Sacha Michaud, jockey turned entrepreneur with over 20 years in the online sector in Spain, and co-founder of Glovo, talks to Top Business Tech this week for our Founder Feature Series.
Glovo is aiming to become the everything app for city-living, from the delivery of indulgent takeaways, shipping time-critical parcels to the delivery of a fully charged power bank to keep those instas flowing. They deliver (almost) anything and everything!
Learn more about Sacha’s entrepreneurial journey with the startup, Glovo, in the interview below.
Q: Who are you and what is your story?
A: I’m an English entrepreneur with more than 20 years’ experience in the online sector in Spain and extensive experience in creating successful companies. I was actually a jockey when I was sixteen but then I came to Barcelona, fell in love with the city and have been here ever since.
In 1997, I founded the company LatinRed, one of the largest online communities and services providers in Spanish, which was acquired by StarMedia two years later. As a passionate entrepreneur, I’ve founded several companies, including Inlander, which was sold in 2000; Binaria, a successful digital communication agency; and Transword, an online translation company. Towards the end of 2014, after nine years leading the Betfair Iberia team, I met Oscar Pierre and we founded Glovo.
Q: Could you tell us about your company and what you’re striving to achieve?
A: We allow you to buy, collect and send any product within the same city, in less than an hour – all via an app. We have more than 3 million monthly active users and over 25,000 associated partners. In just five years, Glovo has become one of the world’s fastest on-demand delivery players and became a unicorn in December 2019. Our aim is to become the everything app for city living and to achieve this we’re continuing to innovate in the dark delivery space.
Q: What made you decide to take on the challenge of founding your business?
A: We saw what Uber was doing for the ride-hailing industry and other on-demand companies and we realised the opportunities that were available with smartphone apps. People are always going to want things to be delivered and we wanted to create an ‘Uber of things’.
Q: What is the core technology driving your start-up’s product/service?
A: Predictive analytics and machine learning are at the heart of the Glovo product. Working in the on-demand delivery space means your technology needs to be able to not only process customer orders but identify the closest Glover (our couriers), plan their route, ensure the restaurant or store is efficient to limit waiting times and deliver the product on time. This all happens seamlessly in a matter of seconds from when the customer places the order on the app.
In delivery, we’re always striving to be more efficient and customer experience is a top priority — this is made possible through the cutting-edge technology we deploy.
Q: Tell us about some of the biggest obstacles you’ve had to overcome?
A: There’s no doubt that COVID-19 has created many challenges for businesses across the world. Some learnings I’ve taken from lockdown and COVID-19 are how Glovo can use its position and platform to create initiatives to help the communities we operate in. We’ve partnered with multiple charities to help get essential products to vulnerable people during these times. We’ve also been offering free deliveries for pharmacy products. This is something we could have been doing from the beginning and plan to do much more of in the future.
As a growing company, you have to make some tough decisions for the good of the business. Market exits have been one of those tough choices. From a business perspective, we needed to make sure we were in the best position for our partners and customers, to do this we always strive to be in a leadership position or co-leadership.
Q: Do you see yourself as an underdog?
A: Yes, I still consider us to be one of the sector’s underdogs. As a start-up founded in southern Europe, we didn’t start out with the same access to capital as some of our competitors. It wasn’t exactly a level playing field and we’ve had to be a lot leaner and a lot smarter when it comes to how we operate.
Being lean and doing more with less — and to grow as rapidly as we have to get to where we are today — has, I think, put us in a really strong position to deal with the current market conditions. Currently, we’re in 22 countries and we’re either number one or a close number two in every one of those markets. In terms of profitability, of those markets, 21 countries are operationally profitable, while almost eight are already EBITDA profitable.
Q: What are the future implications of the technology you are developing?
A: One of the most important aspects of our company is having a positive social and environmental impact.
From an environmental perspective, we’re now officially climate-neutral and we’re committed to being carbon neutral by the end of 2021. As a company, we’re constantly working to be the leader in creating solutions, such as the better management of food waste, bundling orders, providing partners with sustainable packaging and supplying couriers with backpacks made from recycled and recyclable materials.
As a society, we’re moving towards a much more dynamic and flexible way of working — something that’s only been accelerated by COVID-19 — and we fully support the regulation of the digital economy and autonomous work. We welcome that because it brings with it the best possible rights for workers and we want workers in the gig economy to have the same rights as everybody else, while still being able to maintain their flexibility.
The gig economy is a highly contested part of our business. Currently, we’re having conversations with local stakeholders and the Italian and Spanish governments, our two largest markets, to make sure gig workers can retain flexible hours and additional social rights.
Q: What’s one piece of advice you’d give to budding innovators taking the same journey?
A: One of the key elements of our success has been that we got the timing right between scaling the company’s senior leadership team and growing the business. You want to make sure you get the people with the expertise, experience and ambition to help get you to where you want to go. But that isn’t always a given.
As co-founder, Oscar and I always had this vision for Glovo as a global brand — and this was reflected in our company values and company culture — and we’ve stayed true to that vision and those values from day one. I think that’s played a very important part in attracting the right people and despite our growth to over 1500+ employees worldwide, we managed to keep our core values and culture.
So, I think identifying the right individuals that can help you take the company to the next level is a great place to start. With the best people, you can build the best foundations. The second thing is to put in place a process that allows you to scale sustainably and efficiently. For us, that means utilising playbooks.
Q: Can you tell us who your mentors and heroes are, and what impact they’ve had on you?
A: I’m lucky enough to work with both my mentors and heroes, in Niall Wass our chairman and Oscar my co-founder and CEO. Historically Bill Gates has always been a hero of mine too. How he competed and won with inferior products but remained focused, and how in his prime he was committed to doing good with his knowledge, wealth and network industry.
Learn more about Glovo becoming one of the world’s fastest on-demand delivery providers. Visit their website: https://glovoapp.com