Jelte Vrijhoef, Deliverect: ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.’

Last modified: 28 November 2023 15:33
Barely three and a half years on the road, and already a company valuation of 1.4 billion dollars: scale-up Deliverect announces today the completion of a 150 million dollar Series D funding round, officially reaching Unicorn status.

“That’s obviously a dream come true,” says Jelte Vrijhoef, co-founder and CIO of the food-tech company. “With this investment, we can further expand our engineering and development teams and continue our expansion in the United States and Australia.”

Deliverect simplifies online meal orders for over 20,000 locations in thirty countries worldwide. The company was founded at the end of 2018 by four friends who decided to combine their enthusiasm and technological knowledge, and it has been experiencing rapid growth ever since.

The 39-year-old Chief Information Officer, originally from Leusden in the Netherlands, says, “The delivery market is booming, even before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. The pandemic has acted as an accelerating catalyst for the industry. But neither my three co-founders—CEO Zhong Xu, CTO Jan Hollez, and CRO Jerome Laredo—nor I could have predicted or dared to predict Deliverect’s success.”

Deliverect’s headquarters is located in Ghent, but the company has significant development hubs, the marketing department, and partnerships in the Netherlands. The Series D funding round was led by North American investors Coatue Management LLC and Alkeon Capital Management, along with existing investors Newion, Omers Ventures, DST Global, Redpoint Ventures, and Smartfin. The new round brings the total invested in Deliverect to $240 million and results in a valuation of $1.4 billion.

Solution for all delivery channels

Staggering figures, especially for Jelte Vrijhoef, responsible as CIO for integration, linking with partners, and cash register systems. “There are more companies that provide integration of cash register systems, but no competitor offers a solution for all delivery channels and all cash register systems,” he says. “For that reason, giants like Kentucky Fried Chicken use us to deliver their meals to customers.”

Deliverect’s SaaS platform automates online orders for restaurants from one central point; delivery, table app, or takeaway requests from services like Uber Eats, Takeaway.com, Deliveroo, and Shopify are accepted and directly transmitted to various kitchens. The platform simplifies the online management of meal delivery, allowing over 20,000 hospitality establishments to improve their operational services, customer satisfaction, and revenue.

With an extra $150 million in the bank, the former start-up will focus on product development, in addition to expanding engineering and development teams. In addition to restaurants, Deliverect will increasingly serve supermarkets and convenience stores. The platform has already processed more than 100 million orders, with an average of one and a half million orders weekly in 2021, a number that continues to grow.

Also for small and medium-sized businesses

“We are already collaborating with around 800 different partners,” explains Jelte Vrijhoef. “And that involves orders appearing on screens in the kitchen or on a display for the drivers delivering the meals. Our platform is not only suitable for major players like Burger King but certainly also for entrepreneurs in small and medium-sized businesses.”

“We are convinced that our growth will accelerate further because ready-made meal delivery is gaining popularity at an unprecedented pace,” continues the CIO. “Compare it to buying CDs ten years ago and subscribing to Spotify now. Meal delivery is not only trending among millennials and Generation Z shoppers but also among those in their fifties and sixties. And, of course, we are in one of the few markets that offer something truly necessary for everyone three times a day, 21 times a week, which is consuming meals.”

Speaking of growth: in Deliverect’s first year, the company had 50 employees, doubling to 100 in the following year and reaching a workforce of 370 people in 2021. Vrijhoef expects at least another doubling in 2022. “Sustaining that growth is our goal by the end of this year,” he says. “And by 2025, we want to be that established global company, playing the backbone role for everything related to restaurant delivery. Yes, being The Partner in this industry.”

The Deliverect mission attracts talent

Finding scarce developers and engineers in times of a war for talent is a challenge for any organization, but Deliverect has a mission that attracts young professionals, according to the Chief Information Officer: ‘We help an industry that has been struggling for the past two years due to COVID. Providing solutions for businesses in need has a positive impact.’

Recently, the CIO, along with his three co-founders, was in Dubai. Not only to celebrate Christmas but especially to meet and welcome the new nine-member Australian team. ‘Of course, we will go to Sydney later this year, but due to COVID, it was not possible in December last year,’ Jelte Vrijhoef smiles. ‘I mentioned that dream come true. Imagine, a startup becoming big in Australia and the United States within four years. How great can it get?’

Lead Team Deliverect (from left to right): CEO Zhong Xu, CIO Jelte Vrijhoef, CTO Jan Hollez, and CRO Jerome Laredo

In boyhood dreams, childhood friends experience breathtaking adventures, and that’s how Jelte Vrijhoef perceives his journey with Deliverect. ‘This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. Zhong, Jan, Jerome, and I, as a quartet, form a unique team. Colleagues and friends for whom trust is paramount. We started this together, achieved this together. From almost nothing to a unicorn. That’s so special!’

‘On to the phase of being the market leader’

CEO and co-founder Zhong Zu declares today, with the announcement of the latest funding round: ‘Due to the increasing digitization, we see that it is important not only for restaurants but also for supermarkets and convenience stores to manage their online orders to meet customer expectations. We look forward tremendously to the next phase of Deliverect, the phase in which we are the market leader in automating online meal orders.’

With all the success of the newly minted unicorn, the question remains: Is Deliverect slowly becoming a welcome prey for multinationals? ‘No, we are not for sale,’ says CIO Jelte Vrijhoef very firmly. ‘It is certainly possible that we ourselves may go on an acquisition spree, as we are constantly looking at what is happening in the market. But we absolutely do not want to be part of such a very large tech organization. If only to prove that unique SaaS solutions do not necessarily have to originate in the United States but can also be delivered by a European tech player.’

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