On May 11, 2016, Jantine Doornbos conceived Fooddrop: a bicycle-based delivery service that could bring food from various restaurants to any Groningen front door. Ten days later, it was there. She did everything herself: the branding, the marketing and the system to process the orders. Right now, Doornbos' company is in the midst of its biggest momentum yet. Fooddrop became Dropper and -fresh off the press- is expanding to Leeuwarden as of May 6. She looks back on the past three years and shares her lessons learned.
Guts or naiveté?
"They often call it guts, but I call it naivety. When I started, I really had no idea what would come my way. I started Fooddrop because, on the one hand, I felt that there was not enough healthy food to be delivered, and on the other hand, I thought it was strange that all restaurants had to install their own delivery service. That's how I came up with the idea. We always had orders from day one and grew continuously. I built all the software myself, hired the people, rolled out the marketing and suddenly had to think about things like insurance. That's where this big roller coaster started and I'm still in it" laughs Doornbos. Recently she was in the news for raising several large investments with Dropper: still with bicycle delivery people, but a wider assortment. Need a bunch of flowers? Dropper brings it within an hour. By bike, because sustainable. A logistics solution for consumers, but also for business. And above all: a company that delivers happiness to the door.
Beware of tunnel vision
Doornbos: "I already had the idea for Dropper when I started Fooddrop. The thought of building something that makes others happy makes me incredibly happy. My company gives people time. Time with their family, with friends, time for themselves or time to work. And it makes local SMEs better able to compete with online stores. Win-win." Dropper is essentially a tech company, everything revolves around the software that Doornbos built himself from the beginning. Yet this is invisible to customers. "I see a lot of tech start-ups that focus entirely on technology. They have a great idea, but get tunnel vision. It's essential to think immediately about how to market that technology. Our customers really don't care how Dropper works, as long as it works. The fact that we automate everything with advanced technology, only investors find that interesting."
Keep breathing. Just keep breathing
It sounds like an entrepreneurial dream: starting a company in 10 days and getting the stamp of scale-up within three years with the confidence of multiple investors in your pocket. "It's great every day, my job. But also leaden."
After a year and a half of Fooddrop, the money from the first round of investment had run out and I had no idea what to do. I only knew that I wanted to continue. Then I had to make the very difficult choice to say goodbye to the investors who had supported me from the beginning. At that time, that was the only way to continue."
From then on, Doornbos focused entirely on figuring out and realizing Dropper, while Fooddrop continued to operate as usual. "Not everyone realizes how much pressure there is on a delivery service: orders go through every day and must always be delivered on time. During that period I experienced an entrepreneurial flatline; I got stuck and for a while didn't know where to go with my business. "How Doornbos got through that? "Keep breathing. Just keep breathing and keep thinking at the same time. I installed an Advisory Board and got to work on the new plans. Market analyses, marketing plans, all the numbers in order. And then looking for new investors. In this process Flinc has been of great value."
Share your plans and be critical of yourself
Doornbos did not want to give up and, looking back, that was a key success factor. But she also points to the fact that she always shared a lot as an essential aspect of the process. "In the beginning, I was afraid that big companies would run off with my idea. That's really nonsense. A start-up has its own energy, its own speed. If corporates could copy that, then start-ups would be redundant. So I am deliberately very transparent, doing a lot of presentations about Dropper and our plans, as well as sitting on various expert groups." Meanwhile, Dropper has reached a stage where Doornbos can no longer do everything herself. In fact, she recently identified herself as the biggest slowing factor in her own company. "It's very important to stay critical of yourself. I had to start letting go of things in order to move forward. That creates both stability and speed in the business. To do that, you definitely need the right people, but also the right priorities. I leave the rollout of Dropper in Leeuwarden entirely to my team. I still prefer to do everything myself, but they are better at it and I am needed more elsewhere. I have every confidence that they will do a fantastic job. "
Terrifying and fantastic at the same time
After three years of roller coaster, Doornbos now occasionally takes a moment for himself. "Never too long, because relaxation is important, but also a pitfall. Thanks to the investments we now have money, but that is absolutely not the holy grail, that money will be gone in no time if you are not careful. No, now I have to do it. I find that terrifying. And fantastic at the same time. People sometimes say: how clever what you do as an entrepreneur. Then I think: how clever that you can sit in an office from nine to five. I started doing business while I was studying information science. My fellow students were in the pub, I started a skate shop and several web shops. As long as I can remember I have been involved in entrepreneurship. Now I am building a revolution, Dropper is going to transform city logistics forever. In Groningen, in Leeuwarden, and those cities are just the beginning. I can recommend it to everyone. And if I may give one last piece of advice: as an entrepreneur, please go down hard on your face once in a while. That is only instructive."
Dropper unfortunately declared bankruptcy in March 2021.