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Deliveroo: Bringing Restaurant-Quality Service to Everyone's Kitchen


What does it take for a person to fundamentally change an aspect of life, thus forever redefining its purpose and function?

No, we are not referring to science, nor medicine, nor sports - but food.

One of the most relevant industries of today, no one cared more about quality food management more than Will Shu. A dedicated worker, with very few hours to spare on eating, Will never had the chance to fully satisfy his daily appetites.

The lack of quality food and the time efficiency in consuming it had always played a huge role in this man's life, so much so that Will decided to do something about it.

As no one before him thought of facilitating food delivery, there was no question that Will's platform Deliveroo would finally marry great food experiences to technology.

Unlike other delivery platforms, Deliveroo collaborates with high-quality restaurants and delivers top-notch meals to every consumer's doorstep.

Yes, Will really thought of everything here - convenience, quantity, and transparency - and here's how he made it all work.

Read more about his life story here:

Eat, Sleep, Repeat

Will Shu was born in Connecticut, 1979 in a Taiwanese household, and not much is known about his early years aside from his obvious intelligence.

The first time Will acquainted himself with the growing US market was when he enrolled at Northwestern University to pursue a bachelor of arts degree. Upon graduating in 2001, Will began his first serious job as an investment banking analyst at a New York-based investment bank, called Morgan Stanely. There, he was responsible for advising companies on large-scale transactions as well as monitoring their insurance plans. Essentially, this job enabled him to obtain a variety of relevant professional skills, such as deal-making, marketing, and negotiation.

To pay his bills, Will worked sweat and toil and was given $25 per shift to spend on food. At first, he found this rewarding, but as days went by, Will noticed that the amount barely paid for a whole meal.

Three years later, Will was urged to move overseas to Morgan Stanely's London offices. Now, his lifestyle suddenly had to adapt to the costly London terms. As utilities were double pricier than those in the Big Apple, Will had to reorganize his budget and was left with less money for takeaway food.

Unnerved as he was, Will got his late-night food either from Chili's or the local supermarket chain - Tesco. This gave Will some time to get busy, but he truly had no goal to chase after. He knew one thing, though - he was sick and tired of working over 100 hours a week, so he began there.

He quit his job, considered his options, and set motion to a chain of events that would lead him to create Deliveroo.

Failing to Deliver

Still considering business options, in 2006, Will began working as an associate in a hedge fund called D.B. Zwirn & Co.

During his associate days, his working hours diminished, thus leaving Will with plenty of leisure time. Since this was a period of skyrocketing marketplaces, like JustEat, ordering food online soon caught Will's eye. Excited as he was to try out this revolutionary new app, Will faced yet another problem. Not only was the list of food choices unfamiliar to him, but waiting for the food also took too long.

Self-assured that he could think of an easier, more practical, and faster way of food delivery, Will contacted a childhood friend named Greg Orlowski. Although Greg was a distinguished software developer, their plan to build a delivery fleet just wasn't effective.

One of the reasons was that smartphones were still in their earliest stage and people were not well acquainted with a technology of that proportion.

All of this caused the co-founders-to-be to, ultimately, part ways. Interestingly, Will was anything but ready to give up the idea - he trusted it so much that he made it happen.

Time for Changes

Having realized that he spent well over a decade doing something he wasn't enjoying, Will decided to kiss the finance world goodbye.

Packing his bags, he returned to the United States in 2010 to find his calling. This time, however, he needed to think of something more fulfilling to dedicate his life to.

For the next two years, Will would become an MBA student at Wharton Business School - an eye-opening experience that forever changed Will's perspective on the business world. There, Will would come across a colleague, Greg, who might have shared the same business vision as him but, unfortunately, as only Will was willing enough to take on the challenge, the idea of joint collaboration failed before it even began.

For Will, this was a business lesson to learn, rather than a drawback. Once he got back on his feet, Will dived into the venture himself. It didn't take Will long to notice that smartphones really took over the market, and the iPhone5 became the ‘it' device that everyone craved to own. Using the concept of smartphones, Will figured he would merge the power of smart devices and the food industry to create a platform that delivered the ultimate delivery experiences to interested customers.

Before he could run the project solo, Will's colleague, Greg, came back into the picture. This time, he was armed with more experience, expertise, and patience to commit to his entrepreneurial dream. Feeling excited that Will never abandoned the restaurant delivery idea, to begin with, the planets realigned and the co-founders teamed up to create delivery greatness.

The Delivery Boy

Will and Greg were the only ones building the app, but over time, Will felt the growing need for more staff power. Without any offices in place, he used to interview people in coffee shops, which wasn't the most persuasive approach. Potential hires took Will's idea of opening a food delivery platform in England with a grain of salt. Most of them considered Englishmen to be overall laymen in quality food.

Nevertheless, the duo wouldn't reconsider for the second time, no matter the backlash. Stronger than ever before, Greg and Will launched Deliveroo in Chelsea, in 2013.

In the early beginnings, the two co-founders self-funded the business. What was missing in the picture, however, was attracting an eager restaurant collaborator.

Finding the perfect match would mean more employees for the company, a greater trust among customers, and a suitable representation on the market. As Will lived above one such restaurant, he wasted no time in presenting them with his idea. While it may have sounded like a foolish dream at first, the owner soon approved the ordeal and let Will do business on their behalf. As a result, a few other small restaurants also followed suit and joined Deliveroo.

In the next few weeks, Will would be the sole delivery employee Deliveroo had. As Deliveroo's first “rider,” he picked up food from restaurants and delivered it to the clients. During this routine, Will observed every detail of the experience - and took notes along the way.

Tackling Challenges

In 2016, the company found itself under fire for using the German Hotel and Catering Association pattern. At that time, Deliveroo was equally present in Germany as its competitors, and posed a great threat to a few big brand names. In its statement, the Association wanted to prevent the idea that food delivery services could use the hotel model but at higher prices.

During the same year, JustEat saw an opportunity to work with independent restaurants, as did Deliveroo, and kicked off a silent competition between the brands. This time around, Greg went off to found another company, leaving Will to tackle all of the market challenges on his own. Fortunately, investors trusted that the company enjoyed tremendous potential, and aided Will in coming out stronger on the other side of the storm.

This turbulence aside, Deliveroo had its biggest business shakeup in 2017, when The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB) filed a suit against the platform for misusing their human rights and refusing to treat them as workers. However, in 2018, the high court ruled in favor of Deliveroo, noting the company's workers are self-employed and were not eligible to negotiate payments nor the terms or conditions.

A cherry on top, in 2019, Deliveroo was almost forced to exit the German market.

In an email, the brand notified its customers that the company will be abandoning the German market, mainly due to their inability to enable customers a sufficient quality of service. As many assumed, the main reasons why Deliveroo left the German market were due to its inability to replace the germans' love for bicycles with one for cars, and also because most Germans were not fans of the idea of ordering dinner - a meal Deliveroo loved to offer but Germans typically skipped.

Instead, the company stated that it plans on tackling other markets where it can become the world's definite food company!

Scaling Up

Word of mouth began spreading the Deliveroo app, and people seemed to love it. Investors, on the other hand, believed the company's credibility and future, causing Index Ventures to fund it with an incredible $2.75 million in 2014 in Series A.

A year later, Deliveroo secured an additional $25 million from Accel in Series B.

The money helped the company expand in Paris, Berlin, and Dublin. In the meantime, Greenoaks Capital, along with Index Ventures, invested an additional $70 million for the company's further expansion in the Middle East and Asia.

In 2016, Deliveroo welcomed a ravishing $100 million round led by DST Global, Greenoaks Capital. The company closed another significant deal in 2017, this time an incredible $660 million led by Bridgepoint. Their latest funding was raised in 2021 from Durable Capital Partners and Fidelity Management and Research Company. The company has raised a total of $1.7billion in funding over 11 rounds, most of whom were used for further international broadening.

Deliveroo, Today

Nowadays, Deliveroo employs over 5,000 workers worldwide, making over $800 million in annual revenue. With offices in London, Los Angeles, Brussel, Paris, Hong Kong, and Dublin, the company plans to spread to 150 more locations worldwide and expand its clientele beyond the existing 6 million customers they currently serve.

As for the future, the platform also plans on doubling the number of Editions sites globally, enrich its grocery offering, accomplish deliveries in no more than 30 minutes, and even introduce a Signature service that will enable its customers to order delivery through a restaurant's chosen channels.

Once a beginner, now a unicorn giant, Will's Deliveroo tends to its customers to perfection and grants them the kind of experience the inventor couldn't enjoy himself - to bring restaurant-quality food closer to everyone's kitchen!