Attract talent

How Gopuff Grew From A College Campus to Over 1,000 Cities
Instant delivery services have taken New York City by storm. Residents in the big apple are ordering diapers, spices and soft drinks from their phones, and receiving them in under 15 minutes. Joining the competitive market of speedy delivery is Gopuff, which officially launched in New York City last week and is operating in a handful of locations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.
Instant delivery provider, GoPuff, launches in New York City. Image courtesy of GoPuff.
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4 minute read

Instant delivery services have taken New York City by storm. Residents in the big apple are ordering diapers, spices and soft drinks from their phones, and receiving them in under 15 minutes.

Joining the competitive market of speedy delivery is Gopuff, which officially launched in New York City last week and is operating in a handful of locations across Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx and Queens.

“We’re excited about making this the number one market,” Gopuff Co-CEO and Co-founder, Yakir Gola said. “It took us eight years to come to New York because the standards for New Yorkers are high, and we want to make sure we are delivering the best customer experience in the best city in the world.”

Gola and Rafael Ilishayev started Gopuff when they were college students at Drexel University eight years ago. They noticed that their only friend with a car at the time was spending a lot of hours running errands for his friends, and decided to draft a mock-up of a delivery app in their business notes.

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Co-Founders and Co-CEOs of Gopuff, Rafael Ilishayev (left) and Yakir Gola(right). Image courtesy of Gopuff.

Like many startups, Gopuff was not an overnight success. To get the company off the ground, Gola recalls how he maxed out many credit cards and had to personally make the very first deliveries. When they eventually launched their business in Philadelphia, the founders hired Rafael’s cousin, a law school student at the time, to be a delivery driver.

Over time, as their business grew and became more profitable, they began attracting investors who genuinely believed in their product. Gola believes that much of their entrepreneurial spirit had been influenced by their upbringing.

“My dad moved here from Israel, eight brothers, two sisters, twenty dollars in his pocket. He came here with nothing and started an electronics business and a jewelry business,” Gola said.

“Raf’s family moved here from Russia, they came with nothing and he worked as a busboy at his dad’s restaurant. So I think both of us sort of had an appreciation for entrepreneurs and partnering with local businesses.”

One of the most difficult aspects of starting a business is making the first hires. Attracting talent is complicated as there is no guarantee that an early-stage startup will take off, leaving many unwilling to take the risk. As college students with limited business experience, most of Gola and Ilishayev’s first hires were friends of friends. Among them was Daniel Folkman, the SVP of Business at Gopuff.

“What attracted me to the business was that the way they were looking to solve this delivery challenge was fundamentally different than a lot of third-party services at the time. The logistics network that we have built is completely different to anything anyone has ever done, even in the early days, owning inventory and managing fulfillment centers and making money on products was a different approach,” Folkman told The Org.

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DanielFolkman, SVP Business at Gopuff. Image courtesy of Gopuff.

Around the time Gopuff was founded, many startups were building asset-light marketplaces — something which was heavily encouraged by investors as well. Unfortunately, this type of business model was not sustainable for small businesses, which were unable to turn a profit through delivery platforms. Customer experience was also impacted, as companies did not have full control over inventory and product availability.

Unlike many other startups at the time, the Gopuff founders wanted to make sure they were able to control every aspect of their customer experience and make a profit from the products they sold, since they did not have venture funding.

“It started with a 500-foot warehouse, and, over time, the demand for different products grew and the opportunity to build bigger fulfillment centers grew,” Folkman said. “The technology that powers the infrastructure is super important because none of this stuff is off the shelf.”

Gopuff’s New York City launch is something that the company has been preparing for a long time. Although the official launch was on Wednesday last week, the platform has been operational in Manhattan for roughly a month. During that time, Folkman and his team have been building out a strong network of fulfillment centers and hiring delivery partners and staff.

“The reason why we waited so long to launch in New York is because we wanted to figure out the model first,” Folkman said. “I think a lot of other companies make that mistake of scaling too fast, but you only get one chance to make a first impression, especially in a city like New York.”

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