Delivering not just your favourite food to your doorstep, but also convenience to the comforts of your space. @CAT brings you DeliverEat’s startup story.
DeliverEat—a name that comes quickly to our lips whenever our tummy growls in hunger. The Penang-based food delivery startup, DeliverEat was founded in 2012 by Leong Shir Mein and Tan Suan Sear, with the aim to deliver not just food to your doorstep, but also convenience to hungry peeps through secure and fast delivery service.
They have recently raised an RM 2 million (USD 459K) pre-series A funding led by Gobi MAVCAP’s ASEAN Superseed Fund.
We are thrilled to get an inside story about their humble beginning and are excited to feature them as the first in our Startup Story Series. We hope it brings you inspirations in life and work or your own business.
How DeliverEat Started
Paul Graham says, “The best ideas come from solving the problem your market has.” Such idea usually sticks. Particularly so, when we innovate the solution and find the most efficient way to solve it. When it kills their pain and brings delight, especially when at first they are not aware of the agony, your idea would reasonably have better success factor.
DeliverEat is no different.
An idea arose and blossomed in early 2012 when Shir Mein, a former employee of an advertising company, saw an opportunity.
As a marketer, she had to approach food and beverage outlets to run ads on the paper. However, many turned her down. The reason was unable to afford expensive advertising with a limited budget. Most went to group buying website for advertising instead.
That got her to thinking about what would help those fledgeling restaurants and food outlets with a limited marketing budget.
She kept asking herself, “How to help them advertise with impact and returns?”
Thus, DeliverEat was born.
A platform for F&Bs to advertise that comes with delivery service, which would increase their sales. Held on to the idea, they talked to potential clients and target users and gained some interest.
In early 2012, the idea was submitted to Cradle for CIP150 pre-seed funding, known as CIP Catalyst today. It was a steep competition with so many applicants. However, they received approval and were aesthetic to have their idea accepted.
Cradle Fund Sdn Bhd, otherwise known in short for Cradle, is a not-for-profit agency under the Ministry of Finance (MOF). They manage the Cradle Investment Programme aims to encourage, support, stimulate and nurture the development of Malaysian entrepreneurship.
With the funds for prototyping, by the end of that same year, they managed to launch DeliverEat. It started in a rented office in The CEO with a team comprising one customer service and two riders with only one partner outlet—Chatime, now known as Tealive. Co-Founder, Shir Mein was on it full-time while Suan Sear still sustained his day job.
The Delivery Journey Continues
After launching, six months of serious growth hacking has led to a series of success after that.
He mentioned how he was thankful to a few persons in Penang startup community. They have helped him through the journey with lots of advice and strong connection to the right network. Vin Lim, Founder of Green Room, and Khoo Kah Lee, Founder of TE4P and Second Startup, were among the few he mentioned.
Those days, you would have seen Suan Sear and Shir Mein at various tech startup events held in Penang. One of which was the Webcamp, an event led by Piktochart. Using those opportunities, they learned how others do marketing and grow their business.
Throughout their journey, they have faced numerous challenges and predicaments. They seek advice mostly from Goh Ai Ching, the co-founder of Piktochart, who has been most helpful. According to Suan Sear, he was most grateful to have Ai Ching’s sage advice and support to overcome their issues.
Following the footsteps of her mentorship, today you will find Suan Sear lending guidance and support to many aspiring entrepreneurs.
That is such a significant step for achieving startups to give back and support a healthy business ecosystem.
Since then, DeliverEat grew significantly and successfully raised a pre-seed funding round led by Crystal Horse Investment.
It was then that Suan Sear decided to quit his day job to start focusing on making DeliverEat stable and grow more.
Eight months after launch, Cradle once again supported DeliverEat for commercialization with CIP500 funding.
Today, DeliverEat has become a leading food delivery startup in Penang with stable operations and a team comprising an IT personnel, a business development and a team of riders, serving more than 40,000 customers monthly.
Thoughts on Grants & Support
Being accepted into the Cradle programme has been a significant step for DeliverEat. According to Suan Sear, it is not just about the money, though necessary to complete the prototype or marketing. However, through their trust in Cradle’s validation and input, it has given them the boost of confidence in their idea and allows them to proceed with full force.
He also mentioned that entrepreneurs sometimes need certain external pressure and a good sounding board.
The milestone basis structure of Cradle Fund, allows DeliverEat to be built, operated and executed in a gradual manner, step-by-step, achieving one milestone at a time. The mentorship and guidance throughout the program are priceless, he adds.
Fledgeling startups should learn to identify the right support group, pitch to them and gain insights from market leaders even if they failed to received fundings or support. It is a good move to stimulate and grow your mind often.
Never fall into complacency or be blinded by overconfidence.
What’s Next for DeliverEat
With the pre-series A funding, they plan to expand their market to other states in the nation. Their aim is to scale their business model to deliver convenience and comfort to more people in Malaysia.
Aspirations and Goals for DeliverEat
DeliverEat was started with a simple yet venerable goal—to provide reliable food delivery services to diners while helping restaurants to scale their business beyond the walls of their brick and mortar. Today, they have over 200 merchant-partners in Penang—island and mainland.
Their aim is to create an enduring, sustainable business that will bring convenience and benefits to the community.
Now, we all know how important an ecosystem is to our business and livelihood. Thus, ideas aiming to improve lives and solve problems that bring benefits to the society can be stickier than most.
Suan Sear & Shir Mein’s Advice to Aspiring Startups
There is No Right or Wrong. Experiment.
When you start from zero, there’s no solid set of standards or execution methods. Every industry, every business, every idea is different. From strategy to execution to operations, they are unique to a company. Therefore, there is no such thing as the right method or the wrong answer. Keep experimenting new process and new strategy until you find what works for your business.
Money Matters. Manage Your Finances Well.
Suan Sear’s advice is to have sufficient savings before building your startup. The runway should at least last you one year.
From his experience, having had no salary for seven months when they started was challenging. What’s more, for husband and wife mean no income for the family.
Moreover, many would have quit by then. Suan Sear and Shir Mein were lucky to have had some savings of their own to support their living expenses. Thus, allowing them to continue their journey toward building their dream.
So, planning your finances well and have resilience at points of hardship is one of the crucial elements in pursuing your dream. Grit is such an essential traits to have when you wish to realise your dream and build something enduring.
Speed is an Asset. Always Be Prepared.
Not just for startups, be it in anything you do in life, everything is unpredictable. Change is inevitable. Accidents are unavoidable. However, your reaction and actions are predictable. The speed of managing problems and mitigating the risk are important.
For DeliverEat’s case, it is hard to predict what will happen in the next second—rider accident, food went missing, the system went down, and anything is possible. Thus, it is important to act fast when issues happen.
- Every successful idea stems from good problems.
- A good idea becomes successful through appropriate strategy and internal/external support.
- Government grants and support or startup programmes are not just about money, but also the validation, advice, mentorship and monitoring.
- The local startup ecosystem is crucial for the success of your startup—network and support.
- Build an enduring sustainable business with the local community in mind, thus giving back for a sustainable ecosystem.
- There is no right or wrong way/answer—keep experimenting until you found what works for your business.
- Money matters—manage your finances well and be resilient in the face of challenges, especially financial wise.
- Speed is an asset—in this unpredictable world, it is critical to act fast in solving issues.
“I enjoy building my own product from scratch; it is a very exciting experience so far.” — Suan Sear Tan, Co-Founder at DeliverEat
If you enjoyed this story, be sure to watch out for the next one. We will be featuring more in our Startup Story Series. Share your thoughts with us by leaving your comments below.