Founder and CEO Kağan Sümer serves up exclusive insights into the business model, development and genesis of Europe's hottest startup in the OMR Podcast
Despite forays into the world of celebrity, influencers and other personalities, the bread and butter, meat and potatoes of The OMR Podcast are business people and entrepreneurs. Suffice to say then that if OMR chief Philipp Westermeyer is ready to call something the business story of the year before we’ve reached the halfway point of Q2, then there better be something truly atypical going on—and there is with Gorillas. Based in Berlin and now present across Germany, the Netherlands, Paris and London, Gorillas is a grocery delivery service that promises to have groceries—at grocery store prices no less–at your door in 10 minutes or less for €1.80. We spoke to founder Kağan Sümer about how the business model has enabled him to raise over EUR 300m in capital from investors, what inspired the creation of Gorillas and how his life’s greatest passions, consumer business, bikes, water polo and techno music are embedded into the startup’s fabric.
Gorillas launched a mere 16 months ago in its home market of Berlin; it’s now present in Hamburg, Cologne, Paris, London, Amsterdam and a host of other major European cities. It’s caught on wherever it launched, primarily among digital professionals at first, but the same questions always persist: Who’s behind it? How does it work? Can it work long-term? And if so, how big can it conceivably become?
Born in Istanbul, made in Berlin
Who better to ask these questions than Gorilla’s founder Kağan Sümer. He made his way to Berlin from his home city of Istanbul two years ago with desires on founding a company. It was not his first attempt to find footing in Berlin. Four years prior, Sümer applied to Rocket Internet, where he wanted to learn how to establish a company and quickly scale it up. But the Berlin-based company builder ghosted his first application, and the second. As well as the third, fourth, fifth and sixth that he sent them within a month.
So Sümer returned to Istanbul, where he got some experience in the entrepreneur game at a consulting agency. Two years ago, then Rocket did come calling and Sümer returned to the German capital, where he began working in their B2B Food Group. But it was not something Sümer stuck with for long as the desire to found his own company was simply too great to ignore.
Storytelling is key
Sümer quickly grasped that successful founding is dependent on a smart idea coupled with sound storytelling. “There are three things you need to know about me: I love bikes, I love team sports and I love consumer business,” Sümer says in the OMR Podcast. He once made a bike trek from Istanbul to China and was captain of the Turkish youth water polo team. No surprise then that as soon as Sümer arrived in Berlin, he spent 88 of the 100 euro-bucks in his wallet on a bike.
It’s also no surprise that Sümer’s business is not only bike-based—Gorilla’s grocery couriers come by bike—but the warehouse mirrors a team dressing room with techno music blaring to create a team spirit. The business model, itself, however, goes back to childhood memories of his mother doing the shopping in Istanbul. “My mother would open the window, yell down her order to the shopkeep. Two loaves of bread, eggs, and so on. And the kiosk then brought everything over to the house and my mom lowered a basket from the window. It took all of 10 minutes.”
The money lies in the street
One day in Berlin on his way home from work, Sümer found some money on the street which he took as a sign—and as start capital—to try and recreate the shopping experience of his youth. He was quickly able to convince a software developer friend to build him a marketplace. He transformed his living room into a warehouse with shelves from the local hardware store and soon after started his new venture, Get Goodies.
A crazy ride ensued: Sümer always had a plan, but not enough capital to embark on phase two. In the podcast, he recalled the less-than-ideal story of scraping together his last bit of cash, while also looking for investors, for the app and a warehouse without any idea of how he’d be able to pay the following month’s rent. Fortunately for him, he found his first angel investor, who pumped in capital in the lower seven-figure range. In the meantime, Gorillas now completed a successful round of Series B funding, raising USD 290m (as is laid out here on Techcrunch).
1000 employees in dozens of locations
At the moment, Gorillas employs round about 800, with a short-term goal of expanding that number to 1000. In addition, they operate 11 warehouses and are constantly on the lookout for new locations in which to expand. An app redesign is in the works as is an overhaul of the product range on offer.
And what about the question regarding the business model itself and how or if it can work long term? “The model is great. Not because of the 10-minute delivery times, but because it is so primitive.” By that he means that Gorillas addresses basic consumer needs, the same that were present 20,000 years ago. “I don’t think that there was ever a caveman who said to himself, we’re not going hunting today. We’re waiting until Saturday and we’re all going hunting together.” Putting off the fulfillment needs and then accumulating them in a single go, like a weekly trip to the supermarket, is not something that’s in our DNA according to Sümer.
Sights set on checkouts over €30
With regard to today, Sümer identified how most online shopping offers aim to generate the largest possible checkout and thus replace the weekly shopping. It can be a bit annoying at times, he says, but supermarkets are set up to work just like that. With Gorillas, however, he aims to counteract that trend and address the unfulfilled shopping needs: when you are missing that key ingredient in the kitchen that you need at just that moment. Or when you’re craving a certain snack that somehow didn’t make it onto your shopping list.
The business model is designed to be comprised of “emergency buys,” which clients then augment with other products to boost their stockpile at home. In the long term, Sümer is factoring for checkouts over EUR 30 and already sees the trend heading towards this number.
To find out why Sümer thinks Gorilla’s can crack the EUR 100m mark in revenue this year, how many deliveries he can complete in an hour and why crying babies led him to discontinue a promising marketing measure, be sure to listen to this episode of the OMR Podcast International.