Epic Delivery is a Perth startup handling the delivery problem for local small businesses. We spoke to co-founder Ryan O’Sullivan to get the story so far.
SN: What inspired you to start the business?
Epic Delivery had been in my mind since 2010. As with all entrepreneurs who have hundreds of ideas, it’s challenging trying to filter them until one stands out so much that you have no choice but to pursue it. Being a programmer myself and a tech geek, I knew with the advent of apps and GPS in phones, it was only a matter of time before companies utilised these technologies and trends to allow people greater convenience. I believed this convenience would be realised in the delivery of virtually anything from all your local stores. Sure, some food places already offer delivery, but this is typically limited to a certain type of fast food joint, during strict times where the demand to offer this service can justify the cost of hiring delivery drivers. What about during off-peak times, what about other types of stores, what about businesses that just don’t want the risk or hassle of hiring their own delivery staff? These are the problems that inspired me to create Epic Delivery (as well as my own personal experiences of just wanting stuff delivered to me now!)
SN: What was the first obstacle you faced and how did you overcome it?
My first major obstacle was a couple of years ago when I was developing the first Epic Delivery MVP (Minimum Viable Product) with a developer friend from London. I continued to work full time in a sales role in Karratha, whilst I paid him to code. Unfortunately, he became sick which put the entire project on hold for almost 6 months. I had to take the project, go through all the code he had written and work out a plan to get this thing completed and rolled out. I subsequently decided to leave my job in Karratha to come to Perth where I looked everywhere for my first couple of key hires to help me put my code back together!
SN: What have you got wrong so far?
Lots. It turns out on-demand delivery is really f—ing hard. So much can go wrong at any time. Delivering people, give me that job any day of the week over delivering stuff! There’s just a whole host of other variables that you have to deal with.
From a more technical point, creating our app on both mobile platforms (iOS/Android) before iterating on one and getting it right to start with, was probably my first mistake. It cost us a lot of time and money to iterate on both platforms at the same time. My advice would be to focus on getting it right on one platform, and then duplicate.
Expanding too quickly without proper processes in place and the proper balance of supply / demand was another key issue for us. When you’re a start-up with limited funds (*cough* unlike some of these other cashed up would-be unicorns entering the Perth market *cough*) we have to be very selective how, where and when we market the service. Especially in a supply / demand marketplace service like our own, timing is critical. You market without the proper supply in place, and you will get crucified by your consumers. There’s a whole host of other things we got wrong, that I could probably write a book about it. But hey, that’s what it’s all about. You learn from your mistakes, you iterate, solve the problems and move on.
SN: What have you learned about starting a new business?
It’s extremely fun, exciting and bloody hard work. I’ve ran businesses before, small ecommerce websites, small service businesses, but nothing to the scale of what Epic Delivery is. I couldn’t possibly tell you all the things I’ve learned starting Epic. Some key learnings include: not expecting to pay yourself for at least 12 months. All the revenue I’ve generated from the business have went straight back into the development of the service. If you currently have a social life, say ‘see ya later’ for the next 2 years. I should probably shout out to all my friends right now who I have genuinely not been able to spend a decent amount of time with these last 18 months. Managing and trying to grow an on-demand delivery service that runs 7 days a week, 9am – 10pm, with a small team of 5, you can imagine how much free time I get.
For those of you on the fence or dreaming about starting your own start-up one day, all I can say is, life’s too short, if you want to start a business, just start one, and roll with the punches. Don’t be a wantreprenuer, going to meetups, joining co-working spaces etc. just to talk about start-ups. Do it. Otherwise you’re just wasting your time and money. I hear too many people talking about starting and never do. If you have an overwhelming passion for your idea, the business model fundamentals look right, and you have the skills or the team to implement and ship, then go out and just do it. It will be hard work, but you’ll have a blast. And if it’s a product business that you want to sell and deliver locally to the masses, speak to me!
SN: What would you have done differently if you could start again?
If I could start again, knowing what I know now, I’d get myself a co-founder from the start to off-load some of the work and pressure onto. Also knowing now when some big competitors in the food delivery space were to enter the Perth market, I’d promote the crap out of Epic Delivery 6 months prior.
SN: What’s the plan for the next step you’re going to take?
We’ve spent the last 6 months refining our model to make sure it’s both affordable to our consumers, worthwhile for our Runners, and it makes sense for businesses. We believe we’re close to hitting that perfect balance now and our plans for the short term is to drive the service here in Perth and make it the best it can be, before looking at other markets to expand into.
Our previous pricing model, without partnerships, typically made us look like a luxury service. Our prices would range from $13 up to $20 for delivery, depending on your distance from the pickup. Whilst we still had users willing to pay these prices, we always knew to reach critical mass, we needed to make delivery more affordable. We sat down, spoke with business owners, our runners and a handful of previous customers, and worked on a model that looked good for everyone. With our new release and our drive to partner with all Perth’s local businesses, our pricing will be a no-brainer now for consumers.
Next steps, we are fully dedicated to our merchant partnership program. By partnering with businesses of various types, we will streamline and automate many of our processes, speed up our delivery estimates, whilst offering delivery to consumers at a significant discount of what we offered before. For partners on our platform, we can focus on driving traffic to them to help them increase their revenues, whilst offering their customers delivery for just $6. We’re currently in talks with all sorts of businesses, from butchers and bakers, gift stores, cafes, restaurants and many others. I’m excited for Epic Delivery and what 2017 will bring.
SN: What’s the major challenge you’ve had starting a business in Perth?
Perth is actually a great city to create a start-up in. There’s enough people to make an impact and grow. People are forgiving if you occasionally get it wrong and there’s a lot of support from the start-up community in general. One of the challenges we found are that consumers here may be a little slower to embrace technologies than some other cities. I guess a little more education is required. on-demand delivery is still something fairly new here, especially outside of the food delivery realm.
SN: Are you bootstrapping or chasing investment?
We’ve received some investment, declined others, and currently have a decent amount of runway to keep the service operating with the revenues we’re generating. We have some good solid traction now in Perth and will look to roll out our merchant partner program before actively looking at further investment opportunities to expand and grow nationally. Saying that, if you believe in what we’re trying to achieve and you can bring something else as well as just money to the table, we’re eager to talk to anyone at any time.
SN: How can the startup community help you succeed?
I personally love the start-up community here in Perth. I really enjoy listening to others tell me what they’re working on and if the start-up community can get behind one of Perth’s own and help us grow, that would be awesome. Whether they’re using Epic to order their favourite foods or begin using it to order gifts and other items from our partner stores, it will help us a lot. Using our service, having a great experience and telling your friends, that’s all we could ask for.
People keep asking me ‘oh, UberEATS and Deliveroo have now entered Perth, you must be pissed off’. Not really. Whilst there certainly is cross-over in the food delivery space, a large differentiator with us and the likes of UberEATS and Deliveroo, is we really want all businesses to offer their goods on-demand. Epic Delivery has never just been about food delivery. The focus has always been much much more. It’s about commerce and making your entire city available to you. Whether you’re in the food or retail industry, we want to offer your products to everyone around you. The whole vision of Epic Delivery is to make local inventory available to everyone. It’s the exact opposite of what companies like Amazon are trying to do, of having huge warehouses that compete with local merchants. I think from a strategic perspective; merchants are on our side. We’re a neutral platform that enables and supports businesses, rather than opposes them.
We’re always looking for other businesses that complement our own, to discuss any collaboration efforts with. Likewise, if you’re a business owner or know of a business owner who has great products and wants another revenue stream through on-demand delivery, please get in touch.
And since everyone these days are chucking coupon codes around to incentivise new users, let’s give that a crack (on my pathetic start-up marketing budget!). Use STARTUP5 for $5 off your first delivery!
//SN: Thanks Ryan! Ryan and Matt can be found at startup community events, hanging around Spacecubed happy hours, or via their website http://www.epicdelivery.com.au/