What is Trackin?
Trackin is food delivery software that allows anybody to start an efficient delivery business within a day, without knowledge, and anywhere in the world. It includes delivery, driver, and customer relationship management. Deliveries are happening everywhere worldwide, but only a few understand how to do it properly. Trackin includes all the tools necessary to provide the perfect delivery experience.
Using our own tech, we've also launched MobyDish, the first on-demand catering marketplace including drivers and premium service. We're democratizing catering by making it super easy to place a catering order for any event. Companies like Salesforce, WeWork, Pattern Energy, and Twitter rely on us to make their teams happy and to connect around amazing food.
How did you get started with Trackin?
I've been an entrepreneur ever since I was young. I've always wanted to improve things, solve problems, and make decisions. I also love to listen to and learn from people, and I'm good with tech. So in January 2013, after three full years in the USA, I left a good position in SF (at a nation-wide catering company that deals with delivery issues every day), and I left my life as well (visa, apartment, friends, habits, etc), to go back to France to start working on Trackin.
At first, I had a CTO/friend helping me on the back-end. After 3 months, we had a prototype, and I traveled around to meet with potential customers to see if we were onto something. We also participated in a nationwide French startup challenge and ended up winning. This netted us 25k and allowed me to hire my first employee and two interns.
I officially launched with my first client in March 2014. I remember working until 3am so I could fix the bugs he'd find within a day. At first it was only delivery management software. However, after talking to my leads, I realized the problem we needed to solve went further than that. First, they didn't know how to choose who to deliver to. Also, far too many online ordering experiences were shitty. So I decided to add an online ordering system. We made it simple to use (with no account creation), and connected it to our delivery system and delivery zone. That's how it became the ultimate solution for delivery.
What about getting started with MobyDish?
I did the same thing when launching MobyDish that I did with Trackin: I talked to vendors and potential customers, then I created a prototype in a couple of months.
Afterwards, I explained to my team the next steps, and we improved our online ordering and app in order to accept and deliver catering orders. We incorporated a lot of feedback from beta testers and early adopters. The best way to improve a product is to sit next to your users, stare at their screen, and let them ask you questions!
How did you end up becoming a solo founder?
6 months after building out Trackin, my CTO/co-founder stopped working with me. I had been working on it full-time, but he'd only been doing this on the side. I made connections and pinged friends, but nobody wanted to take the risk to join. It was a crossroads where I could either stop working or keep trying as a solo founder. I believed so much in the potential of the product and the worldwide need, so I decided to keep going.
The good thing about being solo founder is that you don't have anyone to argue with, or split things with, or to hold responsible. It's all on you. The bad thing is that it's scarier, more stressful, and lonely. Your family doesn't get it and thinks you can work whenever you want, and professionals and customers expect you to do as much as (or even more than) a team of multiple founders before they start believing in you.
Can you talk more about how you found the time and funding to work?
After I left my SF job, I worked full-time on Trackin. I spent 2 years without paying myself, and I spent all of my savings. Sometimes I had to find IT projects on the side to be able to cover all my expenses. I'm still the last one to be paid in the company today.
At first, I was working from home with my employees (in France, habits are different), but they got used to it. I've gotten loans and grants for about 100k euros (for being disruptive, winning some contest, etc.) while building and selling the product. It grew 10x in about 6 months. It took me a year to get that money, and it was time-consuming, but it didn't stop our growth.
Then I met with Michael Seibel for dinner in France. We chatted for 2 hours, and he told me I should apply to Y Combinator for the class of Winter 2015. My week was hectic, and I came back from UK just to attend this dinner, but the invitation to apply was such a great feeling that I partied until 7am. It's important to know how to celebrate life-changing steps :)
What were things like after getting accepted into Y Combinator?
I got accepted and I left everything again to start over in the US. I brought my team there and we worked like crazy. After YC ended, I raised a small seed round, but it was less than expected. However, I was finally able to pay myself a small salary and get the time to define the right moves to make for the company.
I'd studied the market, opportunities, and unit economics, and used my knowledge to start MobyDish. I'd spent months explaining to entrepreneurs all around the world how to use Trackin to start their delivery businesses, and I'd spent years studying the established delivery companies. It was time to execute! I created MobyDish to be different — to have a friendly brand, outstanding customer service, and great food for groups, because at the end of the day, I wanted us to have a big impact, and make people happy and reconnect. What's better for that than great food? Of course, food is not trendy anymore to investors, but I'm lucky enough to have experience with finding ways to have good unit economics.
Since I was 14, I've had to learn how to make and spend my own money in life. I've had times when I had money in the bank, and times I didn't at all. It taught me a great lesson about money: how to not care too much about it personally (because life can be great without it), and how to spend it intelligently. That's why I've always built business models where the company was instantly making money.
How did you grow? What did you do for marketing?
After the prototype was ready, I just met with restaurant owners. Not to sell it, but to learn from them and let them buy into it. Eventually some of them wanted to try it, and they kept using it. I found out though that free means a high churn rate, and that, at least in 2013, making customers pay a small fee motivated them to keep using it.
Then I won some contests, which gave the company some credibility. This was a big factor... showing who you work with, that you've been featured, etc. It reassured the people I'd been talking to.
I attended tradeshows and went pitching for more press as well as meeting with customers/owners. I focused on and traveled to cities where the number of deliveries were high. I was scared to start meeting with chains at first, but I began to realize it was a very interesting proposition for them. I became friends with a manager of one of the biggest French sushi chains, and he helped me improve my product for them.
Getting into YC allowed us to have international exposure thanks to Product Hunt and TechCrunch, and to understand that our product was not only interesting for restaurants, but for any delivery company. So we added new features to adapt to the demand while keeping our focus on food delivery.
For MobyDish, the goal was to stand out, with a cute name and logo. I've always believed in strong brands, and in a crowded market, you have to be different and better. The logo is cute, and our whale is caring, like our company. People instantly feel an emotion when they see it, and this is a huge money-saver with marketing. It instantly shares our values and saves us the energy of having to keep reminding people about us.
To acquire users, I started with my friends' companies as early adopters, then I reached out to hubs and to event spaces like Rocketspace, WeWork, etc. The goal was the same as always: get feedback, build credibility, and improve the product as fast as we could.
Then we tried multiple channels for growth, like Facebook, LinkedIn, etc. But we realized that SEO and word-of-mouth was big for us, so we focused primarily on doing a good job with the product. I've also hired a full-time sales person. Since our launch in July 2015, we've grown 30% month-over-month on average, we're used by some of the biggest names in the valley, we've been copied and spied upon by highly-funded companies, and we're profitable. Oh, and we're expanding to new cities!
How did you deal with incorporating and other legal issues?
I did the incorporation and paperwork only when I got my first paying customer. I felt it didn't make sense to do anything if I didn't have someone ready to pay for my software.
As a solo founder, you need to understand everything that is going on in your company. I eventually surrounded myself with the best advisors and lawyers possible. It saved me a lot of time. I also spend a lot of time on the web, looking for answers when I can. If I can't find any, I'll ask friends or other entrepreneurs. It's important to learn from the examples set by people/companies that are doing better than you.
When I can't find the answer myself then I'll ask my own lawyers. I'm not afraid to ask stupid questions, as long as I learn. The next time I cross the same situation, I'll be able to react the right way.
How did you monetize? What was your revenue?
Every new customer was a paying customer, but the product is never perfect, and they loved that every new suggestion or bug was fixed within a day. There were days I felt I would lose all of them, but I always got thanked for quickly reacting to issues. Now at scale, we have to prioritize but we keep listening to all the feedback we receive.
With Trackin we tried many different pricing options, like charging per driver, per restaurant, per transaction etc. After talking to our customers, we decided to go per usage. We charge per tracked delivery and per account.
With Moby, we're taking a commission and charging a delivery fee, and the minimum order is $100. We make money on every single delivery. We've built tools to automate a lot of things and make the lives of our vendors, drivers, and customers super easy. That makes us a great and reliable partner, and the company is now making millions per year in revenue.
I still reinvest the money in growth and in my employees, as I've learned to be happy with what I have. I don't crave a nice car or a nice house. I just want to control a part of my future, and that's what we do today at Trackin. My employees have made sacrifices as well to prove they were the right ones, and I try to reward them when I can.
What were your biggest challenges, fears, and mistakes?
The first big challenge was losing my co-founder. It made me wonder if I would be able to keep going on my own, and it took me a lot of time. I tried to find someone else, and I had trials with different people, but it didn't work out.
Even today, with some big successes under our belts, I've got people willing to join the team as co-founders or to play other important roles. But when they realize the amount of risk involved, they often decide to stay in their comfort zones, which is understandable, because you have to be crazy to be an entrepreneur.
The startup life is a rollercoaster, but as a solo founder you're riding it alone. Since people think you're the CEO, they often forget you're the CTO, CMO, CFO, and HR person as well. They often think you have nothing to do when you have WAY more to do than anybody else. I'm sure every solo founder's asked themselves if they shouldn't stop and look for someone else before going on. Today I'd say I would have saved time if, instead, I'd only focused on execution, hiring the right employees, and my product.
I remember being in SF to show my prototype of Trackin, and I was terrified. I had a lot of fun developing it in my safe apartment, but it was another story while going out to show it to the real world. But now I'm used to it. I've learned a lot about how to make a good product, and our new versions are so much better. I also love constructive criticism. It allows me to improve 10x faster than compliments and congratulations.
Regarding fear, I think the biggest challenges are the basic ones: Am I going to make it? Am I wasting my time? Am I the right person to do this? Is the competition going to kill me?
My biggest mistake was trying to change some employees. Many times I wanted them to learn more, listen more, and evolve. I kept some employees for too long, because I was hoping I could help them improve a lot. I feel like I failed at this, and that the startup world is not good for people who can't get out of their comfort zone.
What tools, apps, resources, skills, techniques, and habits were most useful to you?
Being able to sell and to develop has been a huge help for me. I'm the one making the decisions, talking to my customers, and implementing the results. Even if I have employees, I can talk with all of them and mostly understand all of them, since I've experienced most of the things myself.
It's important to find time to have some good nights of sleep each week, to be able to have entrepreneur friends to talk with, and to play sports.
I use Asana for my tasks. Writing what you have to do frees up your mind. If you don't, ideas stays in your head, and you feel like you can't implement them. When you put them down on paper or in software, you see the amount of work you have to do, and you start executing.
What's your advice for hackers setting out to be their own boss?
- Believe and don't give up.
- Break rules as long as they don't hurt people.
- Challenge yourself continuously, and get out of your comfort zone.
- Listen, but trust your judgment. You know better what you're doing than anybody else.
- Communicate. Try to make clear goals, and work towards them.
- Be on the field and learn. Life is not all theorizing and thinking. It's a game we have to actually play.
What was your tech stack?
Java, Backbone, MySQL, and AWS.