15. February 2012–
This morning, European Founders Fund offspring Deutsche Startups reported that ex-Rocket incubator Project-A (formerly known as the Oryx Project) is adding a third company to its growing portfolio, this one a food delivery platform going by the internationally-flexible name of Yummy.
In an exclusive interview with VentureVillage this afternoon, Project A founder Christian Weiss confirms that there is indeed "something Yummy" (or at least Yummy-like) coming out of the Project-A lair, scheduled to launch at some point next next week.
"We've recognized there's a need in the online grocery/delivery market," Weiss tells us. "There are a lot of concepts out there that seem to work or don't work yet but will, and we recognize the opportunity to do it right first." Whether the company will end up being 'Yummy' will largely have to do with the team's process of choosing domains and the right brand for the project," Weiss clarifies.
So who is this Yummy team? Weiss emphasizes their independence
Weiss emphasizes that the group behind the team is a group of entrepreneurs, not just a group of developers. "We want to work with people who are passionate about their ideas. Yummy will be a company and we support them. It's them using our expertise rather than the other way around."
"Right now there's no one with a Project A contract working on something called Yummy," Weiss said. "But we do have a team is busy at work on it."
Project A is defining its ethos early, and with that comes naturally comparisons to the team's Rocket origins. At Project A, founders have significantly larger equity stakes than in other incubators, as well as a management style that allows them to fully take ownership of vision and execution. "It's their project. We're just enabling them."
Buzzword: Campus (Rocket's moving. Project A's staying put)
Does this put Project A ahead?
According to Weiss, there are 40 people working on the core Project A team. "They comprise all the experts who we expect to be the best," he said, "including staff working on portfolio companies, I'd say we currently have over 70".
Unlike Rocket currently, Project A team along with all three portfolio companies sit in the same building. Sure, they're smaller, but it's also a culture-forming decision that they're making early on. "We thought it was important to have a campus-like environment, especially in the beginning," said Weiss. "We want our different companies to exchange experiences with the core staff and vice versa."
Also considering the campus topic is Rocket, of course, said to be in the process of opening a reportedly 8,000 square metre unit, 2,000 of which are said to be used for strictly Rocket itself and the remainder for portfolio companies. According to one ex-Rocket who prefers to remain unnamed, "Everything fell apart after Groupon exploded in 2009 and all the portfolio companies got split up."
Massage rooms, anyone? Who will get to it first?
In German we call it "Kuehlkette"- dishes Christian Weiss
The food delivery market comes with specific challenges- according to Weiss, the greatest of which is the supply chain. "In German we call it 'Kuehlkette,'" said Weiss. "If you're dealing with shoes, there's no need to keep them fresh. If you're dealing with perishable stuff like fish or meat, logistic-wise that's the first priority."
(According to our in-office expert dictionary fairy Corinna Kastner, "kuehlkette" can be defined as "the distribution cold chain")
Sourcing is also an issue, Weiss adds, and ensuring that the delivery of the exact food corresponds to a recipe included. "Sourcing is something that has to intelligently-chosen and defined," Weiss explains.
Three companies in, it's time for Project-A to bring its Project-A Game
The subscription-based food service is modeled after the Swedish grocery delivery platform Lina Matkasse, which in 2011 was valued at over €100 million.
Founded in 2007, by May of 2011, Lina Matkasse was serving 62,000 registered customers. Those who subscribe to the platform receive bi-weekly delivery to their front door with a grocery bag including recipes and ingredients for five dinners for about four people.
The company is backed by entrepreneur Carolina "Lina" Gebäck, Niklas Aronsson, Creandum and Acton Capital (the last of which was responsible for bringing the company to Germany).
The news marks the third company to emerge from Project A, with Yummy adding to the shopping club Wine in Black and Amerano. With already 40 employees since its founding in (?), the ex-Rocket incubator is expanding rapidly.
First step: Project Website
Maybe it's time for a "proper website," guys. Right now, Project A's landing page is an unacceptable text box with grey background that looks like it's been designed by a high-schooler learning WordPress. It looks like an internal error (see below).
In a recent interview with Project-A founder Uwe Horstmann, he told us: "We're not so interested in our public face. We have so much work to do building companies that we really need to focus on the behind-the-scenes." (Uwe himself, mind you, was dressed very well, and glowing as if from recent exfoliation.)
We don't get it. Maybe it's because we're so fly ourselves, but we really couldn't disagree more, Uwe: You have three companies now. You're creating a niche out of domestic pleasures. One of our trusted sources says you're sitting on something as high as a 70 million euro fund. It's time to start looking the part. First step: Get a goddamn website. And make it A-game.
The following is not a joke. In fact, you're calling it a homepage.
The launch of Yummy pins Project A against its motherland, namely against Hello Fresh, the Rocket Internet grocery platform already delivering meals with a variety of recipes (€35 for a small bag for two people, €49 for three).
Can an ex-Rocket execute as well as a Rocket? One Rocket comments.
Looks like Project A will be the testing ground for this most compelling and complex psychological query. We're taking notes.
Are all ex-Rockets created equally? God no.
Christian Weiss is different than Johannes Schatz (the guy who globalized Groupon and has since founded Dealvertise) is different than Ingo Bohg ( ex-TopTarif CEO who fled to Cologne to start online supermarket Froodies).
"The guys who left Rocket to start Project A aren't the types to execute quickly," said one Rocket currently working at Rocket Internet's Home24 who preferred to remain unnamed, "They're the ones who want to take it easy".
According to our contact, most of the people who left Rocket for Project-A, particularly "the tech guys," aren't able to work "as quickly" and will likely "enjoy putting out companies without management" at the cost of slower execution.
"I don't think Project A will grow that quickly," he said. "Their biggest asset is that they have right now is solid funding."
Time will tell. To get you pumped, here's a video we think you should play right now. Yes, you there, trying to find the Yummy site (you're not gonna find it.)
Image credit: flickr user epsos.de