SEND - the origin story of Australia's latest food delivery start-up

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SEND - the origin story of Australia's latest food delivery start-up
SEND has just closed a $3.1 million round of investment.

Rob Adams, a 29 year old high school dropout from Sydney’s Northern Beaches never intended to climb the corporate ladder and wasn’t overly interested in any of the subjects taught at school.

He knew from a very early age that he wanted to start a tech company and instead taught himself how to design mobile apps and read anything he could get his hands on that covered business, startup culture and idols such as Peter Thiel, Travis Kalanick, Brian Chesky and Jeff bezos. All founders of some of the world’s most disruptive companies.

Rob professes that most of the professional jobs he has held with esteemed Australian tech companies such as Hey You and Tyro payments were purley so that he could gain a better understanding of the inner workings of these companies, to apply to side projects he was working on in his spare time.

In late 2019 Rob had come across a portugese book that was poorly translated into English called “Cloud Kitchen - Your restaurant at the speed of the internet”, by Daniel Guides.

The book provided a detailed analysis of a new brick and mortar business concept -  exclusively online, delivery only restaurants or “dark kitchens”. Shops that are typically located in undesirable parts of town, don’t require a front of house dining area and are purpose built for delivery only businesses via mobile apps.

By harnessing the power of technology, you could critically reduce the overheads typically associated with starting a restaurant and deliver directly to the customer. A business model that would prove to be far more profitable than that of a conventional restaurant.

Around the same time, Rob cited what many refer to as the “Australian retail apocalypse” in 2019-20, where a slew of household retail brands such as Bardot and Collete had gone into voluntary administration.

The new decade got off to a rough start, with 161 popular Australian bricks-and-mortar stores earmarked for closure just one fortnight into the new year

It was at this point that Rob ultimately concluded that household retail brands had failed to adequately adapt to the ever-changing landscape and that the exclusively online, delivery only model would completely revolutionize hospitality and greater retail as a whole.

With this insight, Rob was ready to go all in on building a startup leveraging the dark kitchen model and reached out to Aurbind Sharma, director of an Indian software development firm who Rob had met online.

Armed with nothing more than an idea and some user interface designs, Rob convinced Aurbind that he should help him develop an early version of SEND. There was just one problem. Rob didn’t have any money to pay Aurbind so the two decided to go into business together as co-founders.

The company would hire commercial kitchen space and closely analyse trending recipes on social media platforms like Instagram. They would then design  digital brands and menus based on their findings and upload the menu onto their own app where local customers could order their food for delivery via riders they would employ themselves. Essentially a vertically integrated approach to third-party delivery services like UberEats or Deliveroo.

They would be able to conceptualize anywhere between 10 to 20 digital food brands operating out of one kitchen and control the entire customer experience. You could find everything from fried chicken, through to Vietnamese Banh Mi on the app.

The pair had developed an early version of the app and were preparing to begin pitching investors and conduct product testing when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March 2020 which would completely alter the course of the company's direction.

The effects of the pandemic had struck close to home for Rob, who’s grandmother, someone who falls into the super vulnerable category, was struggling to gain access to basic daily necessities. As a result, Rob found himself collecting and delivering groceries on his grandmother's behalf.

Friends and family within Rob’s inner circle began suggesting more and more often that SEND should deliver groceries and daily essentials instead of takeout food, which was already well serviced by the likes of UberEats.

And so Aurbind and Rob decided to apply the exclusively online, delivery only model to groceries instead and as a result, Australia’s first online only supermarket was born, promising to deliver groceries at retail prices in under 10 minutes.

Fast forward to today and SEND has just closed a $3.1 million round of investment from venture capital firms including Germany based Cherry Ventures and New York based FJ Labs. SEND is the Australian pioneer in the nascent instant-grocery delivery space and is poised to disrupt a 100 year old Australian grocery industry, worth $110 billion.

The startup has already signed leases for 3 Send Shops in both Sydney and Melbourne, with plans to open as many as 30 by the end of the year, delivering everything from fresh produce, dairy products and snacks at retail prices, in under 10 minutes.

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