Deliveroo Founder: From £0 to £5 Billion: Will Shu | E88 | Transcription

Transcription for the video titled "Deliveroo Founder: From £0 to £5 Billion: Will Shu | E88".


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Intro (00:00)

I just knew this city needed something better than the classic takeaways. That's how I got the idea for Deliveroo. I definitely know what it was like to walk in their shoes. I did that job for a long time. I did, you know, five deliveries last night. And that's why, you know, treating riders with respect and making sure their voices are heard is so important to me. We're running low on money because we couldn't get money in for whatever, 14 months. COVID kicks off, our users were disappearing because there are no restaurants left on the platform. We see this plummeting growth. I had to do the hardest thing I ever had to do. I had to lay off, you know, a significant number of people at the company. I'm so proud of what we built and I'm so excited about the future. But it is a hard, hard job. And anyone that tells you otherwise, you're not being honest. We're about to get all this money in the company. And then suddenly it was just gone, right? Big number. 600 million, something like that. And I was like, holy shit, you know, what do we do? Delivery. One of the fastest growing technology companies in Europe. You probably know the company, you've probably used it, but you probably don't know where it came from. You probably don't know the founder and his story, his unconventional, very, very humble journey. Delivery went from an idea that one guy had in London while working in the city to becoming a multi billion dollar company in record time. But the crazy thing about my conversation today with Will is he is not your typical founder. He's not your typical CEO. Doesn't feel like your typical entrepreneur. This was really his first business. And the really puzzling thing about my conversation with Will is he doesn't fit the typical stereotype of what you expect an entrepreneur to be. And I think that is amazing because it just goes to show that entrepreneurs don't all share the same fundamental characteristics. They're not all these big braggadocious characters with huge egos and you can achieve great success with great humility. Will is an anomaly. I think you'll feel that today. He is incredibly humble. He isn't that introspective, doesn't analyse himself that much and he feels like a very simple, straightforward character. But what he's achieved wasn't simple. It was excruciatingly difficult. And as he'll tell you today, it still is. Without further ado, I'm Stephen Bartlett and this is the Diary of a CEO. I hope nobody's listening. But if you are, then please keep this to yourself. Will, sometimes when I have guests on this podcast, I don't really know where to start, but with you it's slightly different. As I was reading about your story, and as I said to you before we started recording, I think actually in 2015 I was delivery's biggest customer. So I'd like you to confirm that and reward me accordingly. But I think I was. And I've watched the journey over the years and been absolutely blown away by it. Because of the disruption you caused to such a big incumbent industry. However, when I read into your story, I kept seeing this phrase that you'd say.

Journey And Challenges Of Being A Ceo

Your early years (03:25)

And it really boggled my mind because it's so atypical of the guests I have on this podcast. And it's that every time you're asked about your childhood or whatever else, you'd always respond with, "I'm just a normal guy." And when I think about what you've achieved, you built what is now, you know, at least it was at one point, Europe's fastest growing company. You couldn't possibly be just a normal guy. - I don't know. I mean, I think I am. When you're a kid, I don't think you think anything is abnormal. It just sort of is what it is. So I grew up in a place called New Haven, Connecticut. It's a small city, about 130,000 people, probably 10 square miles. So it's pretty small. It's where Yale University is. - Oh yeah. - Yeah. So we're known for that and we're known for pizza. Those are probably the two things. We're known for best pizza in the US. - That explains why you went and started delivery companies. - I mean, yeah, I was always obsessed with Sally's and Peppy's and Modern and all that. But yeah, look, my parents are immigrants. So, you know, I would say growing up, like, I guess we didn't, probably didn't spend very much money is probably the best way to put it. But when you're a kid, you don't think about that. It's just kind of what you, your daily existence, you know. - Your parents, what did they do professionally? - My mom's a scientist. She works at Yale. My dad was an actuary. He retired. So they were, you know, well-educated sort of professional people. Yeah. - And that brought you over here to London. - No, no. So my story is, yeah, I grew up in New Haven. I went to university in Chicago. I went to a college called Northwestern. And then my first job out of college, I worked on Wall Street in New York because this was 2001. And I took this job on. I mean, I did really well in school, both in university and in high school. It was just one of these jobs you did when you kind of didn't know what else you wanted to really do. You knew you could make money and you knew that other, you know, successful people, ambitious people kind of went down that path. - So how did you end up in London? - I ended up in London because I worked for three years in New York. My third year, they said I got another job at a different place. And they asked me, "Hey, do you want to, you know, check out a different office?" And I'd never lived outside the US. I wanted to do something different. I just took a chance literally on London. So I remember it really well. I came out in April '04. Never been Europe, never been to London, never been. I hadn't been here. And so I showed up and I had such a great time. I met, you know, the people on the team and I'm like, "Fuck it. I'm going to come. I'm going to come for a year." And then I ended up just basically staying. - And how old were you when you came over here for the first time? - I was 24. - 24. I think it's so crazy. So many of my American friends, they've not left the US. And I was reading something yesterday about the, I think it was a page in the New York Times. And it was talking about how important it is to leave the US to understand the world, but then also to appreciate the country that you have. - I couldn't agree more. I mean, today is July 5th, right? - Yeah, exactly. - July 4th yesterday. And you appreciate the US so much more once you leave, right? Because everyone in the US is always like waving flags and stuff. I mean, they don't know anything else, right? But when you leave and you understand different societies, you can appreciate the good and the bad of the US, I'd say. - Yeah. I don't want to go into it, but we grew up in the UK and I think Europe and pretty much the world idolizing so much about the US because of films and movies. - Yeah. - The one thing that upon moving to the US when I was 24 to run my business to New York, I couldn't get my head around was the healthcare system. - Yeah. - The idea that I could get sick and be bankrupt. - Yeah, there's just nothing you can do about it. - That's the only, well, there's a couple of other things with guns, which we won't go into either, but that's the bits where I'm like, oh my God, this isn't the... - So you were in New York kind of the same age I moved to London then. - Yes. - And you moved to Williamsburg then. - Yeah, straight to Williamsburg. Our office was in Manhattan. So you're working in Canary Wolf, I'm guessing, if you're in finance. - Yes, I was at Morgan Stanley. And I remember my first day I showed up for work. Because in New York, you got $25 dinner allowance. You can order whatever you want. Actually, funny story, my first kind of day at work in 2001, I was pretty cheap, right? So I was like, $25 I can get, I can do whatever. So I actually ordered 25 Whoppers because Burger King had this Dollar Whopper special. Everyone's like, what are you doing? And by like day three, the sort of novelty wore off. I'm like, oh, I got to work 100 hours a week. It's not, this isn't that much fun. But no, the first day I got to London, I asked people, we're working late. I'm like, what are we doing for dinner? Everyone's like, oh, I don't know, we go to the Tesco. And I'm like, what's Tesco? So we go into the supermarket and everyone's like, we're getting these microwave meals. And I'm like, wait a minute. I'm like, this is not, you're working like 100 hours a week. You try to aspire for something a little bit better. So first day, that's how I got the idea for Deliveroo. First day I moved here. - One of those Tesco meals just didn't cut it. - I mean, it was all right. I mean, but I mean, there's just, London's like one of the culinary capitals of the world. Like, why wouldn't you want better food delivery? - Was there, I mean, so many people have ideas, right?

What made you take on this industry? (08:56)

So many people have ideas for big grandiose businesses, but it's almost like, and I'd hate to say this 'cause it sounds super pessimistic, but the odds are you're gonna fail. So how dare you? How dare you try and build that, you know, that massive logistical operation that is Deliveroo? - You know, honestly, it's a really good point, right? 'Cause you're aware that there's the possibility of failure. I don't know, when I went into this, when I started it, I just said, not hedging myself in any which way. I'm not doing side projects. I'm just gonna focus on this 'cause I really, really believe it. Not so much to start a business, I believe in it as a consumer, right? So I always thought about it as, you know, I'm building this business for myself as a consumer, and hopefully other people also, you know, kind of think similarly to me. And I was convinced that enough people did. And so I'm not one of these people that was like, oh, I need to start a business. I'm like, I need to solve this problem, which I think is pretty different in my mind. And I think people should start businesses because they wanna solve a problem, or they're in an industry that they know super well and they've identified some inefficiency. That's my view, at least. - I can, you know, over the last three years, I've heard this narrative that like, it's much easier to start a business solving a problem that you and your best friend-- - You care about, right? - Yeah. - Otherwise, like, you're gonna get bored. - Yeah. - You know? I told this story before, it's totally true. I had a friend from business school, super smart guy, and he had like a thousand ideas. He'd write them all down. But his ideas were all predicated on some financial outcome, right? And he started this thing. It was the Etsy for pets, pet accessories or whatever. And I was like, okay, this sounds okay, sounds okay. I read his deck and I'm like, wow, this is like a great idea. So he's like, I'm gonna go do this. And then like nine months later, I'm like, okay, how's it going? He's like, you know what? I just really don't like dogs and cats very much. And so I just couldn't do it. Right? That's true. You can't do something that you're not actually fully invested in. - So many entrepreneurs will say that. They'll say, oh, not even entrepreneurs. So many people that are aspiring to start a business will say that phrase. They'll say, I really want to be an entrepreneur. I just need an idea. And then you'll see them kind of like go and write down a list of things that they could maybe do. And whenever I see that, and I just 100% stand by this, I always think they're gonna fail. Because of the reasons you described there, because you know they're gonna go through that absolute bullshit chaos. And I think it was Steve Jobs that said the same person would quit when you go through the absolute chaos. So you have to love it and really understand it. It can't be because I think I'll make, because you probably won't make money either, right? - No, you won't, right? Or you can't go in with the assumption you will quickly as well. Right? - Yeah. - And I had this other guy I knew who he was like, you know what? He worked at a big consulting firm and he was McKinsey or something like that. And he's like, in my spare time, I've started these three businesses. And I'm like, no man, you can't do that. Like you pick one thing and you gotta like really go for it. Different people have different sort of attitudes towards that. My view though is you just have to go all in. Right? - So speaking of going all in, there must have been a day where you had done your notice of resignation. - Well, so no, not for delivery. Because my story is, so after Morgan Stanley, I worked kind of '04 to '06 in London for Morgan Stanley. And then I ended up working at a hedge fund for about four years in London. And then I went back to business school in Philadelphia for two years. And I came back in 2012 to start this business. - Oh, okay. Fine. - Yeah. - Fine. So you came back. - So this was the thing I wanted to do after business school. - Okay. So you finished business school and you came straight to London to start doing it? - Yeah, because what was cool about business school was I saw offline to online happening. Right? Because remember, so I tried to start Deliveroo in '08. Right? And when I was still working in London. And when I looked into it, it was like, all right, I'd have to put a laptop in each restaurant. I'd have to build some sort of handheld device for our rider network. And it was just too complicated. But Steve Jobs then invented this thing that completely changed everything. Right? Phones, tablets, all of that. And so that was the prerequisite step, of course, for any of these, well, any business today really to operate. Right? Because in '08, iPhone 1 came out. SDK, I think the iOS SDK came out in '08. So this app ecosystem hadn't really developed yet. And so had to wait for that. I didn't know, obviously, that iPhone would do what it did. But in business school, I was just super excited about it. - It goes to show how critical timing can be in terms of these macro factors with technology to enable ideas like that. Because you're right, you could never have started this business in 2008. It would have just been impossible. And I think the same about things like Spotify. All of these macro factors of handheld devices and 5G streaming and 4G streaming, whatever, all had to come together for you even to have that conversation with the record labels. - Totally. The infrastructure, you know, I mean, you think back to just laying cables under the Atlantic, I mean, all of this stuff, right? To the iPhone, to all the software that was being built on. I mean, just crazy what had to come before. - And those changes are always happening because of the rate of evolution of technology. So it goes to show that right now, because of what's happened over the last X amount of months, there are new opportunities that have been created for entrepreneurs, whether it's blockchain or crypto or whatever. So I think even as an entrepreneur, you always think all the good ideas are taken. - Never. And you know, for us, we're obsessed about continual innovation, of course, because we know competitors come for us, right? We know that there's going to be someone sitting around going, "Man, this delivery roof thing kind of sucks. We got to like, we can do better than that, right?" And so we're paranoid about that all the time, right? That's how we think about it. We always think we can get a lot better. We have to. - So when you first started out in London, so you've moved from business school, you've got this idea. Talk me through how, you know, as a ground floor opportunity, how that became a conceptual, like a business. - Yeah, so it was me and my co-founder, Greg. So Greg and I grew up in New Haven together. We've been friends since I think we were like 12, right? - Wow. - Yeah, and so we were into computers like when we were 12. I mean, this is before, I'm trying to think here, because my mom worked at Yale. So we would go use the Unix workstations there. And we actually, you know, like we were on these Usenet groups. We were using FTP. This is all before there was really a true graphical representation of the internet. And so we got pretty into computer games and stuff like that. So we were pretty into that stuff. And so that's how I knew my co-founder, Greg. We then kind of got out of computers a bit, I don't know, just discovered different things. But he ended up just, you know, staying, well, he studied history, then worked as a car mechanic, just kind of randomly, because he liked cars. So he just decided to do that. And then he started becoming a software developer again. And so him and I, we would discuss ideas like all the time. And so in '08, I talked to him about this idea, right, Deliveroo. And he was like, we thought about it, and he was like, this is really complicated for all the reasons we just talked about. But we stayed in very close touch. So throughout business school, I was always like, hey, man, what do you think about this thing? Again, I think it's like possible. And so I convinced him to quit his job and, you know, kind of start this thing with me. But I moved to London. He stayed in the States. So it was kind of like this weird thing, right? But I would say, so I moved back here on October 12. We were building the prototype, the restaurant tablet, the Rider app. We didn't actually launch with the consumer app. We literally just had a website. And so you had to kind of, if you had a phone, you had to kind of zoom in to all the buttons. It wasn't even mobile optimized. We didn't even have an app, right? So yeah, because there's two of us, right? And so I'd say the first few months before launch, it was like me trying to set up restaurants, assign up restaurants, walking up and down the street in Chelsea. It was him building all the initial technology, me and him making product decisions. So it was just basically two of us. Then he came out for the launch January 13. We launched in February 13. And yeah, it was just me and him for the first, I guess, year. Yeah. So you were predominantly leading the Rider side in the kind of like on the ground operations? I mean, there's two of us. So there's literally not like, I mean, Greg was building all the technology. He did it himself, which is like pretty incredible. I was working with him on the product decisions and then I was running the business. But the business was me signing up restaurants, me getting the Rider side of the marketplace going and obviously attracting consumers. But the funny thing is, initially when we launched in February, obviously no one knew who we were. So I would actually just ask my friends to order all the time. And they just get annoyed at me. They're like, why are you like bothering me? Like what? And a number of my friends would order, I know for the sole purpose of watching me deliver the food to them, right? And I know that for sure. And they just thought it was like funny. We do the same. Yeah. So I would deliver the food and then they'd want to chat. And I'm like, sorry guys, I got to go do my next delivery. But then I realized one thing, after a while they kept ordering even if I didn't deliver the food. And so that's when I kind of realized we were on to something. Do you remember the first order that wasn't your friend? Ooh, no, I honestly don't. But I can tell you the first order though. The first order ever, I mean, I told her to order. It was my friend Aneta and she was living on Sydney Street in Chelsea and the restaurant was Rosso Pomodoro. And I was like excited because she ordered so I delivered it. But I delivered the pizza upside down. Yeah, so it became a calzone. And then I just ate it. And she's like, you ruined my meal and you ate the food. This is like the worst experience of all time. Only up from there though. So it's a good idea. The rider ate the order. Yeah, yeah. Not only you delivered it terribly and then ate the food. But still charged her, I'm guessing. I might have given her a refund, I think. I don't know. Very kind of you. But no, that was what happened, right? It was like my friends were ordering and then it was just word of mouth, right? And people got, you know, the bunch of people started just showing up. I didn't know their names. I had no idea what was going on. And I heard you didn't do marketing for the first couple years. Yeah, yeah. Well, I did one thing. I used to wear this kangaroo costume around. Yeah, yeah. I didn't really enjoy doing that. But I would wear a kangaroo costume and hand out these, you know, whatever. Like this is Deliveroo. Flies, whatever. Yeah. Why London and not America? I guess America is way more competitive and the design of the country is slightly different. But why London? Well, I mean, I'm a Londoner, right? I lived here for six years before going back to business school. I just knew this city needed something better than the classic takeaways, right? Just eat. Wow, whatever. You didn't have to say it. I'll say it. Just eat. It's fucking awful. Back in the, you don't have to say it. I'll say it. When I was a student getting the cold, stodgy, awful rest, not even restaurants, awful corner shop takeaways and styrofoam boxes that was cold was just awful. And there was no, yeah. And so my first experience with delivery was when I think I said to you off camera, a company that I was working with turned, the CEO turned around to me and said, you can now order from top class restaurants and it comes in a nice packaging. And I thought there's no possible fucking way. And then I tried it and I never went back. Well, the reality is, look, I tried, you know, just deep back in '07, right? I was really excited about it. I was like, this is going to be like New York. And I tried it. I'm like, oh, wait, I can't track my order. I don't know when the food's going to show up. And it was all sort of, look, I like kabobs, right? I like fried cheese. Nothing wrong with that. But if that's the only choice, I'm kind of like, you know. I like kabobs, but my intestines don't. So like, it's very, there's a battle. There's some good places. There's some good places. No, that's true. There is. There's a couple of slightly healthier options for kabobs around this area. But then, so you get to the point where there's, you know, I read about there was a couple of riders. So there was you and the three or four others. Yeah. There was Mirza. There was Said. There was Hanif. Said and Hanif and Mirza still work with us. Motlub doesn't. There's about four of us. Yeah. And they're still riders? Three of them are. One of them actually works in our office in Dubai now. Oh, wow. He does like rider support in Dubai. He wanted to move to Dubai. So amazing. Yeah. Awesome. And so you guys were, this was when the business was starting to get a little bit of traction within Chelsea, I'm guessing? Exactly. Yeah? Yeah. So a little bit of traction in one neighborhood? Yeah. We launched only in one neighborhood, right? The first, you know, few restaurants were on the Fulham Road and the Kings Road. And one of the restaurants was my landlord's restaurant. I used to live above it. So he, I convinced him to sign up for it just because he was, like I saw him every day. Right. It's so funny because when you hear about the lean, you know, when you read books like The Lean Startup and you hear about how entrepreneurs should be starting businesses, you seem to have done a lot of things accidentally right. Like even your idea of launching in a small area where you can establish network effects and not necessarily doing marketing, advertising to your friends. But Stephen, we didn't have money. This wasn't Silicon Valley. I'm going to raise a $30 million seat. I was funding the business myself. So it wasn't like I had a choice, right? And so I'm kind of like, okay, I don't want to like burn all my cash, you know? And so that's kind of how I was running the business until we actually raised money. There's something important about that, isn't there? When teams don't have huge budgets, they seem to make better decisions. I think so. I think I actually do. I think having too much money can be problematic. And there's a lot of money now. But yeah, when you're with just me and Greg, four riders, like 10 restaurants, you know, you don't have any money. Yeah, you got to like just work on the most important things and try to be as efficient as possible. I resonate with that because when I started my first business, we had 6,000 pounds marketing budget. And it wasn't until we'd blown it all on all the conventional shit, flyers, posters, some inflatable balloon, which we rolled down a road. And we had no money that we sat there, the three of us and said, if we have no money, how do we get millions of people? Yeah, how do we do it? And that led us to discover this thing called social media. And then we were like, well, this is Facebook page that has 8,000 students on it. And the owner says we can buy it off him for 50 quid. I've got 50 quid. Let's go meet him. Bought it, posted about my website on this Facebook page, more traffic than we've ever had. So we were like, let's just build Facebook pages for free. And so in 2013, 2012, we started building Facebook pages. We got to 100 million followers. We're doing 7 billion video views a month. And the business grew to be worth 300 million. And it would never have happened if we didn't run out of money because we were forced to think in real first principles to ignore convention. And so I came up with I think I love this idea. I'm like this is like my proudest idea. So we were like, OK, how do we reach people? We could do the flyer. I was sick of walking around with this kangaroo costume, right? And so I was like, hmm. And I was staying in a hotel. And I was like, oh, they have these do not disturb signs that you can hang on the door, right? When you're in a hotel, do not disturb. And I'm like, you know what? We should just say Deliveroo and then list a number of the restaurants in the local neighborhood because no one knew you could actually get deliveries from there. And we just hung them on people's doors. Darrell Bock Nice. Jay Haynes And that worked, so no discounts, nothing, just letting people know about it. It cost you what, 20p for one of these things, right? Funny thing is the police got real mad because they, we didn't think about this at the time. The police called us and they're like, what is this Deliveroo thing? We're like, well, we're a food delivery company. They're like, how do we know you're not a burglary ring and a robbery ring? And I'm like, what are you talking about? They're like, well, you could just leave those on people's doors and see who doesn't take them off. And if they're still on, the houses are vacant so you could burglarize them. And I'm like, I didn't really think about it that way, but pretty genius idea, actually. Darrell Bock Smart. Jay Haynes Yeah. Darrell Bock And you're still there in your kangaroo outfit trying to convince the police you're not a burglar. Jay Haynes Yeah, basically.

Your riders being discriminated against (25:56)

Darrell Bock Psst. Do you want to come in and watch this podcast live from behind the scenes? If you do, all you have to do is hit the subscribe button. And now that the world has opened up, you'll be behind the scenes as many of our subscribers have been. I can't wait to meet you. So you know, you've got four or five of you. Jay Haynes The writers. Darrell Bock Riders, yeah. And I hear that you're hanging out in a Starbucks often and you're just sitting there chilling waiting for someone to phone. Jay Haynes Yeah, we're just talking. I mean, you know, there's like four of us there. Yeah. Darrell Bock You've got the founder of the company and three others. Jay Haynes The three writers, yeah. Darrell Bock Just waiting for the phone to ping. Jay Haynes Yeah, it was the three of us and it was the same guy who would come to us and he'd be like, "All right, you guys got to leave." We're like, "But we bought something," you know. He's like, "Kick us out every time." Darrell Bock And why was he kicking you out? Jay Haynes I don't know, to be honest. I don't think he liked the look of us, if I'm honest with you. Yeah, you know, like I think, you know, and one day I went to him and I go, "What is your problem?" Like, you know, and he's just like, "Get out," right? And it was the way that he looked at us, the way he looked at me was almost like we were not people, right? Or kind of like, anonymous is probably the best word I could use and then sort of subhuman is probably, you know, the worst word I could use. But it was like that, like we're just taking up space in this thing or making his coffee shop look kind of crappy, right? And I remember talking to the three other guys about it. They like, they're just like, "Whatever, just let it go. Like, who cares?" But I realized that that must be how a lot of people look at them all the time, right? Because they're used to it, right? And for me, I wasn't really used to it. So I was like really, really mad about it. But, you know, I definitely know what it was like to walk in their shoes, you know, for a day. Well, for I guess a whole year because I did that job for a long time. And that's why, you know, treating riders with respect and making sure their voices are heard is so important to me because of, you know, that one of those incidents. - And then those three guys were from Pakistani descent. - Yeah. - So one could assume that the reason why the... - Well, I'm going to definitely assume that. - Yeah, yeah, yeah. I was assuming, just to be completely clear, I was assuming. And then, yeah, an asserting. - Yeah, well, they're just like the way, you know, they're looking at us like, "These people are going to make my store look shitty." You know, you could tell, right? And so, yeah, that was a kind of seminal moment, I think, for me and just talking to these guys, but they were just so sort of like either jaded or kind of numb to it. They're like, "Wow, like whatever." It seems to happen to them all the time. - Yeah, because they experience that type of prejudice and discrimination all the time. I mean, I've been there, right? So very early, and that's why that particular story resonates with me a lot is because I remember very early on when I was launching my business, I have a tendency to wear snapback caps and hoodies, even today. And obviously, my net worth is significant now. And so when I get into like the first class part of the train, I'll never forget the day where the train attendant walks right down the aisle past everybody else and goes, "This is first class, mate." - And you're like, "Yeah?" - Didn't mention that to anyone else. - Yeah. - Just felt the need to come up to me and my snapback because I'm wearing this cap and this hoodie and tell me, assumptively, that this is first class, mate. I'm just looking at him thinking, "Yes, I know." - Yeah. - You know what I mean? And it's funny because I wrote it in my diary. This is how I still remember this incident. I wrote in my diary that one day, you know, hopefully this wouldn't be the case that people - But were you kind of like numb to it or were you kind of angry? - Angry. - Yeah. - Angry, but for me, it's like this small little heat inside. It's not like I'm going to be Ruchi. - Yeah. - But it's like, you presume something about me. And to be honest, there's a bit of me that actually, it's in some ways a compliment that he couldn't possibly think someone like me could afford to sit there. And for me, there's some kind of compliment in there because of the underestimation that a black kid that's young can't sit in first class, you know? Not that it's the right thing, but it is what it is. - Well, I guess for me, though, what it also highlighted to me was how lucky I was relative to some of these guys that they come from backgrounds of extreme poverty growing up in Pakistan. They came here to build a better life. They're super hardworking, like super dedicated. And someone's just treating them like shit. It's like, it's pretty bad. - Yeah. It's an experience I think few would understand if they hadn't been through it themselves. So at some point in this podcast, I usually do a break to talk about Kuehl, who are the sponsor of this podcast. But me and Will spent so long talking about the product, I thought I'd just show you this clip instead. - You know what? I will try this. - You're going to try it? - Do you like drink this in lieu of a meal? - Three times a day. - So you just stopped eating? - Hey, Deliveroo, man. - No, no, no. Do you know what? Actually, it's crazy because that has been a pretty... - See, I caught him out. - No, but I think I had delivery this... No, I did. I had delivery this morning. - Okay. - In fact, the wrap, the package is over there. So I've got it at 7.30 this morning. And then when I'm busy throughout the day where I'm moving this and then nuts. - But do you enjoy food? - Yes. - Okay, but... - I know. We'll never give up hard food. Try it. Let me know what you think. - All right. So let's see here. We got the whole bottle is 400 calories, 32 carbs, 20 grams of protein. All right, let's try it out. - Low fat, gluten-free, soya. It's not Nesquik, okay? It's... - This actually tastes pretty good. - It is. Listen, and it will leave you feeling energized and full. And honestly, we get addicted around here. So Jack, who directs the podcast, when we put in a Heel fridge downstairs, he hadn't had it before, tries one, and now he actually lives off it. - If I drink this, am I going to want to eat food as well? - No.

The name of the company at the start (31:54)

- Okay. - No chance. - So it's a good way to like lose weight and all that kind of stuff? - Yes. - Oh. - No chance. - I wonder if I can buy this on Deliveroo, maybe. - You talk about the very early days of Deliveroo. One of the things that founders struggle with a lot, and I did as well, is the name of the company. And I heard, I was reading about that you... - Oh, no. - Yeah. But I love this story because I think it highlights how crappy some decisions are at the start. I heard you were going to call Deliveroo something else. - Yeah, there were a few different permutations. One was Food Pony. - I didn't read about that. - Because I was thinking of these animals and food. - Okay. - I think one was... - Not bad. - I think it was, I'm trying to think here, it was like... Yeah, it was Food Mule was another one. Because, you know, a mule kind of transports food. Not so good, right? - What about booze food? - Yeah. - Did you forget that one? - Yeah, I didn't think you'd mention it. So the original idea for Deliveroo, even this is before '08, right? So, you know, in New York, you go out on a big night. First of all, everything's open like really late. So you can actually go out past 11. If you get home at like five in the morning, you can still order something to eat. Like, you can do that. And what my experience in London was, you go out late and you just can't actually eat anything. And I just like couldn't understand that. And so initially the idea for Deliveroo was something called, this is '07, it's called booze food, which, you know, really allowed you to order food at like 3 a.m. when you really wanted it. So that is actually true. - Yeah. - It's funny because when people look at successful founders, there's this like weird assumption that all of the decisions you made were right and that you're super smart and that you got everything right. And it's not until you go back into those early moments and dig through some of the thinking, the marketing ideas, you think, "Fucking hell, this is someone that's actually developed their thinking." - Oh, it's just iterating, right? - Yeah. - You know? But the booze food idea, so there's another funny part of that because when deliver-- so booze food was a separate thing, but then when my buddy tried Deliveroo for the first time, he was like, "Oh, yeah, this is great. Like, you've got Busaba, you've got Rosso Pomodoro, you've got all these great restaurants in Chelsea." But he's like, "Really what you need to do is have a cheat code so when you're really drunk, you can put in some cheat code and then it's like literally like all the bad stuff for you." So that maybe will implement that at some point. I don't know.

Your co-founder (34:25)

- You chose to ignore him. - It's a pretty funny idea. - Interesting. Talking about co-founders, another sort of integral part of success in business. How did things go with Greg? I know that he's no longer in the business, but at some point he departed. - Yeah. Yeah, no, I mean, look, without Greg, the business wouldn't exist, right? No question about it. I think, you know, he's one of the smartest, hardest working people I know. We grew up together. He's one of my best friends. We've been friends since we were 12. I think for Greg, he wouldn't move to the UK. - Ever. - He just wouldn't do it. - Never. - Yeah, I guess he didn't, you know. He's too American, I don't know. But no, his wife was in a...she was getting a RMD degree in the US and so it was like hard for him to like come over here and ultimately, you know, at some point... So he built an engineering team in Chicago where he was living, but at some point I was like, "No, this business is real. Like we got to have the team all together." So, you know, made a decision and he left the business in late '15, early '16 or so. But I mean, I have a great relationship with him. We were just chatting last night. But yeah. - Founders go through hell together. - Yeah. - Yeah. - Me and my co-founder did. - Yeah, we went through a lot. But you know, it was tough when he left, right? Because I didn't have... There's not someone I can talk to on that same level, right? Yeah, you've got your sort of other execs and you've got, you know, a board of directors, but it's different. It's really different than having that. - Did that hurt you when he left? - Did it hurt me? Yeah, a bit, right? Because I was kind of like...kind of wanted to build this thing, you know, with him. But I also wasn't willing to just have half of the company be based in the States. I just didn't think that was the right thing to do for the business, right? Yeah, and I think it was...yeah, you know, it was tough, right? It was tough. - Do you think that situation could have been handled differently in hindsight? - I think maybe I could have convinced him a little bit more to move out here. I just think because he wasn't here, he didn't actually understand the momentum of the business. He didn't see all the stuff on the ground. For him, it was an abstract idea. I mean, you could see the metrics, you can see all that, but that's really different than seeing a bunch of, you know, Deliveroo riders with the backpack on and sort of people talking about it in the UK, right? But I mean, look, I think it would have been great if he stuck around, but I also think that, you know, people make certain decisions and he decided to prioritize another thing, which is totally, totally fine. - I find that really interesting as well. And the reason I asked that question about do you think it could have been resolved differently is because the world has very much changed now because of COVID. And we have distributed teams all around the world in startups now. - Yeah. - And this was pre, way pre-COVID. - 2015, yeah. - Before Zoom probably even, you know, had taken off. So I just wonder if now in the world we live in now, a relationship where the tech team is remote could have... - I think, I do think, and by the way, much of our tech team today is remote, but the difference is we still have a very big core of people that kind of had seen the journey up front and center. And so when you layer on top of that remote people, I think that works really well. I think to have a product team and a technology team that literally never uses the product because they're in the States is really problematic in my mind. Because ours is not just a pure digital product, right? We're a digital and a physical product. - A relationships business. - That's what it is, right? And so it's different than, you know, something that's purely...

What were some of your hardest challenges? (38:25)

Your experience in Chicago and London is the same on certain types of businesses. For us, it's very different. - True, very true. Talking about going through hell with founders and co-founders and just generally the hell of starting startups. One of the real reasons I founded this podcast was because, and it's kind of clued in the name, is because I didn't feel like the full journey of a founder is ever really told, specifically the hard parts. And I know that in your journey to build the business you did, you've confronted all kinds of awful challenges, right? Talk to me about some of those awful challenges, especially at the start. - It doesn't get easier, I'll tell you that, right? So I mean, the business is really, you know, significantly sized business now, but I wouldn't say it gets easier. They're just different, right? So year one, I would say the big challenge is no money. You know, me and Greg running around, right? I think my biggest challenge was at some point... So I think I was lucky in the sense the business momentum sort of did take... It wasn't like super, it wasn't like this, but there were new customers and we knew this thing was working, but I didn't know how big it would be. And at some point, because I was delivering food every single night, right? And at some point I remember my flatmate, he went to business school with me, Fares, and he kind of looks at me, and he's a good friend of mine, right? He says, "What are you doing?" And I'm like, "What do you mean?" He's like, "You just deliver food for five hours every night. That's like what you do." And I'm like, "Yeah, because I got to... who else is going to do it?" And he was just like, he kind of looked at me and he's just like, "All right." And then I kind of like... Because I worked in these jobs that you can make a lot of money before. I had this summer internship at Wharton that was the one everyone wanted, and I just decided to do something else. And no, he was kind of like, he thought I was losing my mind, right? And then I thought of it, because I'm not a very like... I don't even think I'm that introspective, to be honest. So I don't... I'm kind of like, I got stuff to do. I'm going to like do it. And so he was like, "Hey man, you should like think about what you're doing," right? And I did. And I was kind of like freaking out a bit, just like sitting in my small room like, "What am I doing?" Right? "Am I... where is this going to go?" And then I just was like, "You know, fuck it. Like, I think this is going great. So I'm going to stick to it." So that was hard. I would say... Did you come close to quitting at that stage? No, I never did. Really? Never. Greg did though. Yeah. Greg did. I never did. I'm not like... I just wouldn't, you know, I wouldn't let that happen. Why? I don't know, man. I just feel like I have such responsibility to the people I work with, the restaurants and the riders. And I don't know, you just start... I'll tell you what I'm not. I'm not one of these people, you know, you read about Bezos like, "Hey, I'm going to start with books. Books are easy to transport. I'm going to move on to all these other things." It's grand plan in their mind. I'm not like that at all. But what I did see was I saw success that fuels more ambition. You get into the circular path. And so I was on it like that. And I just also have this just immense sense of responsibility to people. Right? Similar to that story you told about your friend there, I read that you one day knocked on her door to deliver some food and it was one of your former colleagues from... Yeah, from a hedge fund. Yeah. I find this fascinating because people don't often talk about embarrassment as being one of the real key barrier to entries to start businesses and to pursue your dreams. But it's such a tough barrier, like humiliation and embarrassment. And that look, I remember that look fondly of the people I was living with when I was 18, 19. And you tell them what you're doing and that kind of like smirk-y like, "Oh, okay." Yeah, that happened. I also, I mean that story, yeah. So it's John Luca and really nice guy. But so I'd worked with him probably five years before and he hadn't seen me in like five years. And so he ordered something I didn't know it'd be him. And I delivered this pizza to him and I got my scooter helmet on and he's like, I'll do his accent. It's pretty strong. He goes, "Will, is that you? Are you okay?" He's Italian, right? He's from Naples. And I'm like, "Who the fuck is this?" I'm like, "Oh, it's John Luca." I'm like, "Hey, John Luca." And he's like, "Is everything okay?" He's like, he just thought I lost my mind. So because he didn't really understand that I started the business. Oh, I think he thought I was just delivering pizzas, right? And I'm like, "Well, yes, I am delivering pizzas, but I also, that is part of the job, but I also started this business." And he just thought I was totally nuts. Yeah. A lot of my friends did in the beginning though that first year. A lot of them did. I mean, they were supportive, but I knew what they were kind of saying behind my back a little bit too. You know, not in a terrible way, just like out of concern. Why didn't you care? Too busy. Too busy, man. I generally don't care. I generally don't care what other people think, if I'm honest with you. My whole life never really have. I don't know why, but... Bit of a superpower, isn't it? I don't know. Could be a good thing, could be a bad thing. Don't know. Just don't really care that much. It's definitely a good thing. It's definitely a good thing, especially as it relates to your personal happiness, but also pursuing your goals and ambitions. Because as we say, embarrassment and public scrutiny seems to be one of the biggest barriers to starting and continuing. So when you get past that initial stage, what are the next big challenges? Um... So post year one, business starts getting some traction. Business starts getting traction. That part's real exciting, right? You know, you raise your first amount of money. That's like super exciting. It's like, wow, someone gave, I think with us, it was Index Ventures gave us 2.7 million pounds, which now you're like, that's like the smallest seed thing that ever do. But I was like, wow, like we've got these really smart guys that want to invest in the business. And now it's about like, how do we scale this thing? And so it was hard, but it was a lot of fun, right? But I didn't know how to like hire anyone. I'd worked in finance and I worked at hedge fund. Sat in front of a Bloomberg machine, right? So I'm just on Gumtree. That's how I hired. And actually the people that work at Deliveroo now, they always tell me that's not true, but it's 100% true. I hired the initial people from Gumtree and I was just like writing like random like job descriptions and we ended up getting an office. By office, I mean, probably the size of this room, I would say. No windows, no heating. It was definitely illegal. It was on Cleveland Street. 121D Cleveland Street. And we found these like tables and chairs and the car park beneath it. Found a sofa on the street, just set it up. It was a thousand pounds a month and we got going, right? But I loved that part. That was so much fun. So I'd say like the first two were super hard. I would say years two and three and four were hard, but like exciting because you're expanding the business. You don't really know what you're doing and kind of figuring it out as you go along. Right? So I love that part. Your favorite part? Yeah, I'd say my favorite part is definitely when the company's like 20 to 100 people. I'm the CEO of a large publicly traded company now, right? It's not going to be as fun, let's be honest. And I'm happy to say that on the record. Yeah, everyone does. Everyone talks about the sub hundred. Because you know why? Because everyone's on the same page. Yeah. You don't need to be deliberate about communications. You don't need to be deliberate about how all the pieces fit together. Everyone just kind of knows. And obviously to scale a company and do that in a high quality way, you need to figure out the systems to do that so that when you have 3,000 people, it's similar to when you have 100. But when you have 100, I think it's the best. You know everybody's name and. Oh, everyone's name. You guys are all sort of kind of friends. You know, you go to the pub together, you know, that's fun. When did you consider yourself to be an entrepreneur? Ah, I don't know. I don't know if I ever thought about it like that. Was there a point, even after you raised that money, did you think, I'm a businessman? No, I always thought about it. I wanted to build an online food company. That's how I always thought about it. So whether it's business or entrepreneur, I don't know. I don't know what the title means, but you know. It's funny because there's. I'm not obsessed with the idea of building a business. I'm obsessed with the business I'm building. So many people have it the other way around. I think so. And it's almost become quite, I know, sexy and Instagrammable to be like, be your own boss. I'm the CEO, bitch. Like, you know, all that stuff like. And I think that and again, I just bet against those people that are building for the sake of status, not for the sake of value, right? Solving a problem. Yeah, solve a problem. I know. So so intriguing. That seems to be a really similar pattern with the people that sit here that have built great businesses. They didn't. They had no interest in being an entrepreneur. They just got sucked into a problem they thought they could solve. To me, that's got to be the way. Now, obviously, there's going to be a lot of different people, different approaches. But for me, absolutely. That's got to be the way. So in that early stage, when you just got that office and there's, you know, a couple of you in that room.

Your mental health journey (47:53)

Things are tough, right? You're talking about, you know, you're burning cash. All startups, especially tech ones, tend to be burning cash. Yeah. What was your mental health journey from that point till now? Look, I'd say this. I don't know about other people. I don't think I'm a very up and down person. So I guess that's probably a good thing, but I'm not totally sure. Could mean I'm just suppressing a lot of stuff. I don't really know. Right. But I don't have like these enormous ups where I'm like going around, jumping up and down. And I'm not going bananas when things are, you know, kind of going bad. That being said, some of my former colleagues in the early days might disagree with me. I would absolutely go nuts when I thought an order was handled inappropriately or customer service interaction was handled inappropriately. I think some people probably they can have some memories of that, but I kind of got over that and don't really do that anymore. But I would say a lot of the journey is super, super, super hard. I'm happy to talk about any of those stories with you, but there's definitely been long periods of time, not just like for hours, like long periods of time where just like, man, this is, this has to get easier or like, you know, you're just, I forget if it was Elon Musk or whoever talks about it, the standing on the abyss thing, you know, chewing glass. I felt that like many, many, many times. Right. That's hard. It's really hard. If you'd known it would be that hard, would you have started thinking about your toughest moments? If you'd known you would have had to go through that, that chewing glass staring into the abyss, would you have started delivering? If on the day where you thought I'm going to start delivery today, I'd come and I'd shown you a tape of those moments. Yeah, but I guess it's a little hard to say because if you told me, hey, business would be where it is today, would I have started it? Probably yes. If you told me the thing wouldn't work out and I'd be having to chew glass for like years, then probably not. Right. It all depends. It all depends, but it's like hard to a completely different degree because as the founder, you think about it every single hour. You think about it, you know, when you're in bed, you know, when you're talking to a friend, it's in, you can't escape it. Right. You touched your head there when you said you can't escape it. That's where it is, right? That's where it lives. It lives in your head at all times. All times. You can't escape it. Talk me through the specific details of those moments though. One example of an issue. So one of them was we were, so back in 2017, holy shit, I guess four years ago now, yeah, we were, you know, we'd raised a bunch of money from our kind of investors. So that was Index, Accel, Green Oaks, DST, you know, businesses sort of flying. And then we were going to raise money from, you know, the world's biggest fund, right? I'm not going to name who they are, but you can probably guess who they are. At some point, right? Soft thing. So anyway, so we were about to do that. They just term sheet signed, doing due diligence, summer of 17 and, you know, big round. And all of a sudden I get a call like, oh, three days before we're supposed to close. Oh, we can't do this. You know, blah, blah, blah reason. I think it was related to... We work. It was related to Uber, I think, or something like that. I don't remember exactly the specifics, but it doesn't really matter. The point is we're about to get all this money in the company. And then suddenly it was just gone, right? A big number. Big number. And I was like, holy shit, you know, what do we do? So how big was this number? It was like 600 million, something like that. It's a lot of money, right? 700 maybe? I don't even remember. It's a bad day. But then we... I was like kind of pissed off for like 10 minutes, but I got the team together. I'm like, guys, we got a lot of work to do over the next, you know, month, six weeks. So we lined up like 25 investor meetings all around the world. And we just went, we met with all these other funds and we got it done. But that was really, really tough, right? Again, because if we didn't get, we didn't get the money, because we're a loss making entity, right? We were running out of money, right? So that part was not fun. That was a tough one, but it was great.

One of my hardest moments in Delieveroo (52:34)

We ended up, you know, working with, you know, Fidelity and T-rail price. So we got in terrific investors. So at the end of the day, you look back on it, it was like, oh, that's a actually really good outcome. But at the time it was really hard. - But that is so synonymous and typical with building a business, just that, I mean, this year's COVID-19 was an example of that. Just unexpected, unpredictable, unanticipated, crippling bullshit at any time. And this is why I find it almost impossible for founders not to live with some form of anxiety, because you know, when you wake up on any day, there's a high probability you were going to get a text message or an email about something you didn't think about has just totally gone wrong. - Well, I'll tell you, I'll tell you a story about COVID actually. It actually predates COVID a bit. So we raised the next round of capital from Amazon, which you probably know. - Yes. - The way this happened though was really crazy. So we had spent a bunch of time with Amazon. They decided to invest. You know, we negotiated the deal, all normal. And they were great. And the due diligence process, I was like, wow, these guys really know what they're doing, right? So it was really great. So we announced the deal. And again, you know, we're loss-making, so we need the money, right? And again, this was a big round. And the CMA, the antitrust authorities in the UK, they're just like, we need to review this. But they wouldn't actually let us take the money in, right? And we're like, but how are we supposed to compete when we compete against the likes of Uber and Just Eat that are well-funded? They're kind of like, it's not really our problem, you know? We're like, well, you know, we're a British company trying to build a big tech business here. And so that whole process was excruciating because it was 18 months long. - Fuck yeah. - Right? 16 months, 18 months long, where Amazon was a minority shareholder in our company, I think a 13% stake, 14% stake shareholder, same as some of the other like investors, right? They had one board seat. Everything was normal. And these guys just literally kind of went after this in an unprecedented way, but we couldn't get the capital in, right? So we're like, what do we do? And we're at the mercy of some sort of institution, right? It's not like a free market type of thing. You can go and like find out, you know, we're at the mercy of this situation. And so they took us through what they call their phase one investigation, which lasted like six months and then a phase two investigation lasts another eight months. So that was terrible, right? Utterly terrible because you don't actually have any idea what's gonna happen because it's not a logical process, right? It's sort of like, you know, it's the whim of someone else, right? It's not a logical process. At the same time, what started happening was COVID kicked off in what, Jan, Feb of 2020, right? So we're running low on money because we couldn't get money in for whatever, 14 months, whatever it was. COVID kicks off and COVID, what it did to us initially was our restaurant partners were shutting down for delivery and dine-in, not just dine-in, right? And so the restaurants on the platform started plummeting, you know, in Europe and the UK. Now Asia was different. They handled it very differently, but we didn't, our users were disappearing because there were no restaurants left on the platform, right? I don't know what they were doing. I guess they're going to Ocado or whatever. And so we see this plummeting growth. We have to, and we had to do the hardest thing. I had to do the hardest thing I ever had to do. I had to lay off, you know, a significant number of people at the company, which just was the, yeah, it was the hardest thing I had to do, you know? Like big layoffs because we just didn't know what the future was gonna be like. We were in the middle of an antitrust process hoping to get a lot of money in. Our business is plummeting. Yeah, it was really bad, really bad. I mean, worse for people that lost their jobs, obviously, but really bad. Sleepless nights. I always sleep, but yeah, the days are hard. You cite that moment as being the toughest in your journey at delivery. Yeah, I do. I do just that whole, because it's not like a problem you or I could solve, right? If it's like, hey, you know, we didn't do this round, I can go and raise more capital, whatever. We can go figure it out. Or this feature doesn't work well the way we want it to. We can figure out a way to iterate around that. There's an org structure issue. Well, we can figure that out. But when you're at the whim of a government institution, that's a very different feeling. That's a, you're totally not in control. And when it lasts for that long, and the issue is, you're a tech company. You can't not compete hard for 14, 16 months, right? That's not the way the world works. It's not like two grocery chains battling it out, right? It's just different. And so, yeah, I'd say that was hard. It was compounded with the fact that we had to lay off all these people, right? It was the hardest thing we had to do. Now, luckily for us, these restaurants re-established themselves, and the business has been on this amazing trajectory. That was tough. What goes into your thought process when you realize you've got to lay off a significant amount of people? You know that it has domino effects. You know that it's going to be a press story. All of these things. You know that people are losing their jobs, their livelihoods at a time when they, you know, when they're going through... When in a time when the future is so uncertain, right? Yeah. What's going through my head, I mean, just, it's fucking terrible, right? I don't know what else to say, you know? Like, we have to do it, but it's terrible. And getting up in front of the company and explaining to people why this is the right thing to do, really hard. These are their friends, colleagues, you know, lost a lot of really great people, you know? It's definitely the hardest thing we've ever had to do. Those are the days when it sucks to be CEO, right? Look, the job is like, I'm so proud of what we built, and I'm so excited about the future, but like, it is a hard, hard job and anyone that tells you otherwise is either having an exceptional experience or they're not being honest, right? I also think it's different when you're the founder, when you're the founder CEO, right? Like, I built the thing from an idea, right? And it's a big thing. And then I don't care about the press. I care about like our employees, right? I care about the restaurant partners, the writers, the consumers. Did you have anxiety at that point? Did you ever suffer with anxiety? I mean, I certainly think so. A must have. Yeah. Yeah, for sure. I definitely had anxiety throughout that point running my business as well because we faced similar decisions. And you write the keyword that you've used there, which I resonate with was uncertainty. Uncertainty because it's sort of like it's not in your control. And you don't know how long. I knew the CMA, I had to deal with them once in 2015. And it's not, as you say, no timelines. We didn't have a timeline when we were dealing with the CMA. Yeah. We know that it's largely a political setting of precedence. For us, we were the biggest in our industry. So they were trying to establish a rule by using us as an example. Did you go through a phase one or what did you go through? Well, I was with the advertising standards association around disclosure of advertising. And it was at a time when influencer marketing, it wasn't clear whether you had what you had to write on influencer marketing posts, whether you're ad sponsored, whatever. I see. Right. And so there was the rules and the guidelines were, as we were told by someone at the CMA, purposefully vague so that you could kind of interpret. And they ended up using us as an example. We had a case, it was tundled on, I think for nine months. For those nine months, we're not sure whether they're going to shut us down, fine us, slap on the wrist. What's going to happen? It's tough. But it's tough, right? Because you don't know. You don't know, right? So it takes a long time. Yeah.

What do you do to relax? (01:01:07)

That point around anxiety, I think is specifically interesting because it's, I think it's definitely increasing in our generation because of social media and we all have more tabs open than ever before. CEOs are people that, as you've alluded to, walk around with all the tabs open all the time. What do you do to relax in moments like that when you're in the middle of a storm? I probably don't do a good job with that. You know, I can put a pretty calm face on because I'm just not naturally like an up and down person. But you know, I try breathing exercises. You know, I try to really kind of just not think about anything sometimes. I tried that Calm app. I got through day six of the 30-day challenge. Got a little bored at day seven. But I used to read a lot. I used to read a book a week. I now at this point, it's been a while since I read a book, which just makes me a little sad. This is like my favorite thing to do. That does work or you just kind of go for a walk. I go on long walks all the time. That really helps me out a lot. I have some super exciting news to share with you all. I have an amazing new sponsor for the podcast, which I'm very excited about, called My Energy. Like with all of the sponsors on this podcast, I reached out to them because I truly believe in the transformative work that they're doing. And that means that I can talk about them from a place of real authenticity. The company was co-founded by the brilliant Jordan Brompton and Lee Sutton. To give you guys a little bit of info, My Energy are one of the UK's fastest growing renewable energy companies whose mission is to reduce our dependency on fossil fuels, an issue that should be at the forefront of all of our minds and has been at the forefront of mine since I sold my Range Rover Sport and traded it for an electric bike. My Energy was founded in 2016 and since then, their growth has been absolutely bonkers. From a team of just six in the UK to a workforce of over 200 across Europe. So throughout my podcast going forward, I'll be talking about some of their products and showing you how you can make that transition to a more green future. Thank you so much for being a partner for this podcast, My Energy, and it's our sponsors ultimately that allow us to scale things up and bringing My Energy on board is a signal that this podcast is going to get bigger. The production is going to get better.

Challenges of having a romantic relationship as a CEO (01:03:21)

The guests are going to get bigger. The stories are going to get more compelling. And I couldn't be more excited to share all of that with you. Could you talk to me about what it without going into specifics about people or whatever. Can you talk to me about the challenge of having and sustaining romantic relationships while you're also you've got this baby in this obsession, which is all-consuming? It's like, yeah, I think the brain is capable of kind of filling itself up with certain things and then there's just not room for other things. I mean, that's how I think about it. I don't know if that's fair. And you know, some people would say that I'm certain that other people can fill their brains up with more, but I'm like a very obsessive person. Right. I don't know if you had the exact same. That's why I asked the question, because I was hoping you might be able to tell me how to fix it. I'm not the right guy to tell you on that. So, yeah, I've struggled for that same reason, just being very uncompromising with time. And I hear compromise is an important part to sustaining a healthy relationship. I heard that too. From all of my ex-girlfriends. But I don't know if like, yeah, but I don't know if like it's also like, you know, we do this because, you know, I don't know, like we're hiding from something else or like, you know, I don't know. That's something I think about sometimes. You think about that? A little bit, right? Like, why am I so obsessive? But then I think back and I've always been obsessive about everything. So I don't really think it's changed. But when I started my career in business and I was obsessive, locking myself in a room, not really seeing my friends either, I thought this is the way to live life. It's just about get rich, get successful, and then everything else, happiness will arrive at that point. Like not that I wasn't happy, but just my happiness would scale to some point like euphoria. So this is all it. So you get successful, you get some money and you realise that your happiness probably, for me, I'm speaking for myself here, doesn't necessarily scale. Doesn't go down, but doesn't really move upwards that much. And then I start reading about the importance of meaningful connections and relationships and all these things. I'm watching this old TED Talk about how men in relationships over 100 years study live longer, are happier, etc, etc, are more healthy. And I think, fuck, you know what? I actually think I've fucked up. I actually think maybe I should have attributed more time to relationships. But can you? Can you just be so intentional about everything? I mean, I don't know. Maybe we can. I don't know. But you must understand the importance, right? According to like the science anyway of having... Yeah, yeah, yeah. But, you know, we make the decisions we do. You know, it's all... There's a difference between an abstraction and actually what happens, right? But do you... Because I, I've worried that I might regret it someday, that I might have had my priorities wrong this whole fucking time. You're a young man, though. Has that ever crossed your mind that you might have put your priorities in the wrong place? Has it never crossed your mind? To be honest, no. Really? But I'm not a very retrospective person at all. I literally don't think about the past, which may not be a good thing either. Good for certain things, not good for others. What about friendships then? Through that, through that, you know, chewing glass and staring into the abyss, how good were you at maintaining friendships? Um, you know, a similar thing, right? It's like you have a limited amount of time and I'd say okay. Okay, yeah. You know? Five out of ten. Probably five out of ten. Wouldn't recommend. Probably five out of ten. It's a lonely job, you know? And you're not gonna... You don't want to like hang out with your friends and just talk about how tough your day is all the time either, right? So I don't know if you were the same way or... 100%. Awful friend. My friends became the people I worked with, pretty much. I had that, I had that. But I think it's really important to separate that too. Yeah. But it's a solitary thing, right? You're a founder, you know, especially when Greg kind of, you know, left. And so you're just on your own and you got to figure stuff out. We make this sound kind of like terrible, but I'm just like listening to this thing. This is part of the reason why I wanted to do this podcast because I think there isn't this warning about the sacrifice.

Delieveroo's IPO journey (01:07:49)

It's all, "Oh my god, look, he's fucking rich and he's got... Oh, I'd love to..." And I think the balance is important. Let me take you up until the IPO. So you do... company goes public. Our company went public via reverse merger. Things change. It's tough because you now have the scrutiny of the public markets. Talk to me about that whole journey and how you found that. Yeah, so I think the whole IPO process, you know, was... It was a lot of work for about kind of three, four months before the IPO. I think we were all kind of looking forward to something really exciting. And it was really exciting to take a company public at a big market cap. So I'm coming from an idea. Obviously, sort of the day one trading was hard, right? Because I'm not like... I don't really... Like I said, I don't really care that much about what people think. And I don't really read the media that much or anything like that. But when it's that pervasive, you know, it's like front page of every single newspaper, you know, telling you, you know, you guys fucked up or you did this. Yeah, it was tough for a few weeks. So I'll be honest with you. It was tough for a few weeks, you know. Because the market cap fell. Yeah. And just like, you know, there's a lot of, you know, you people in the company are like, what's going on? And you're on investor calls like, what's going on? And ultimately, the way I sort of think about it is, you know, so proud of the fact we got here, right? I'm actually just focused on the business. How do we grow the business? How do we move the business in the right strategic direction, right? And I'm super, super, super optimistic about the future. Well, for all the stuff we've been doing for the past few years and have come to fruition, you know, in the future and all the future facing stuff we're working on now. So if I'm very honest with you, I don't think about the stock price.

I still do deliveries (01:09:53)

I actually think about the business. But for a few weeks, it was like difficult, right? It was very hard. And then there's all these stories written, which we talked about a little bit, but all these stories written about drivers, are they employees, are they contractors? The unique position you've got is you've actually been a rider. And in fact, you still are. Yeah, I did. I did, you know, five deliveries last night, you know, Notting Hill. And I talk to riders all the time. I know what they want. We're building a business for our riders, for our restaurant grocers, partners, for our consumers. That's their custom. They're all customers at the end of the day. That's how we think about it, right? So a model that actually works for them, it's got to be the most important thing. And we know our model, can it improve? Absolutely, it can improve. We can improve everything. But do we think it's the best model for them? Yeah, 100%. Your company's worth, you know, billions and billions and billions and billions and billions and billions. And you're out last night doing delivery riders, deliveries around Notting Hill. Why? A few reasons. One, I always test our rider app, right? So it's a good way to do it. Secondly, decent way to get some exercise. And you're just on the road and you're not thinking about anything else. I actually find it very relaxing, right? And then thirdly, I can actually kind of see the restaurants in action too, because the interaction is usually not with the consumer. The consumer doesn't want to talk to you, but they just want their food. I get it. The restaurants, you can learn a lot just by spending time there. When you show up at the restaurant to collect the pizza or whatever it is with chicken chow mein, do they recognize you? Nah, no one recognized me. The riders recognize me sometimes, but no one recognizes me. I'm not like a celebrity. So have you ever had any experience where like a restaurant was rude to you or like? Yeah, last night. Really? Yeah, I was pretty pissed off about it. Did you fucking, "You're fucking off the service!" No, no, no. I don't say a word, but I make sure to log into my notes. Really? Yeah. How rude. Just like bad attitude. I was like, "Hey, I've been waiting for a while." They're like, "Yeah, they do this." And I was like, "Shake the hand at you, yeah?" Yeah, and I'm like, "Come on." And then I got the food and it was like kind of cold. I'm like, "Hey, you know, this food's kind of cold." And they were like, "Yeah, just deliver it, buddy." And I'm like... At no point you told them the other... No, I would never do that. "Oh man, you're different from me." No, no, I would never do that. But I want the true experience, right? I want to understand what the riders go through. It was really funny as they were being rude to me, these other riders walked up to me. He didn't know who I was. He was just like, "Oh man, you see? These guys are at it again." Really? Yeah, yeah. And you take those learnings back to HQ and you go, "We need to fix this." Yeah, well, we talked to those restaurants, right? Are you going to speak to that exact restaurant? 100% I will. And what would you say? Well, I waited around for a long time. You clearly had made the food who's just sitting around. Like we need better processes, right? We need to figure out a way to get this to work. And please tell your staff to not, you know... Be rude to riders.

Perspectives On Competition And Finance

Your thinking around competition (01:13:02)

And I get it. They're busy too. Like, but you know, it's just smile, say, "Hey, how you doing?" Makes a big difference in people's days, right? What's your thinking around competition? You're in an incredibly competitive field where you've got these absolute heavyweights and you've had competition emerge and disappear throughout your whole course of building this business. And all your competition seems to have had 10 times, 100 times the capital that you've had. Oh, I don't know. We've had a lot of capital, to be fair. But I mean, Uber. Yeah. Well, they always have a lot. And Rocket Internet in the early days, they launched in the UK. Yeah. Yeah. What was that thing they launched? I forget the name, but... Everyone has food or something. Yeah, I think it was... Look, I think competition exists because this is such a big market, right? It's 1.3 trillion pounds in the 12 markets we operate in. Online penetration is, you know, call it 3 to 5%. It's early. It's a big market. That's why there's a lot of competition. I think, look, the way we think about the competition is, you know, of course, we pay attention to it very closely. But it's really about what is our consumer value proposition and is it better than the competition? Is it growing on an absolute basis as well? And we fanatically sort of measure that. And we always think about, you know, what is the consumer, the rider, the restaurant, the grocer of the future want before they even know? What is the answer to that question? What is the future? Well, I think the future is... I can't give away all my secrets. The future is, look, this business is super underpenetrated. You look at travel, it's 50%, right? Food is that low. Why is food difficult? Well, food is difficult because A, it's perishable and B, it's emotional, which means to express food online is hard. You go to a restaurant, right? Restaurants are 75% gross margin business. Why? Low net margin, but high gross. Why? Because it's an experience, right? It's an emotional experience, but it's not just about the food. It's what was your relationship with the Mater D? What did the decor look like? All these things, right? I don't know. They're amorphous. How do you take that same feeling and put it online? A really hard thing to do. So I think the future is going to be more and more food occasions online. They don't just have to be delivery though. They could be dine-in. They could be a whole host of other things. Private chefs. Could be that. Could be cool recipe kits. A lot of different things, right? But how do you marry that with the emotional aspect of this brilliant food industry, right? And no one does it. Well, you don't do it well today. You look on our app, it's pretty transactional. You look at Ubers, you look at any of these other guys, pretty transactional. And I think the winner in this space, winner, I don't know, that's maybe a poor word, but whoever does really, really well in the space is going to nail that emotional side, right? The restaurant generated content, the FMCG generated content, the grocer generated content. We collect millions and millions of reviews each week on our platform. We don't do anything with that great today in my view. So how do you marry all that together? How do you migrate the experience from a transactional one to more of an emotional one? Right. Hmm. Interesting. This is emotional right here. Sorry. Okay. That's great for this one. So we're going to put that all over Facebook ads. That's really interesting. And so you're talking about creating greater depth from what I heard, creating greater depth with that social and emotional interaction with food within delivery. Food is social. Food is emotional, right? At the core. So delivery is becoming a social network for food. No, I don't know about social network for food, but I think having aspects of that, we want to be an app you go to not just when you're hungry, but when you want to learn about food as well. Right. I hear you. Because like a chef tells his story in a physical space. How do you let that chef tell his or her story online and how does that help you make decisions as to what you want to purchase? Right. I think that's amazing. And it's really different than buying like toilet paper on Amazon. Right. Or buying like. Which is transactional, right? It's more transactional. Now the reason you use Amazon is the best, most reliable service in the world. But I think with food, I think it's a little bit different.

Money (01:17:36)

You need that reliability, but you also need that emotional connection. Wow. Yeah. So that's what we're spending a lot of time on trying to figure out. So as you, I guess, no, I've got two questions. So my next one is about money. A lot is written when founders go public about how much money they've made about that, bonuses, blah, blah, blah, blah. I mean, Elon Musk is a great example. The amount they've written about him, I think it caused him to sell all of his properties and his house and pretty much all of his possessions. And he now lives a lot of the time when he's on SpaceX in this little small shed. But he said in interviews, he did that because the money is so secondary to him. He just wanted to disarm people from thinking about that. And then obviously, when he became the richest man in the world, again, he's hitting with all the billionaires are evil stuff. What relationship do you have with money and what does it mean to you in your life? Oh, man. I don't know. I never really thought about it. I mean, I don't really live very differently than I did, you know, seven or eight years ago. So kind of live in the same place. I mean, I'd rather have more money than less money probably, to be honest. Did it make you happier? I don't know. I don't really thought about it. I'm sure there's some, I'm sure having more at some point will make you a bit happier. I'm sure, as you said, there's probably a limit to that, though.

Future Goals And Aspirations

What are you aiming for? (01:18:58)

But I'm not like, I don't buy a lot of stuff. So I don't know. Yeah, I just don't buy a lot of stuff. So when you look forward into your future, then what is it that you're aiming for? And why does that matter? Look, you know, I think part of me would love to figure out myself. It may sound kind of weird, but just when you start this thing, you're on this journey and the journey sort of propels, it has a life of its own, basically, is probably the best way to put it. You start getting a lot of customers, you start getting a lot of riders, you start getting restaurants, you get investors and the thing's moving and you're moving along with it. In many cases, in a very deliberate way, in many cases, you're along for a journey. And so this thing has a life of its own. And it is pretty interesting to take a step back and think, okay, is this journey completely everything that I had in mind and I wanted to do or were there just a lot of parts of it that were, it's like a wave kind of taking you along? And I'd love to figure that out a bit, to be honest, right? I don't think that makes any sense. Yeah. So what I heard was you're trying to understand if your own personal journey is completely aligned with the journey of the company as it grows, because the two entities, especially, I'm guessing at the very start, they're so interlinked. It's your life, it's your everything. But at some point you have to kind of separate, I think, not necessarily, I'm not saying resign or anything, but separate your life and your ambitions from that of the business. Yeah, because they're so intertwined and it becomes difficult. I'm not even saying separate necessarily, but just like having a better understanding of what your role and what Will wants from his life and what he's interested in. Yeah. And I think, I wonder if other people feel that way. I don't know, maybe you've asked that question. I don't know how you feel about it. Everyone that sits here that's a founder of a big business feels that way. Because it's just all consuming, right? Yeah. Tom sat there last week, he said the same thing. Did he? Yeah. He's like, he had a red phone in his bedroom. From what he described, he had very little life. He said, relationships broke down, he said his friendships were okay. But he had this red phone in his bedroom that would ring when there was emergencies. He was consumed by it. He had a crushing weight every time he woke up in the morning. And so now that he's left, he's now discovering pottery and all of these other sort of personal things that he's doing just for his own personal reasons, which were probably impossibly hard to do when he was being dragged. Well, I think, yeah, yeah. I think that's interesting. Yeah, when you start something and it really becomes something, it has a gravitational pull of its own. And the question is, are you this thing or are you in the orbit, right? It's a little hard sometimes to separate those two things. So that's something I'd love to kind of understand. How do you go about understanding that? I was going to ask you, man. You're the one that talks all the time. Oh, God. A therapist probably and really trying to, I think, just the talking about it, I think, because even as founders, I don't think we get much time to talk about these things. No. We're just being dragged by the emails and the urgent crises. That's what I mean. This gravitational thing. So you have to create space, right? I think you have to. I think it'll help with business as well, right? To take a step back, to remove yourself and just think about other stuff. And when you step back in, that's why I do think going on holiday is really, you know, it's funny. It's like, I didn't take one for seven, eight years. I just didn't. Which is like kind of stupid, honestly. But maybe in the first few years I could. Maybe that was fine. But just having the ability to step away for a week and do something totally different, I think is incredibly important. You got any holidays planned for to do exactly that? This whole travel thing was a bit problematic. And if you were to go on holiday, do you think you could relax? It's hard. It takes me about three days. So I need to go on a holiday longer than four days. Yeah, I think that's what I need to do. Well, listen, when you do figure out those existential answers and you've had time to meditate and go to the beach and figure out that point of separation that you describe, do come back on the podcast and we'll talk about that then because I'd love to know the answers. But I want to thank you for coming here today and having this conversation with me. Thanks, Stephen. Super fascinating. Thank you. And it's so inspiring and interesting how there's so many similarities with founders that have gone on that journey. It doesn't seem like there's many differences. However, the character that's gone on that journey always seems to be really, really different. And you are remarkably unique. So you hear the same things a lot. Yeah. The fundamentals of the journey and what it does to you, how it feels is always the same. But then the differences and the nuances are in the pilot. And how he addresses and how he or she feels about or addresses those that experience. And that usually relates to the younger years and where you developed your resilience or your perspective on the world. But a super fascinating, super inspiring. Thank you so much for coming today. Thank you. I know you're a very, very busy guy. Thank you for the fuel. It was delicious. I'm not even going to have to plug it. You've done it all for me. You've done my job. Thank you. Just trying to make it easier. You are. You've made it really easy. Thanks, man. Appreciate it. Appreciate you. Thank you. . Next slide.

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