Wolt is investing in tech and expansion and hiring 1,000 people by the end of 2020 – a Q&A on our new funding

Wolt employees at the HQ

A few dozen of our 450+ people photographed at the Helsinki HQ May, 2019. Photo: Heidi Kouvo

Today is a big day for our team, as we just announced that we’ve recently raised 137 million euros to fuel our international growth. What’s more interesting than the money is how we got here – and how we plan to move further. In this long-form Q&A, we answer – for the first time ever – some questions about Wolt’s past, present and the future. Including what we’re using the funding for.

How did Wolt start?

We founded Wolt back in 2014 with a team of six people, and our HQ was one room literally smaller than some of our current meeting rooms. By March 2015 we had a beta version of Wolt, which we tried out with a handful of restaurants in Helsinki. When we launched, we were onto something. The app hit the mark, but this first try on the service only allowed ordering food to the table, or picking it up to go yourself. The delivery option was not yet available.

In a few weeks, we learned that the demand for pickup orders was there, but it wasn’t big enough for our growth goals. We decided to speed up our “add delivery at some point” plan and build a platform for couriers and restaurants right away. Launching deliveries in July 2015 put Wolt on an exponential growth track – and we’re still on that road.

The first Wolt office was one room with six people (three of the pictured) and with not too shabby whiteboards.

How did you end up expanding abroad?

After the relative success in Finland we decided to expand but – to be honest – we had little idea what we were doing. We had already underestimated the time it takes to launch the service in Helsinki by 4 months, and we followed with underestimating the time it takes to launch abroad by 12 months. In the Spring and Summer of 2016, we finally opened operations in Stockholm and Tallinn, which continue to be important backbone Wolt cities.

“We had little idea what we were doing back then. Today, we’re in 50+ cities in 15 countries, and our team has more than 450 people.”

What we got right early on, however, was the focus on hiring the right local team. Since our first four countries, we’ve expanded to over 50 cities in 15 countries, and today our team includes more than 450 people. We’ve been lucky to have found people around the world who are obsessed about exceeding the customers’ expectations. One example of our local expertise would be our local customer support teams, who respond to customers in 15 languages, and in 41 seconds on average.

Heading to expand Wolt in Tallinn in the summer of 2016.

What is Wolt’s internal culture like?

Throughout the past five years we’ve been focused on building a company that gives people meaning and isn’t just another job. Our culture values attitude, excellence and ambition, in addition to having heart and a willingness to both learn and teach. We give people as much freedom as we can and, in return, ask them to take ownership and responsibility. This is the foundation that has allowed us to build a team and a service that our customers, partners, employees and investors believe in.

What are you using the funding for?

The funding we’ve raised is a small testament to what we’ve been able to accomplish this far, but even more than that it’s meant for the road ahead. The following will be the main areas where we will use the money raised:

We’re growing our team

We’re building Wolt for the long-term, and we’re looking for more brilliant people to join our team. We plan to hire 1,000 new people by the end of 2020 into all areas of our business – Product and Technology development, Central and Expansion operations, Country teams, Brand, Analytics, Finance, Legal, People & HR, and so on. More importantly, hiring for us isn’t about adding headcount. It’s about adding talent and bringing in passionate people who want to grow Wolt with us.

“If you want to learn more about us and our open positions, please check out wolt.com/jobs.”

We just recently published a post with Niilo, our VP of Engineering about how we’re focused on scaling our development team culture and mindset. You can read his thoughts here.

If you want to learn more about us and our open positions, we recommend checking out our wolt.com/jobs site and this doc about what we stand for.     

The Wolt team in Georgia around launch in the spring of 2018.

We’re investing in developing our technology

Our customers mainly know us for our mobile apps and Wolt.com, but they are only one part of the products we build. Actually, we take pride in being primarily a technology company. Our 80-person strong engineering team in Helsinki consists of 11 sub-teams. They build the apps our courier and restaurant partners use, and keep our platform infrastructure in shape. They have made us the leader in real-time logistics optimisation, and they are building new features such as Wolt at Work, our offering for business customers. Our developers ensure money flows reliably through our systems, and that our services have the minimum amount of bugs.  

We continue to expand to new markets

Just 1,5 years ago, we were in 4 countries and 10 cities in the Nordics. Since then – from Tbilisi, Georgia and Tel Aviv, Israel to Stavanger, Norway and Athens, Greece – we’ve expanded to more than 15 countries and 50 cities across Northern, Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. The pace of our growth is possible thanks to our talented team, the underlying technology and our rigorous focus on efficiency.

We look forward to expanding to more cities and countries in the near future. We operate in a highly competitive market, and take our time to analyse which new city or country has the most potential across a variety of factors.

How the Wolt app looks like in Tel Aviv.

Why are you not using the money for X instead?

“Why are you not using the money to lower restaurant commissions?” “Why are you not just giving the money to the couriers?” “Why are you not using the money to run tv ads on Super Bowl break?”

These are actual questions we’ve heard, and the short answer to all of them is the same: Because we’re building a sustainable, efficient and profitable company that is here for the long term. If we don’t succeed in doing that, there will be no Wolt altogether. And without us existing, there definitely won’t be Wolt ads at all, let alone Wolt-driven restaurant sales, or any couriers earning money through Wolt.

“We’re building a sustainable, efficient and profitable company that is here to stay for the long term.”

The key to our success this far has been finding a sustainable balance in how much we ask the customers to pay for a delivery, how much the restaurants feel comfortable paying us in commissions, and how much our courier partners are able to earn per hour through our platform. However, us using the recent funding to fuel recruiting, technology development and expansion ultimately also leads to, for example, things like better courier earnings.

That’s already happening – and will continue to do so – as the average courier’s hourly earnings in our more mature markets have steadily increased through our platform becoming better and better. Better at pairing orders with couriers, and better through more and more people using Wolt, meaning more orders in smaller, denser areas and more often from the same restaurants into similar directions, leading yet again into increased courier earnings.

A Wolt courier partner picking up food in the summer of 2018.

Can you share some numbers about your restaurants and couriers?

For sure! Wolt is literally nothing without our 10,000+ courier and 5,000+ restaurant partners. They make Wolt a reality, and enable our happy customers who keep spreading the word of a service that genuinely works. We also like to think we offer our partners something in return: in 2019, we’re paying out more than 250 million euros to our restaurant and courier partners.

We also regularly ask our courier partners about how they are doing, as we believe the only people who can tell if the partnership is working are the couriers themselves. Using our first market, Finland, as an example, we recently sent an anonymous survey to our courier partners and asked about how happy they are with the overall cooperation with Wolt. Our couriers gave Wolt an average rating of 4.01/5: 1,9 % of couriers stated they are very unhappy with Wolt, whereas 74 % of couriers stated they are either very happy or happy with us. What’s more, there are currently more than 1,000 people in Finland alone who’ve told us they’d like to partner with Wolt as couriers – mainly because of their friends having recommended it. 

“In 2019, we’re paying our restaurant and courier partners more than 250 million euros.”

However, we acknowledge that platform economy is a new thing, and we work hard every day to make sure we have a direct dialogue going on with our courier partners. Only that way can we continue to offer a fair, flexible way to earn within a person’s own schedule. Without tight educational or language requirements, and with maximum individual freedom and responsibility. We’re also currently investigating ways to reduce some of the uncertainty involved with platform economy work – for example in the form of possibly getting a good insurance coverage deal as a Wolt courier partner. 

On the restaurant side, the most popular restaurants on Wolt get about 20–30 % additional sales through our service and increase their profitability by as much as 50 % (as Wolt orders don’t take up customer seating, nor do they increase rent or even staff costs in direct relation to order amounts). We continue to develop our restaurant tools, and also make it easier for restaurant owners and managers to make data-driven decisions that benefit their customers and business. As digitalisation is just starting to really impact all industries, we want to be a great partner for our restaurants to help them benefit from the inspiring future ahead.

Greetings to all of our restaurant and courier partners from a company off-site – and thanks to families, friends and everyone else who’s been supporting us on the way. The picture is from June, 2018. It has 131 people. As of writing this in June, 2019, our team has more than 450 people of more than 30 nationalities.

Anything else?

Thank you. Yes, probably you who are reading this. And everyone else whose support we’ve gotten along the way. Thank you, our customer, for ordering your meal through us. Thank you, our restaurant and courier partner, for continuing to work with us in building the most reliable and customer-friendly service there is. Thank you, our teammate, for working hard to continue to improve our company. Thank you, our investor, for supporting us. And thank you, our friends & family, who have been there with us through this journey.

We’re excited to be here, and we’re even more excited for the road ahead.