TakeAway.com’s Jitse Groen: “Fortunately we never raised so much money”

TakeAway.com’s Jitse Groen: “Fortunately we never raised so much money”

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TakeAway.com describes itself as ‘one of the leading food-order sites in the world’ on their own website. That’s not good enough for CEO and founder Jitse Groen. On the Entrepeneur Stage of The Next Web 2016, he was pretty clear about his ambitions: “We want to be the biggest in the market. That’s what we do”.

Dam around the market

TakeAway is a Dutch startup, in The Netherlands probably better known as Thuisbezorgd.nl. The company is also active in Belgium, Germany, Poland, Austria, Switzerland, France, the United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Portugal and Vietnam. “We got our first funding in 2012, when we were operating only in The Netherlands and Belgium”, says Groen. “We could’ve built a dam around our market and make it very difficult for others to enter. It’s a good strategy and works for some companies. But as a young guy, I thought that was not enough. I wanted to go to other countries and become the biggest everywhere. So we needed to raise money.”

Buying your way to Germany

Groen ended up raising €13 million from Prime Ventures in 2012. This allowed them to expand to Vietnam, by acquiring delivery company Vietnammm.com. In 2014, they expanded even further, backed by a funding of €74 million. By acquiring their German competitor Lieferando.de, they got a stronger foothold in the German delivery market. “We were the number four in the German market. We bought the number three. That made us the number two. But we didn’t buy Lieferando because they did 250.000 deliveries per month. We bought it because we thought it could do a million. It was about growth.”

Competition is valued at billions

TakeAway.com has been growing at a steady pace and raising quite a bit of money. But it pales in comparison to the competition. German DeliveryHero, for instance, raised $110 million just last year, being valued at $3,1 billion. And Chinese food-delivery company Ele.me raised $630 million at a $3 billion valuation. “I’m glad I’m not running those companies”, Groen says. “Keep in mind we’re a very profitable company in our home country. Expansion to other markets is partly funded by the money we make in The Netherlands. But also valuations tend to go down in the internet sector. If you don’t have money, you need to raise funding again but on a lower validation. This means you have to fire people, close offices. Fortunately, we didn’t need to raise that much.”

Kitchen-less restaurant

TakeAway.com has been expanding its services as well, by doing its own deliveries in 14 different cities. “We’re entering the markets of Foodora and Deliveroo in a way. But it is not easy”, Groen admits. “You’re suddenly dealing with people, doing work for you. They tend to be less reliable than computers.” On The Next Web, TakeAway.com even have their own restaurant (Photo). It is kitchen-less, as the waitresses take your order to the foodtrucks outside and deliver the food at your table. This might not be the next best thing, though. But what is?

Death to the old economy

Started in 1999 as Thuisbezorgd.nl, TakeAway.com is already 16 years old. Groen, as the original founder, is still the head of the company. That’s a long time, speaking in startup-terms. What will be the next step for him? going public or cashing out and retire? “It is still a young company, and it is still a lot of fun. It feels like I’m a part of a revolution. I just want to say: ‘I was there when the old economy collapsed'”.