Features - Entrepreneurial Alumni
Posted 01 September 2017
New York Programme
August 2012 Intake
Giovanni, a graduate of University of Westminster, has just joined Uber this year in Sydney as Community Ops Manager for Australia, New Zealand & Japan. Prior to this, he had been running his food delivery start-up HowAboutEat in Australia for about 2 years. HowAboutEat was a lunch delivery startup, focused on easy & convenient deliveries to busy office workers. All orders were collected via a chatbot that each morning would send 3 options to all our users from the best local restaurants. To order, users simply had to reply "yes" to our chatbot and lunch would be delivered to their office with a $1 delivery fee only.
The chatbot worked via SMS, email, Slack and Facebook Messenger (we were the world’s first fully automated food delivery chatbot on FB Messenger). I was a co-founder of the company, and I was running Sales, Marketing & Operations while my co-founder looked after technical development.
How did you get into this line of business?
I have always been passionate about start-ups and entrepreneurship, and when we saw a gap in the food delivery market where all the big players were focusing on home dinner deliveries, we decided to start HowAboutEat. While in New York with the Mountbatten Institute, I was a member of the Entrepreneurship Club, which helped me foster my interest in the field.
How did you go about setting it up and getting established?
Serg (the other founder) and I applied with our idea for a startup competition and were awarded $75,000 AUD in funding and secured a spot in a local start-up accelerator which helped us build the first version of the product and test it with a few pilot companies. The pilot was a success and we went on to raise an additional $250,000 from local Venture Capital funds and Angel Investors. The service was growing in Sydney with a delivery fleet of 20 people and a growing user base, but while we were operating, some other successful and very resourceful companies entered the market, namely Foodora, Deliveroo and Uber. Although they were not directly competing in our niche, they had a strong influence on the entire marketplace and we did not manage to raise additional funding when needed, unable to convince investors to join us was certainly an up-hill battle. We unfortunately stopped operations during the first quarter of 2017.
What else is in the pipeline?
I recently joined Uber as Community Ops Manager for Australia, New Zealand & Japan. They were positively impressed by our ability to set-up and run a complex logistics-based business and approached me for a position there. The plan for the near future is now to help Uber grow in the APAC region while also learning about the different aspects of such an innovative a fast-changing business. I don’t exclude the possibility to start another business in the future thanks to my previous experience with HowAboutEat, and the additional skills that I will develop at Uber.
What has been the proudest moment in your working life thus far?
Launching our start-up took a lot of work but it was certainly a very proud moment when we finally launched the service to the public. Other highlights certainly include being able to provide a work opportunity to our delivery fleet of around 20 members, as well as the recognition of our hard work from Uber when they approached me to join them. In addition, securing an internship at Citigroup in New York with the Mountbatten Institute certainly makes the list!
What has been your biggest mistake/learning experience?
There are a lot of things that I could have done differently when I look back at how we ran our company and some of the decisions we made, but it was our first time running a tech company and we surely lacked some experience in it (which we have now gained and it will be priceless in the future). From chasing growth at all costs, to being too immersed in the daily operations to be able to think about the bigger picture, there are many situations from which I have learned a lot.
Any words of advice/wisdom would you impart to others thinking of setting up their own business?
In general, it takes a bit of sacrifice to start working on an idea without money and it could be a bit scary at first. We have worked many evenings and weekends before raising more substantial amounts of money, but it was definitely worth it. So it is important to take a chance at the beginning and see what happens. More specifically, I would recommend to keep it simple, focus on a specific customer need and experiment with solutions in order to show with numbers and metrics that your solution is something people really want.