With the creation of 4703 new jobs in the period from 2016 to 2019, Takeaway.com (the parent company of Thuisbezorgd.nl) has been named the fastest-growing company in the Netherlands in 2020. The company already received the ‘Gouden Groeier’ in 2018 and proved again to be among the top in the Netherlands this year. This gave us more than enough reason to collaborate with researchers from Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM) to further investigate the company and identify its golden growth formula.
The winner takes it all
Since its inception in 2000, Takeaway.com has quickly grown to become one of the largest online ordering platforms in Europe. The company realized early on that the market in which it operates is a “winner-takes-it-all” market, which means that in order to survive and ensure success it must become the largest player in the market. This realization became one of the most important parts of their growth formula, which guided many crucial steps and deciding moments. For example, they only enter the markets where a market leader position can be reached and they leave the countries that lack this potential. An example of this dates back to 2016 when Takeaway decided to sell its UK operations because it realized that the company could not become the largest food delivery platform in England at the time. Instead, the company has invested its resources in buying its biggest competitor in the Benelux.
A two-sided platform
The ambition to become the largest player in the market has revealed the identification of another important aspect of Takeaway’s growth formula, namely the power of network effects. The two-sided platform of Takeaway.com depends on two parties: the restaurants and the customers. The increase in the number of restaurants resulted in a wider range and thus an increase in the number of interested customers, while the growing customer base, in turn, attracted more restaurants to join the platform, resulting in mutually reinforcing network effects. Driven by this insight, Takeaway decided to focus on connecting as many restaurants as possible to the platform. For restaurants that did not yet offer a delivery service, the company even started its own delivery service Scoober. Despite the expected cost of this initiative, Takeaway board members were confident that the long-term benefits of the amplified network effects would outweigh the costs. Once again, the growth formula turned out to work, which led to rapid business growth.
While stimulating rapid growth is important, it is at least as important to manage such growth. In the early years of its development, Takeaway had a small number of highly enterprising employees with broad, general roles. Over time, as the company grew rapidly, the broad roles grew into more specialist roles. This meant that existing employees had to adapt to their new role and new, often more experienced people were appointed. By changing the organizational structure and redefining the roles within the team, Takeaway has developed its capacity for further growth. While the employees who were involved with the company from the beginning maintained the original culture and entrepreneurial spirit in the company, the new, specialized employees tried to manage the increasing complexity of the organization and its processes. This often meant that in addition to setting up and formally defining organizational processes and procedures, these specialized managers also had to set up controls and sometimes even signal to top management to slow down the growth process to ensure steady growth over the long term.
Prof. dr. Tom Mom, Prof. dr. Justin Jansen & Suzana Varga (PhD Candidate)