The Extra Dish on Wall-Street.ro: Delicious business in the UK: A Unicorn start-up for food lovers

Needless to say how happy I am that The Extra Dish has had such amazing feedback and is now featured on one of the biggest news & business websites in my home country. I’ve translated the article below and plan to make it the first of many. Thanks Wall-Street.ro & Alex Goaga for letting me put it up here, too!

Titus, 27, is at his fourth attempt in the world of startups. This time, along with two other partners, he chose a field full of flavor – a platform that connects people who cook at home dishes that are more more or less conventional and those who want to order home-cooked meals. The network is called TheExtraDish.com.

Meet the founders of The Extra Dish

The Extra Dish founders, Kate Wolfenden, Roberto Lucci and Titus Capilnean met in the Executive MBA program at the Hult International Business School where they worked together on several projects. After graduating, they kept a close relationship and the three are now working together for The Extra Dish.

Kate, 34, spent the past few years in the charitable sector and in the past had a business that combines pubs and street festivals in London. Kate is now working on WWF and will serve as a Non-executive Director for The Extra Dish.

Roberto Lucci, 46, is the one who came up with the idea in the first place. He helped build a tourism business focused on luxury villas, business that has achieved multi-million turnover and where he is now working to automate the processes using digital tools.

Titus, 27, has worked in the online industry in Romania from 2008 to 2014 on NGO campaigns, in agencies and in the corporate sector, when he decided to move to London. It’s the 4th attempt in the world of startups, having tried to build two agencies and a foursquare for websites on which he worked in various stages and in different positions.

The team is now expanding with Alex Nicolaica, who recently moved to London and will bring his expertise in marketing and digital built in the IT&C & FMCG sectors, and Aishlyn Angill, a Londoner who loves meeting new people and is excited by the big challenges behind such a business like The Extra Dish, where she can put her amazing sales skills to good use. Alex takes care of marketing strategy and Aishlyin of the operations and relationships with the home cooks.

Why The Extra Dish?

In Romania, such a platform would be a niche of a niche, as it would cover a still very small, only emerging market. However, only in the UK, convenience and take-out food markets exceeded 60 billion pounds in 2014. This includes all fast-food delivery, restaurant delivery services and convenience food sales in stores like Tesco, Marks & Spencer and Sainsbury’s.

“Roberto, a lover of good food tired of restaurants or traditional takeout, came up with the idea when he tried to order something from a local cook. He couldn’t find a solution to solve the problem and knowing that there are other people with the same needs, started working on the project with me and Kate, “says Titus.

The first iteration of the idea consisted of a Business Model Canvas, a few platform specifications & user journeys, a business plan and lots of enthusiasm. These were validated at Startcelerate London, Seedcamp Office Hours in Paris and LCIF London and also helped to attract about 50 people potential cooks who love doing this at home and to whom they will facilitate the connection with “foodies” in London.

The Extra Dish Startcelerate Pitch

“Looking ahead, our vision is that everyone who is a talented home cook should be able to use their talent through The Extra Dish. That translates into global infrastructure (directly or through partners) and a brand at least the size of Airbnb and Uber”, said Titus Capilnean.

What is the business model?

“The business model is simple and transparent – we create a link between people who cook at home and those who want to order home-cooked meals and we charge a percentage for brokering the deal (the order will have a set minimum value adding the delivery fees on top). We try to close the circle when it comes to take-out, as we have learned from all other food startups that we have studied while defining the concept of The Extra Dish. Our ambition is to create an ecosystem that will connect people passionate about cooking with those who want to order food cooked with love and care, and that means we need to cover all stages of the transaction – presentation, packaging, transportation, payment, so the only concern of the cooks is what to cook next and for those who order to benefit from an experience at least as good as ordering from a restaurant delivery service“ notes the young Romanian.

Currently, the team have been in touch with dozens of home cooks who have shown interest in being included in the platform and estimate that in the next 12 months, they will have about 500 active home cooks.

“From the marketing point of view, we are looking at a two sided approach, with the cooks group being our beachhead. The tactics and channels are somewhat different then for the foodies. For the home cooks we use recruitment events and cooking groups, cooking schools and generally we are targeting the information providers and learning platforms that they visit, like forums and cooking magazines. The initial focus will be on the cooking schools, as there we have the security of having a qualified audience of willing and skilled home cooks or future chefs.”

The other side of the market is that of users who want to order home-cooked food. Here we’re talking about standard channels: performance marketing, social networks, cooking blogs, but beyond acquisition campaigns, the entrepreneurs will work on retention and loyalty campaigns for users. They will also leverage platform usage data and personal preferences to generate the best recommendations.

Looking for investors

For the last few months months the three have been working at both the testing and modelling concept and presentations, pitches and individual meetings and are in discussions with a number of investors. “We want to enter in a partnership with one or more investors who understand the business and want to contribute actively to the its development, bringing on board their experience, network and ideas, not just the money. We’re a super strong team, enthusiastic and full of energy and will put all our “brain power” to good use to achieve fantastic results!“, says Titus.

They aim to fully launch platform in the coming months, with own resources and use the capital injection to ensure a consistent impact and strong growth. “In the coming weeks we are preparing to launch a crowdfunding campaign where we would love to see contributions from everyone who believes in our vision and ability to go global. Of course, if wall-street.ro readers (or my blog readers for that matter) are interested in our business, we are open to any investment proposal (just say hello (at) theextradish.com) “.

For the first 18 months, the focus is on the London market, given that the main goal is to become sustainable before the next step into new markets. Most of the team is already there, the market is very large and very dynamic. “We want to cover about 50% of the London until next year and then to replicate the model and learning onto other markets. We’re looking at the US, especially the west coast, but the list includes 2-3 cities in Europe, too “.

(…)

The initial investment

So far, the founders have invested some thousand pounds in project and expected that they will continue to fuel it’s setup, “but our time was the main resource to date and consisted of tens of hours per week invested in documents, meetings and presentations. So the 6 months of dedication would amount to a total of £60-70,000” according to their own estimations.

“But back to the discussion about investment, we need at least £50,000 to launch and then a total of £600,000 pounds during the first 12 months to be sure that we can scale the business at the desired pace” set out by the “blue sky” scenario. The recovery time of such an investment is about 3 years.”

“In the world of startups, we would call our company a Unicorn, which requires a bigger initial investment, as it’s profitable only at volume. Investments in this type of companies support the fixed costs and the expansion, but when the business becomes profitable, the results are usually extraordinary. The other type is the Pony, meaning that the company produces enough income from the beginning and the only cash it needs is that which it helps it to grow faster, but the growth & gain rate is not as staggering. The Pony is a more common type of tech startups, easier to launch, but usually they don’t scale as much as a Unicorn,” concluded Titus Capilnean.

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