another very important and high profile sport:

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Last couple of years we have given each country a cottage, where they could serve delicacies from their home countries of both solid and liquid nature, this year we gave each country a tent, and combined with fantastic weather (25c in the UK in May is not that common!) people’s mood quickly went from great to stellar, some examples:

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And then the highlight of the evening, the JUST EAT 2012 Got Talent Show (check link for video). First the intro with Ras on Sax and some big pretender:

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UK marketing doing Bollywood dancing:

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Brazilian samba:

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Who says Finance can’t dance:

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UK Sales doing the Haka:

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And several others, but the winners were – the Danes singing about how they are treated as cash cows, hmm think about that for a second:

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We also had the traditional JUST EAT Awards for best of this and that (congrats to Spain, Norway, UK, Switzerland and Sebastien), and Mr. Buttress got a kiss and a piggy bank:

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And after that no more team building or award ceremonies, JUST PARTY:

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Thanks to all JUST EAT’ers for a great World Party – see you all plus a lot more again next year.

NB: special thanks to Leah, Mike and Anne for getting everything organised so briliantly, especially the weather really impressed me.

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.

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