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The Backstage episode 2 – Doreen Huber, how did you build a marketplace success story?

The Backstage episode 2 – Doreen Huber, how did you build a marketplace success story?


Hi. My name is Doreen.
I’m the founder and CEO of Lemoncat, and I run the company,
which is a marketplace for online catering.
We try to bring together really cool, state-of-the-art, local caterers that have
modern, cool food with only business customers. So we
do not work with private customers. We only serve companies. Previously, I was part of the Delivery Hero team. I started in 2010 together with the
Lieferheld team in Germany for online food ordering and takeaway food.
So I’m not new to the food industry. And I was, back in the days,
already thinking a lot about better food to employees. When we had bigger groups
together, we were always ordering from our own platform, and it was always pizza and
sushi. And at some point, I felt like, “It’s not really a great experience for
bigger groups.” And that was the first moment when I thought about maybe
doing something in the catering space. And after Delivery Hero,
I was working a lot in the US in San Francisco Bay Area. I was investing in US
companies and supporting them to go international.
And I saw all those fantastic start-ups, you know, in the motherland of start-ups.
And they were having fantastic kitchens for their people, catering for breakfast,
for lunch and so on, to keep people motivated,
keep them in the office, and especially to improve communication.
So that was for me, I think, the moment when I thought, “Okay. Now,
I really have to check it out and I have to see if there’s anything in Europe yet.”
And that was the moment when I decided to start Lemoncat. Building the platform is, like
always in a tech startup it’s a challenge. It’s the
biggest challenge. To come up with the
right product, the right features, also the right technology,
and the software you’re using. And we started very attached to
Salesforce.com. So we were using parts of the Salesforce.com platform. And then,
we realized at some point, when we had our product/market fit and we
had a good understanding of what the customers wanted, that we need to move
away from Salesforce. We started building all of our parts
outside of Salesforce…the technology parts. We are still Salesforce
users for the CRM part, but we decoupled it again. Now,
everything is basically our own product. We built it ourselves. I had already my Delivery Hero experience, so I was pretty aware that good supply,
good choice, good coverage in different cities would impact the conversion rate.
So we were focusing on having great inventory, great supply from day
one, and having also a good choice, and scaling that. So pretty fast,
after launching, I think, a good year after we launched the
platform, we were the largest platform in Germany already. So we now have 500
caterers in 400 cities. We have a very good coverage.
So this supply-and-demand balance was, also for us, a very important challenge.
I met at some point, in the early days, one of the Booking.com
founders…Booking.com CMO, and it was very great to talk to him.
He was very great mentor. And he told me that at Booking.com,
whenever they were onboarding a new hotel, they try to give that hotel a new order
within the first hour. And I thought, “Oh my God. That is a fantastic benchmark.
I don’t know if we can make that happen.” But he said, “When you onboard supply,
you have to make the supply happy again because otherwise they go away.
They don’t hear anything from you for months, and then, they start thinking,
‘Oh. I’m not so sure about Lemoncat. Nothing is coming from these guys.'” So
that’s, for us, also a big challenge. To onboard the right caterers, and then,
also make sure that they get requests and they get orders from us. That was,
I think, the biggest challenge, really, from kick-starting and kicking off.
And from a technology side, I think it is always a challenge that your
platform is never down, that it’s very reliable. You know,
these kind of things, I think, are super important for every founder.
I remember, in previous companies, when we started TV ads or massive
marketing campaigns, that we were down for, sometimes,
a couple of days, which is always a horrible scenario for everyone in the
company. That’s why I think that was one super important focus for Lemoncat.
And so far, we did a very good job, and we were not longer down,
than maybe 10 minutes or so. So we have a very good reliability.
That’s really cool. Well, I think, at a later stage,
Lemoncat is now two years and two months’ old. In September,
we celebrated the second birthday, so it’s still very early.
It’s not that we have no problems anymore. So every day, same challenges or new
challenges. But the biggest challenge today, I would say,
is really making sure that when we bring on board the caterers,
that we onboard them properly. In the beginning, I think we just brought
them on board. We were happy when they signed the contract with us.
We just launched a couple of weeks ago, our real software as a service for the
catering industry. So it’s, for us, a big, new product line we launched,
and that is now the new challenge for us. To make that work as
well as we made the marketplace work. So we are focusing now on monthly active
users, on engagement, on how they are using the platform.
And so on. Because we believe that only if we bring the two components
together, will the market be truly digitized at some point.
So that’s our biggest challenge right now. To really digitize the catering
industry from both sides, the supply and the demand. Lemoncat is right now in two countries:
Germany and Austria. We would love to
internationalize, of course. We built, from day one, the
platform so that it can go international at any time. That’s why we also launched
Austria to see, how fast would we be, can we scale all the processes,
can we just plug and play what we did in Germany and install that in Austria.
So that was a very important learning for us. But I’m a big fan of “Get your
unit economics right first and get your KPIs right before you go to, I don’t know,
5, 10 markets.” And that’s our main priority, but we still would love to
go international. We want to be a very important player in the international
catering marketplace scene. So we have big plans,
but we also want to do it right…that Lemoncat is a proper tech product,
and that everything works, and the customer has a
fantastic user experience.

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