The Just-Eat story, revisited, and the way forward

One of my big interests, that I sadly don’t have enough time to enjoy is “history”. So much can be learned about what has happened in the past. Understanding our roots as humans, as a nation, as a society, a family, etc. is very valuable when trying to figure out where to go. Company history can also be interesting some times, and I have just realised a few days ago, that the Just-Eat story is not exactly what I thought. I started getting intimate with this great company in the spring of 2008, and I of course tried to understand where the company was as a business, but I also talked to my colleagues about the deeper past, e.g. who started it, what were the challenges back then in 2001, how did they get the idea to the Just-Eat Terminal, etc.

Then last week I get across a guy that is the actual founding father of Just-Eat, and I had hardly ever heard about him. His name is Christian Frismodt, he is Danish and in his mid-30’s. I have always been told that Just-Eat was launched in August 2001, so 2001 was kind of the founding year of the company. However, Christian got the idea to Just-Eat all the way back in 1998, when he worked for Coca-Cola Denmark as a Regional Manager. It was one of his co-founders (Poul David Videbæk) that came up with the idea to one of the key technology pillars of Just-Eat, the GPRS based terminal to communicate with the restaurants instead of using fax machines. Another of the co-founders, Peter Bøje, should also be mentioned since he established Just-Eat formally as a company together with Christian in 2000. A fourth person was drawn into the founding team (Torben Munkholm) via a Danish incubator called Vækstfonden. They were also the team who made a couple of the first and very important partnerships that made it possible for the company to grow, i.e. with Coca-Cola. An article in a Danish business publication from the beginning of 2002 is one of the few places where the team’s efforts is being documented – you can read it here (Just-Eat article 2002), and for those of you can read Danish (or know that such an awesome thing as Google Translate  exists) it is interesting to see the enthusiasm and early aspiration of Peter Bøje and Christian Frismodt. Young, eager entrepreneurs that want to conquer the world (well, it was probably only Denmark, but still).

What is also mentioned in the article is a merger with the company called FoodZoom. It was another Danish company founded around 2001 by three or four other entrepreneurs. They also wanted to build a company helping to connect hungry surfers and restaurants, and in a small market as Denmark it made a lot of sense to collaborate – so they merged in 2001 which lead to the launch of just-eat.dk on 1. August 2001. And the rest is well-known history with Jesper Buch leading the charge!

Or is it? Because something happened some time in 2002. I wasn’t in the company back then, and all of my existing colleagues started after 2002, so I don’t have a good insight into that classic founder clash that took place. I guess one could argue that with 6-8 founders from two different companies, then something had to happen, and it did. There are different versions of the story, but from my view all of those people that played a positive role the first couple of years should get credit. The 6,7 or 8 co-founders should be honoured for doing their bit to get Just-Eat going even though some of them indisputable played a much bigger role than others.

I am very pleased that I have now linked up with Christian Frismodt. He has done well since he left the company (despite having been involved in a serious accident that nearly killed him) and has founded a couple of other companies, of which one for a strange reason is called something with “Just” -;)

It is very interesting to hear how he envisioned the company 11 years ago. I think the company today is much bigger than what he could ever imagine back then, so it is also thrilling for him to hear how we are doing today. I think it is fair to say, that his baby has been nurtured, and it is now a big kid, but still with many years of growth ahead.

Another interesting point that I like in this so far 12 year long story is that Just-Eat is being build to last. Many entrepreneurial people have been in and out of the company, but the idea and the company build around the idea is so strong, that we are all “just” caretakers for a while. It is one of my most important responsibilities to assure, that when I am no longer running the company, then an even greater team will take the company to new heights. That is building a proper, great company. That is assured by recruiting talent on all levels of the company, and that is something we care a lot about here at Just-Eat. Every generation of Just-Eat caretakers should do better than the last.

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