We have a new logo, yehaa. Let's look at a bit at the history of JustEat logo's, and then the reader can assess if the progress has been for the better or the worse. Our first logo was designed by the original JustEat guys back in 2000 and it is no secret that I have personally never liked it. I felt it was too downmarket and old fashioned, but it did have one thing going for it: it did do the job in terms of supporting the amazing growth of our Danish business, so respect for the classic JustEat logo: Then at the end of 2008 we decided it was time to modernize the logo. We stood in front of our first serious investor presentations, and I felt it was too embarrassing to show the JustEat "classic" logo (shame on me, but hey, that is what I felt), so we decided to do a "quick and dirty" process with our ad agency. They were not logo specialists, and they even warned us that they were not necessarily the right ones to talk to, but we had some sense of urgency, so spending 6 months on a logo process was not a real option. The most difficult thing when picking a new logo is often the internal discussions, customers I can deal with, but internally it tends to become a bit of mess. After a very speedy process, we ended up with a logo that clearly had roots in the old "tandoori" logo, but it was more modern, and even though not perfect, then I felt much better about presenting it. Internally half the company didn't like the change, and the other half either liked it, or got exhausted by discussing and just wanted to move on. So ahead we went: When we picked this logo in the beginning of 2009 we agreed that even though the new logo was a big improvement, it was still not aligned with our ultimate objective: to build a global, much loved 21. century consumer brand. We therefore knew, that within 2 years, we had to come up with the "real new" logo. The process to find the winner logo started several months ago, and we now have a unanimous winner: Doesn't that just take your breath away -;) Anyway, we love it, and we will do everything we can to make it awell known consumer brand all over the World during the next decade. The guiding principle in designing the logo has been to find a logo where there still is a link back to the previous logo, it has to show our internet heritage, and it should be simpler, more modern and "smarter". As a extra benefit, the new logo works well with many different colors, so I am sure we will play a bit with the color palette in the coming years. The logo is online now in the UK and will be rolled out in all other countries over the coming weeks - as well as here on my blog. Hope you like it!
I have great news from the world of online takeaway ordering: Just-Eat has partnered up with the best team in India, and HungryZone is now part of the family. We have for a long time been looking with great enthusiasm at the opportunity to do something ambitious in India. It's a fascinating and massive country that is finally on it's way up to take it's position among the top countries of the world. It's the worlds biggest democracy with a vibrant economy and all sorts of promises for the future, and now we at Just-Eat wants to participate in that progress. Originally we were planning our own launch, but then in the summer of 2010 we started talking seriously with Ritesh and Sandipan, who are the two entrepreneurs behind HungryZone who set up shop some years ago, and the last two years they have had full focus and angel investor backing to develop their offering (big thanks to Kimmi, Joe and the other guys at the Indian Angel Network, who has supported the team up until now, and who will continue the journey for a while yet). Since India obviously is different in a number of ways compared to the countries where we are operating today, then local knowledge is even more key than normal to establish success and clear leadership. And this is exactly what Ritesh, Sandipan and the rest of the team can offer us in abundance. We are very-very pleased to enter this partnership in India. What now for HungryZone? Well, we are already in full speed executing on the plan we made together. Over the next several years, Just-Eat will invest several $ Mio. to get good restaurant coverage throughout this massive country, and evangelise the message of "online ordering the smart way" to millions of hungry surfers. Just in Mumbai, there are 20-30 Mio. people, which for a guy from a small country is fairly intimidating. Of course not all of those inhabitants ready for online takeaway ordering, so we have to be a bit smart in our approach to the roll-out. But we are very ambitious and bullish about what needs to be done. It will take several years before India will be a big business for us, but Just-Eat is in this game for the long haul, and India is one of our important, long term growth opportunities. There are of course other big countries in Asia, but India is our top priority due to it's size and how it welcomes foreign companies, and we will move on from there. Lots to do ahead of us, and this will be a proper entrepreneurial challenge. Think about the tens of thousands of delivery restaurants we ultimately will have to work with in order to offer our service to the millions of hungry surfers in Indian cities and towns. We will need to re-invent the classic online model a few times before we get there, but that is the fun part of scaling a business. Again, thanks to Ritesh and Sandipan and all the other HungryZone employees and angel investors for inviting us into HungryZone, we hope we will be able to pay you back ten fold.
I often hear stories of companies being started based on a good idea drawn up on a napkin and no real business plan to document what will happen next. Maybe there is a back-at-the-envelope calculation of money needed the first 12 months, but there is none of the kind of business plans, that many of us learned to write when attending school. Just-Eat is also on this dimension very different: there was a very elaborate business plan. I don't think that is a recipe for success in it self, but it is fascinating reading. Very interesting to go back 10 years in time to read what Christian Frismodt & Co. were planning back then and see their perspective on how to achieve success. Some things are wildly off, but some of the fundamentals are spot on or at least very close. If you like that kind of company archaeology, then keep on reading, if not then close down the browser window. You will notice, that I actually don't have a digital-digital copy of that business plan, but last summer I got Christian Frismodt to take picture of every single page of the physical copy he had, so some of content might be a bit difficult to read. I read it back then and took a few notes, which I never managed to get on the blog, but for a review of a select number of pages, here we go! The front page shows the original Just-Eat logo that Christian and his partners drew up back then. I never liked that logo, it does stand out for sure, but it does come across as too down market. The table of contents shows that this business plan is very MBA like, there are the usual SWOT analysis, description of core competencies and market forces, etc. This rigid structure is probably because around the turn of the last century Christian was taking his MBA degree in Copenhagen while working for Coca-Cola. The impression it leaves the reader with all these standard analytical tools, is that the process is rigid, but not with a genuine sparkle. I don't think a rigid business plan for this type of ground breaking e-commerce start-up is a recipe for success. It can help, but big, new ideas are seldom flowing out of a rigid, consulting like business plan. It doesn't harm to write a business plan because the structure forces you to think through all the known's, but usually what really makes the difference is a couple of powerful ideas which are being executed with energy and creativity as the entrepreneurs encounter new unknown's all the time. The ability to improvise and be flexible because things turned out to be very different is the real test. A long business plan can create a false sense of safety. It is not very difficult to write a standard business plan based on an idea, it is much harder to implement it with all the unexpected stuff coming your way. But again; Christian was doing his MBA, so it made sense to use this project as part of his exams. And I am sure that Christian agrees with my view on the role a business plan plays in a new venture (he has established a couple of successful companies since he left Just-Eat in 2002). The first chapter is called "business proposal", and it lists the financial promise to potential investors. And this is one of the areas where the original team got it very wrong. They state that they will have revenues of DKK 94 Mio. (i.e. £10 Mio.+) in year 3 with a profit margin of around 50%. They did not get funding for Just-Eat back then (.com bust in April 200om probably played a role in that), so investors didn't believe in these numbers. But so what: Today Just-Eat is much bigger than those numbers - it just took a few more years. The ambition and vision was right. Talking of vision, then the following chapters have the mandatory statements. The way the guys formulated it is however not very catchy. Today's "takeaway the smart way" is a bit more to the point -;) Later they describe the key guys' backgrounds. As everybody that has been in funding processes know, the most important thing start-up investors are doing due diligence on is "people", and this point was not missed on Christian & Co. who give a solid description of their backgrounds and what they are bringing to the table. Well into the business plan we finally get to some of the interesting details on how they actually wanted to execute and build a success. The key idea of establishing a market place for delivery food was not completely new even in 1999-2000, so why is it, that they should become a success? I haven't published the whole chapter on this, but Christian had identified two key challenges and for each defined a way to overcome the challenge: 1. Why should restaurants sign up to Just-Eat, when Just-Eat had no track-record, no credibility and was basing the transaction on the internet which was very much an emerging technology? Solution: make an alliance with Coca-Cola, leapfrog on their reputation and visit restaurants together. This model worked really well, and the first couple of hundred restaurants was signed up using this model. The alliance was made possible by the fact that Christian was already a Coca-Cola manager. 2. How should orders be sent to the restaurants with the least possible operational hassle? Solution: make a GPRS based terminal that allowed for two-way communication between the restaurant and the Just-Eat back-end systems. Eventually, this proved to be a winning concept, but Christian and his team never saw it happen, since they ran into some patent problems. They were later resolved (after a lot of trouble, but that is a separate story), and finally in 2o05 another Just-Eat team got the terminals out, and they are today an important part of our concept. Chapter 8.2 below I am showing, not because the revenue definitions in them selves are important, but because I got a bit of an aha-experience when I read this part of the business plan. These definitions are exactly the same definitions that we use today! We are in the middle of the 2011 budgeting process, and I can see that concepts like "connection fee" goes all the way back to something written into a plan 10 years ago. I also found a long list of features the team wanted to add to the website. One of them I found is a bit funny: "a virtual assistant". We have actually recently discussed turning Belly & Brain into our on-site helpers, so maybe we will get there. Later in the report, there is a list of new products and revenue streams, most of which have been implemented or which are still on the table for evaluation, but there was one that stood out: "pet food". Not sure how they came to that idea. And then to finalise the 70 page business plan, they had several very detailed GANTT charts which showed how they planned to roll out the venture in all its aspects. Very well-thought through, but probably more precisely wrong than approximately right. I have always had a fondness for history, and there are maybe not many outside the Just-Eat sphere of people who see this as special, but I find it super interesting. There was one guy who got an idea in 1998, one or two years later he sat down with his newly formed team and made a detailed plan. Then a lot of stuff happened (incl. that whole team leaving Just-Eat and another team running the company for a handful of years), and 10 years later there is a very tangible company with millions of customers and thousands of restaurants in 10 countries. From paper to success. It is a good story, and it will continue for many-many years.
As an organisation Just-Eat is ambitious and offensive. So, the other day a few of us went out to test some of our new equipment that we want to support our market penetration plans: tanks! It is an ideal piece of kit: it moves fast, protects against competition, and can return fire from all angles. It is a somewhat expensive, but hey, it is better than spending money on Google. The six of us split up on two teams with Carlos, David & me on Team A, and Mat, Mike & Rasmus on Team B. And then we went out to meet each other in a life and death battle. No digital stuff here, only hard metal; no prisoners taken. Here we have Team A driving out to battle, notice self confident and very professsional hand signalling: And here is Team B, not quite sure they understand the seriousness of the whole affair - they do look a bit too jolly given they are on their way into combat: Team A moving strategically and fast around in the terrain, lurking to find the enemy: Team B trying to do the same, but again, not quite the same level of killer instinct, notice the lack of speed & momentum of the tank compared to Team A: Oh no, what is that, Team B's driver have fallen asleep in middle of the battle, very concerning: BOOOM! As you can imagine, this was more than fun! We all became like teenagers again, it is paintball (40 mm paint ball shot out with a lot of pressure) for big boys, and I can highly recommend it if you are in the London area, even though the price can be steep. Check it out here at Armourgeddon. And how did it end? Well, each team had 12 shots at each other, and Team B did really well, because they hit Team A 11 times, which is very good. But: Team A got 12 clear and solid hits. Very good team building activity -;) Later on, we went on to do some more serious stuff: strategy seminar on how we concquer the World. Here we are, all working very hard: And in the evening we went for dinner, had a few drinks and went back to the cottage, where our imaginary friend, Steve, joined us for a bit of fun: I have always believed that mixing pleasure and professionalism is the way forward. The ability to be serious when needed, and have fun when possible is important to me, and luckily Just-Eat works the same way.
No, Just-Eat has not launched in Bangladesh, but we do have some roots there. A lot of our menu typing process is handled by our Bangladeshi partner. Sophia, who coordinates the menu typing for the UK operation went to visit our friends in Bangladesh, and had the below picture taken - Belly & Brain was here! So, Bangladeshi restaurants in the UK gets their physical menucard processed in Bangladesh, so it can be presented online for UK customers. What a lovely global world we all live in.
Just-Eat was not the first to invent online takeaway ordering. When Christian Frismodt got the idea back in 1998 it was definitely early days, but the concept had been described in a number of publications, and the first websites had already been launched. What makes Just-Eat a success is not that we were first, but that we are better. Part of being better is related to visible stuff, e.g. we are pretty good at assuring a good choice of restaurants to our customers. But other elements of the receipe are less visible, and one of those elements is customer care ("CC"). It is not rocket science that CC is important, but to have the culture, systems and focus to make it work while still getting a business out of it with our margins is much more difficult (we after all only get a small percentage of the total order value, but customers often see us as the key reference point if something goes wrong). Customer care is an integrated part of our perspective of what makes a success. It is much more difficult than it sounds, but also very important for long term loyalty. When I started, I sat in CC one evening both in DK and UK, and that was a very insightful process for me. I learned the systems and the issues we typically encounter ("where is my food?" from customers, "we have run out of ham" from restaurants, credit card fraud checks, etc.), but since then I have only listened in, and not sat for several hours in a row getting into the drill. This is a clear mistake on my part, and against what I promised my self when I started. My only - and not terrible good excuse - is that I have been busy do some other stuff! Tuesday evening I had the opportunity to get back in the race, because UK CC was out on a team dinner, so they had asked everybody else to join in to help while they were enjoying them selves. I sat together with Sami (nice picture below, he surely hates me for publishing that), he has changed role, so he is no longer CC team leader, but he knows the drill from when he was in the line of fire and he also volunteered for the evening. It is not an easy job, but Sami and the other guys really impress me. Be cool, positive and constructive when a hungry customer doesn't get her food in time, because a restaurant has been too optimistic with the delivery time. Be cool, positive and constructive when a customer has given the wrong address to the restaurant. Be analytical, fast and know your systems when spotting credit card fraudsters. It is not a very glamorous job, but it is essential and it shows over time if a company doesn't do it well. We try to make customers and restaurateurs happy, and CC is fronting that vision when things go wrong.
I came home this weekend from the September World Meeting, and this time it was in Barcelona. Brilliant city, so a good pick, also because we will very soon go live there. As usual, the event was great with a mix of professional program and fun. We had one hiccup though, since we had planned to go sailing, but that event turned out to be different than expected. Basically, the idea was to sail on a big catamaran up the coast, anchor at a nice place, swim to the shore, enjoy the sun & sea and have a picnic. All very groovy mediterranean style, however the weather was not sunny. It was actually windy with 3-4 meter waves. I am an old sailor,so that is all fun, but not everybody in the team had the same perspective. 10 minutes after we left the harbour half the 40 people were suffering severely with many sending out very distinct sounds while starring into the sea. We returned. Not very pleasant for many of my colleagues, but a good team building excersice -;) The key thing with our World Meetings is to socialize, i.e. get to know each other, understand the context of the wider company etc. But the professional program is also important, especially all the specialist sessions we do. Below is a picture of the Sales Functional Group, which incl. the Country Sales Managers/Directors as well as a few hang-arounds. The finger in the air has become standard procedure for us when we do group pictures, it is chavy, but it works for us(!). Below the finger is again showing it's force, but this time at Gaudi Park. Sorry for the poor picture quality, but that's when you get when you are taking pictures with old technology (Blackberry, David!). Great event, next time is London in January.
Next chapter in the "veterans stories" series! Jakob started in Just-Eat.dk as a part time customer care agent after having been approached by one of the veteran-vetarans (Rune Risom), and in the beginning he didn't even work at the Just-Eat office. Back then, Just-Eat was based on a farm outside of Vejle, i.e not really the Tech center of the world. In the beginning of 2005 Jakob then became full time, and quickly turned into "Mr Admin System". Jakob has a unique insight into all the corners of our now very complicated back end systems, and has always been very helpful to learn new people about the systems. Rasmus started in Evonax.com, which was a competitor that started operating just after Just-Eat.dk was launched in August 2001. That company ran into major problems (the founder hurriedly left the country, allegedly with the tax authorities chasing him, but that is another story), and Just-Eat tried to help Rasmus to save Evonax and then merge it with Just-Eat.dk. The stakes were high back then in 2003 since Evonax had no less than 100-200 orders a day and 50 restaurants in the network (!). Evonax faded away, but luckily Rasmus joined Just-Eat.dk as a developer. Well in fact, doing development was an evening job, because the CEO and co-founder, Jesper Buch, made sure Rasmus was busy in the daytime hours with admin tasks. That is the way you run a proper start-up: make sure everybody has four hands and two brains! Rasmus has had his involvement in almost all the existing systems of Just-Eat, and he recalls how easy it was to deploy in the old days: "no QA, no test environment, just deploy it directly and see what happens" he tells with a smile on his face. The link between him as a developer and those that wanted development was very agile to say the least, they sat around the same table, and things could be done on the fly. Classic start-up style, but as Rasmus also notes, it only takes you so far. Things had to change, and they certainly have; today we have as many in QA as we had developers 3 years ago. It has been a major - and not yet finished project - to reinvent the platform and tech approach so it scales better and new sexy development can be done faster and more securely. Jakob and Rasmus has many interesting, fun and slightly scary war stories from the early Just-Eat.dk period, where a farm was the center of the Just-Eat universe. It would be too much to mention just half of them here, but one of the stories I have to publish, because it is pretty insane since another outcome on that story could have meant a very different and not so attractive path for the company. One day in April 2005, the hosting supplier of Just-Eat.dk had to change one of the two disks in the rack. One disk had been down for some time, and it is risky only to have one operational disk, so that makes of course a lot of sense. However, when the disk no. 1 was changed, then the still operational disk no. 2 decides it is time to kill it self! That is bad, but in normal circumstances this is no catastrophe, there are of course back-ups. This is where it starts to become scary. The hosting provider (no names mentioned ...) explained that for some strange reason they did not have a back-up. Rasmus and the other Just-Eat guys then turned to their own mirror solution which they had in the office. However, with perfectly bad timing that mirror had stopped working 5 days earlier in such a way that not only had it not taken a back-up the last 5 days, but the last functional back-up from 5 days earlier had been over-written with nothing! The perfect storm had gathered and M/S Just-Eat was lying very low in the water. According to Jakob and Rasmus, CEO Jesper Buch went to the toilet and threw up when he realised that Just-Eat had absolutely no copy of the platform, which had been developed over the previous 5 years. But true entrepreneurs don't give up so easily so after a chaotic discussion then it was decided that 1) Rasmus should together with the second developer and Per Meldgaard (co-founder of FoodZoom which merged with Just-Eat) look for what ever code he could find on various computers, etc, 2) everybody and their friends & family had to work 24 hrs a day to enter data into the system (menu cards, etc.) and 3) the damaged disks should be send to Ontrack Data Recovery in London. After 2 days 40% of the system had been reestablished and after 5 days they were up to 90%. And finally after one week, Ontrack came back with a recovered disk that had almost all the lost data. So, in the end the entrepreneurs did protect the company from a devastating problem. Many thousands orders were lost, restaurant and consumer badwill mounted, but they did get the ship back to harbour and soon everything was all happiness again. That's a great story! Jakob and Rasmus has seen many changes in the company the last couple of years as the company has grown and become more ambitious. Internationalisation and professionalisation has been high on the agenda, and they both welcome all of that, but they are also afraid that some of the cherished things of the past is under pressure. They both point to the fact that "in the old days", they were much more involved in taking decisions for example on new products, etc., whereas today other countries and departments far away from tiny Denmark runs with ball, and their involvement is more fragmented. This is the eternal problem companies face as they grow: how to maintain the involvement that secured crucial commitment from the entire company as you grow from 25 people to 150 people, and again when you grow from 125 to 500, etc. We try our best, and I am sure we are doing better than the average company of this size, but some compromises also have to be made, so every decision does not end up having to pass through layer and layer of people. Involvement is needed, it drives commitment, but we need to split up and specialise more than in the old days.
Then check out the vacancies advertised on Just-Eat.com or some of the country specific websites where local jobs are shown. Of specific interest to me right now is the job as business analyst and project manager. I was also looking for a person to that role back at the beginning of the year, and found a great candidate (Larissa). She has actually been so good, that she soon is moving on to another job in Just-Eat, so poor me need to find a new person for the role. I think it is a great opportunity for talented and business savvy people that wants to rock the boat, but more credible is it that Larissa actually thinks it is a great job (call her to verify!). So, send that CV right away.
Momen was the first sales rep to be employed when the UK company launched in Marts 2006. He was hired by David Buttress. He told me that even though he had accepted an invitation from David to have an interview, he did not turn up because the company looked dodgy, and "did not even have a websited"! David of course chased Momen, and they did end up talking, and Momen for some strange reason started working for Just-Eat. The story highlights one of the problems Just-Eat has encountered outside of Denmark for the last few years until we got the Index investment last year: talented people always looked at us with some suspicion - "who are you, selling pizza's, hmm". But the truth is also, that every time someone took the time to talk to us, they always got intrigued about the concept, the opportunity, the team. Anyway, Momen went on to become an absolute star performer. During his reign as first sales rep, and later Sales Manager for Southern England he signed 700 restaurants! That is a lot. I asked him whether our current UK Sales Director (DC, who started a few months later) did not have the same performance, and Momen says quickly with a big smile "no, he has only 670". That Momen convinced 700 restaurant owners in less than 3 years to join Just-Eat and build a good relationship to them so they are still with us is just amazing. For people that don't know about how hard a trade it is to walk the streets, find delivery restaurants, engage them and convince them, I will tell you it is absolutely fantastic what Momen did. It is a record that will maybe never surpassed. Since the beginning of the year Momen has been in charge of the restaurant side of customer care in the UK. It was an area that needed some love and care, so with Momen's Just-Eat sales background and his former job in telesales he was a good pick, and has as usual done well. I asked Momen about what has changed for good and bad the last couple of years. "A lot has changed. But the company is much better today, more professional,so many good people. The thing that I am missing, is the spirit we had when the sales guys "blitzed" cities (a special Just-Eat concept, red). In the old days, it was a lot of fun, and there was intense competition between the sales reps who all focused on building restaurant relationships in a "blitz" city. Today, I don't feel the same spirit when we do blitzes, some puts in an effort and likes to hang out and have fun as well, but others just show up to show the flag and are not really engaged". Momen is of course touching on something here. Many good things has happened in our company, but we should not lose that teamwork spirit and the fun of working. Let that be Momen's input to the continued journey of our company. Thanks for the chat Momen.