A 2015 report puts the UK as the largest food delivery takeaway market in Europe and the second largest in the world. So it’s no wonder that the London-based start-up Pronto is working to corner the market by bringing together the three key elements on the food delivery scene: nutrition, convenience, and affordability. Co-Founders James Roy Poulter, Simone D’Amico, and Lukáš Doležal met at startup boot camp Tech Peaks in Italy over good food, and quickly found they were also in good company. Returning to London they looked back wistfully on those filling and lengthy meals as their usual routines had them ordering quick but nutritionally lacking foods like pizza leaving them sluggish and unfulfilled.
In a video on their Seedrs site, James talks about how Pronto was launched aiming to give customers the “best food experience at the lowest price” by creating a vertically integrated company. The Pronto model aims to provide a completely new food delivery infrastructure through complete control of every step of the experience: they use their chefs and their couriers to provide healthy food delivery from online ordering to customers in an average of 26 minutes. All of the nutritional information and ingredients are made available to customers online, so there is no second-guessing when it comes to what goes into their meals.
In just 18 months after their official launch, Pronto aims to have four working delivery sites in central London. They have already raised over £1m in seed funding from various investors and just wrapped up a Seedrs crowdfunding campaign that raised £838,620, well over their £689,000 goal. Funding from the convertible campaign is intended for the expansion of their delivery area to cover entire central London, meaning build out for another two distribution centres. But Pronto sees a vision even beyond the UK, with expansion plans to continental Europe in 2017.
The food delivery scene is a competitive one, but Pronto aims to put into action a plan to keep customers returning. “Our customers’ consistent feedback is that they order from us because the meals are healthy and delicious. With free delivery and no minimum order, we are proud to be the most accessible way to eat on-demand in London,” boasts their Seedrs site. Crowdfooding had a chance to chat with CEO James Roy Poulter, recently recognised by Forbes 30 Under 30, about the Pronto experience of bringing quick, healthy and affordable food to a very hungry London.
Who were the key players at the start of Pronto? How did you meet and what were your backgrounds?
I met Simone and Lukas, who went on to be my co-founders, at TechPeaks in Italy. We all had incredibly varied backgrounds which was part of what brought us together. I am a Chartered Accountant from my time at Ernst & Young, Simone owns restaurants in Italy whilst has professionally worked in technology, and Lukas had run web development companies previously.
What attracted you to get into the food + tech industry?
At the time there was honestly no one doing it so it seemed like a golden opportunity. I’d spent time in New York City where getting food delivered is the norm. No one cooks there or has the space for kitchens and I see a lot of parallels in terms of how other cities are evolving. Food tech more specifically is exciting because of the scope to achieve something that can genuinely be used by everyone. We all need food to survive and the potential to create something that actually allows people to eat quality food every day at an affordable price and in the most convenient way was just a no-brainer.
Can you tell us how the idea for Pronto came about?
I was in Italy at TechPeaks with the guys who went on to become my co-founders; eating delicious food and drinking great wine and I questioned why the same experience was so inaccessible in London. Sure, we have some great-quality food around but for the day-to-day, lunch on the go, dinner with no time to cook, there was nothing accessible and cost effective. Personally, I’m time poor – and when I have free time I want to enjoy it. I was spending lots of money on dull, unhealthy food that left me feeling not only guilty but also unsatisfied and I thought there had to be a better way.
How did you know there was a market for your product and how did you get the word out there?
Everyone eats, right? We always knew there’d be a market for a food business. Launching a food-tech delivery business, however, was a whole other story. A couple of years back the idea of ‘takeaway’ was something dirty you’d order on a Friday night or a Sunday hangover cure. It was never a regular behaviour or something you’d think you could just do every day for lunch and dinner. But why not? Why shouldn’t you have good quality food brought to you in the easiest way possible? We could see a shift towards healthier eating and I actively felt a duty to be supporting and enabling this.
We started testing it out around Trento in Italy before my co-founders and I made the move to London just over 18 months ago to bring Pronto to life. We started out giving out free food within our delivery area, trying low-cost guerrilla tactics: seat covers on bikes… but word of mouth took over and has driven the business forward ever since.
What has been the most challenging aspect of managing Pronto to date?
It’s definitely not been easy. We’re effectively running three businesses: a tech business, a logistics business, and a food business. Finding good people is especially tough. Early stage businesses are far more about the people than the business – so first, finding the right co-founders was very tough, and I feel lucky every day to have found Simone and Lukas.
How did you decide on crowdfunding as a way to propel your idea forward?
We thought long and hard about launching a crowdfunding campaign: which platform to use, duration, messaging etc. Our main reason for launching was because we really wanted to involve the crowd in our plans. Our customers are incredibly important to us and their loyalty and belief in what we’re doing is something we wanted to promote and encourage. We want our customers and others who believe in what we’re doing to own a part of Pronto and the food infrastructure we’re trying to build.
How did you prepare for your crowdfunding campaign?
It’s not something that just happens overnight. We spent time preparing our business plan, financials and ensuring we had responses to all potential questions as well as building out a comms strategy and ensuring we had lots of content ready. We decided to offer pre-registration to our existing, loyal customer base before launching to the wider public.
How did you decide on a convertible campaign? What are the advantages?
As an entrepreneur, I didn’t want to dream up a valuation for my company that had no realistic reflection of the actual market. So the convertible campaign seemed like a fair option to open up investing for all.
What did you find most effective for your campaign?
I think having a cross-channel approach that involved different team members and parts of the business coming together is what really worked here. Launching fully funded definitely drove conversation and interest in our brand and also coinciding this with our first out of home advertising campaign helped increase overall awareness and interest.
After having done crowdfunding, what is your advice for others?
Be incredibly prepared. Make sure that you have your business plan, all financials and responses to any potential questions ready-to-go. People will interrogate all aspects of your business so if you have to be armed with answers.
What was the best part about the crowdfunding experience?
The support and interest from the public has been incredible. Seeing the amount of interest from people and the belief in what we’re trying to achieve has been incredibly reassuring that we’re onto something great. I guess we know it but getting that support from trusted investors, as well as your customers, is fantastic to see.
What are your plans post campaign and for the upcoming year?
The money raised will help us continue our London-wide expansion as well as moving towards launching our second UK city this year. Everyone should have access to quality, affordable food and the money raised from this campaign will help us on our way to deliver that in London and beyond.
Latest posts by Henna Garrison (see all)
- Crowdfunding for Food: Creating Space for Successful Innovation - October 25, 2016
- Chocothon: from bean to bar, creating a platform for sustainable chocolate supply - October 20, 2016
- KERB’s Petra Barran on the Street Food Revival - August 10, 2016