Deliveroo founder: meals on wheels start-up could be a local job generator

21 Jul 2015

Deliveroo co-founder Will Shu

In its first phase Deliveroo will generate between 20 and 30 jobs in one district of Dublin, founder Will Shu told, but this could go up 10-fold.

Named as one of Forbes’ 25 Next Billion-Dollar Start-ups, Deliveroo has raised €25m from investors, including €3.5m from Irishman Dylan Collins’ Hoxton Ventures.

Deliveroo is an end-to-end food delivery service that brings high-quality local restaurant food to homes and offices.

It does this through its own proprietary technology and logistics platform as well as a small army of cyclists and scooter drivers.

The company established an Irish office last year and recruited a team of executives from Hailo and Amazon as well as agents and drivers and, according to Shu, the company could employ 30 people in Ireland in the first phase.

The first phase focuses on the south Dublin area and sources dishes from more than 60 high-quality restaurants to your door, including Carluccio’s, Unicorn, Keshk, Asador, Bellucci’s, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Cornucopia and La Reserve Brasserie.

The company has so far secured US$25m (€22m) in funding from investors, including Accel Partners, Index Ventures and JamJar Ventures. Demonware founder Dylan Collins has invested up to €3.5m in Deliveroo via his Hoxton Ventures vehicle.

Hunger is the best sauce

Shu founded Deliveroo in London with Greg Orlowski in 2013 with the objective of allowing people to order from restaurants they love and get the food they love with accurate timing.

It has mushroomed to employ more than 300 drivers in the UK where it has more than 50,000 customers.

In April, the company was named as one of Forbes’ 25 Next Billion-Dollar Start-ups.

“My first job out of college was in finance in New York city and I discovered food delivery because I was working so late all the time. My choices were pretty decent because I was based in Manhattan, which has a dense population, a grid system and lots of nice choices of restaurants.

“But in 2004 I moved to London and I was working into the late hours with zero food options, which I found very frustrating and that’s when I first thought about the idea. I returned to the US where I picked up some digital skills and when smartphones became more available I knew the time had come. Food delivery had been tried and tested in the past since the 1970s, but the technology now made it possible to be more effective.”

‘Currently we have several people in our Irish office and we have 20 drivers on bikes and scooters and that could go up tenfold’

The current food delivery landscape is dominated by pure online marketplaces that predominantly work with lower-end takeaway restaurants that utilise their own drivers. This generally results in an inconsistent customer experience and choice that’s limited to restaurants that are already set up for takeaways.

“We physically deliver the food ourselves. We are an online marketplace with our own logistics platform. That’s the key difference between us and any other food ordering service, we ensure the food arrives in the right time and in the right quality.

“The restaurants that do the most volumes are premium restaurants. We’re not targeting the hyper formal ones, but we want to bring the top local restaurants where the food is really good and that’s what people care about. That could be a brand like Carluccios or The Unicorn or a local mom-and-pop restaurant.”

A refreshing aspect of what Deliveroo does is the price per delivery is €2.50 and the prices remain the same as those in the restaurant. Maximum delivery time is half an hour. “Plus we have the technology and the labour force to ensure a consistent experience.”

From field to fork

Deliveroo currently services Dublin 2, 4, 6, 7 and 8, in addition to Stillorgan and Dundrum, with plans for further expansion in July to Dun Laoghaire

Shu said the company typically enters an area via their field sales team, which approaches restaurants well known in areas and samples the food. “We have an idea of which ones are good and which ones are great. On the packaging side, some of the restaurants have their own packaging but there are others that haven’t done collection before so we work with them and recommend prepared packaging vendors in terms of soups, pastas, fries…”

Restaurants are equipped with a tablet and a printer and all drivers have smartphones and at the heart of all this is a logistics algorithm that keeps everything moving smoothly.

“We work with 1,800 restaurants across the UK, France, Germany and now Ireland and we have a pretty good sense of what works and what doesn’t work.”

Deliveroo is part of a vanguard of new 21st-century businesses that through the smartphone are not disrupting but enhancing traditional businesses. You are seeing this in the taxi market through apps like Hailo and Uber, the cleaning business through apps like Handy and and now in food.

These new apps are also generating economic opportunities for a whole slew of workers.

“Currently we have several people in our Irish office and we have 20 drivers on bikes and scooters and that could go up tenfold. So we’re starting with 30 in the first phase in Dublin.

“In London we have over 900 cyclists and scooter drivers and we’re starting to experiment with e-bikes and other forms of transport,” Shu added.

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years