Startup Advice

StartupSmart Award winner Foodbomb tripled its user base in six months, and it’s not done yet

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien /

Foodbomb Paul Tory

Foodbomb founder Paul Tory. Source: Supplied.

Food platform startup Foodbomb took home the first-ever StartupSmart Award in this year’s SmartCompany Smart50 awards, and according to founder Paul Tory, the only way from here is up.

Founded in 2015, and born out of Tory’s previous meat sales platform startup Butcherman, Foodbomb aggregates food suppliers onto a single platform. It means cafes and restaurants can order produce from one place, and much more efficiently.

When Tory filled out the Smart50 application form back in June, he said the startup had more than 100 active customers (ordering once a month or more), 30 suppliers on the platform, and was processing about 500 transactions every month.

Now, “you can basically triple those numbers”, he tells StartupSmart.

And the vast majority of this growth has been organic, Tory adds. While he and the team have tested out Facebook and LinkedIn to see what may or may not work for Foodbomb, their marketing drive so far has been “very limited”, Tory says.

Early customers have started using Foodbomb for more of their produce, and more and more people who registered early are starting to use the platform more regularly.

“Referrals are starting to kick off,” Tory says.

In some instances, a supplier has approached Foodbomb to list on the platform because a restaurant has asked them to, meaning word is spreading through the hospitality network.

“It’s all going to plan,” Tory adds.

Speaking to StartupSmart, Foodbomb’s head of growth and strategy and Tory’s right-hand man Josh Goulburn, explains a lot of restaurateurs and others in the hospitality industry know each other well.

“It’s quite a network … we knew the whole referral thing would be relatively important at some point,” he adds.

Tory also notes the importance of trust. You can have a great service, but until a few people vouch for it, others may be reluctant to sign up.

“As soon as a friend is on it, they’re on very quickly,” he says.

“The more the word spreads, the quicker we’re growing,” he adds.

However, for Goulburn, growth isn’t defined purely through user numbers. He also pays close attention to each customer’s total produce expenses, and how much of it is spent with Foodbomb.

While customers may have initially signed up to order fruit and veg, once they trust the platform they often move on to also order meat and seafood, and even dry goods and standard pantry items.

“The share of wallet just increases dramatically,” Josh says.

“That’s how I define growth.”

Foodbomb is now gearing up to a seed funding round, and while Tory is unable to go into much detail, he says there are more features to come next year, focused on growing the supplier base and improving functionality and user experience. The startup also has plans to move into the Melbourne market.

“We have a few tricks up our sleeve,” Tory says.

However, with VC funding comes responsibility, Goulburn adds.

“With that comes a bit more structure … we’ve got some goals and objectives we need to meet,” he says.

“We’ve got our strategy in place, and the next 12 months is very much about executing on that.”

When it comes to running an early-stage startup, Tory stresses the importance of good governance and “getting things in line”.

Some startups tend to focus on raising and bringing investors on board.

“Opinionated money can often distract founders and teams from focusing on their objectives,” he says.

Rethinking these shareholder relationships later down the line can then cost startups a significant amount of time and money, he adds.

From Goulburn’s point of view, startup growth starts with the product.

“It’s one thing to understand the problem you’re solving, but you need to build the product to solve it,” he says.

That said, there’s no one thing that will set a startup apart.

“It’s the sum of all parts,” Gouldburn adds, “there are so many moving parts”.

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Stephanie Palmer-Derrien

Stephanie Palmer-Derrien is the editor at StartupSmart. You can contact her at [email protected].

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