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The evolution of ultra-fast deliveries during and after the pandemic

The evolution of ultra-fast deliveries during and after the pandemic
The evolution of ultra-fast deliveries during and after the pandemic

On-demand, ultra-fast, dark stores, q-commerce, instant commerce. Call it what you like, but in under 10 minutes, your doorbell will ring with your order delivered to your doorstep.

During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic and strict lockdowns, ultra-fast delivery companies shot up like weeds. Many raised significant amounts of money quickly to fill a specific need to have groceries delivered to your door within 10 minutes. 

Nearly four years later, many ultra-fast delivery companies folded, were acquired by other companies, or resurfaced under a new name. 

Let’s look at the top 14 delivery companies worldwide, who is still around, their financial records, how strong they’ve grown over the years, the valuation, the funding raised, and where they are now.

Who is still around, and who didn’t make it

The trio, Milkrun, Voly, and Send, left the ultra-fast delivery scene just as fast as it arrived. The models were based on the same concept; all three went after the same Australian market.

Joker, Buyk, Fridge No More, and others closed down in the US in 2021.

Postmates survived for ten years before Uber acquired it. 

The major players in the business remain InstaCart, Uber Eats, GoPuff, Getir, and Glovo. 

The purpose of ultra-fast deliveries

Ultra-fast means you’ll have the items you ordered in less than half an hour after you ordered them. It is usually grocery or convenience stores with micro-warehouses nearby to allow super fast delivery. 

But as good as it may sound, it’s more complicated to execute the logistical process as smoothly as possible behind the scenes. This is a major contributing factor to why these types of startups struggle to stay in the race.  

Is it a profitable business? Some are still around, but many have closed down due to a lack of interest. It remains a service only for a few elite. 

Locate2u’s CEO, Steve Orenstein, says communities still need ultra-fast deliveries. “I think it’s maybe a premium need, more in the metropolitan areas where there is a large amount of density. I think it’s clever that someone like Woolworths acquired the Milk Run (Australia) brand. Woolworths has lots of stores, and those stores are very close to where the consumers are.”

Why is it so challenging? 

There are around 6,000 dark stores worldwide, mostly in Russia, Turkey, and China. According to InteractAnalysis, the number is expected to increase to 45,000 worldwide by 2030.

Orenstein says it didn’t take ultra-fast delivery companies long to realize that their business model didn’t make sense. “Many ran out of capital as capital markets became tougher to raise money. What we see now is the start of either companies pulling out, consolidating, or collaborating with other companies that allow them to expand in different markets.”

Where are the top ultra-fast delivery companies in the world?

1. Getir 

The Turkey-based grocery delivery company was founded in 2015 by Nazim Salur, a Turkish entrepreneur. The cash-strapped company had to pull out of Spain, Italy, and Portugal but still operates in the UK, US, Germany, Netherlands, and Turkey. In 2022, Getir acquired its rival Gorillas for $1.1 billion. Uber Eats partnered with Getir in September 2023 to expand the grocery delivery sector in the UK. 

Funding and valuation:

Getir’s value has dropped to $2.5 billion in 2023. It had been valued at up to $11.8bn when it raised funds a year prior. But it was sliced in half in a funding round in April. The company has raised US$500 million in financing in 2023.

2. Glovo

The ultra-fast Spain-based app was founded in 2014 by 25-year-old Oscar Pierre from Barcelona. It officially launched in 2015, around the same time as Getir, with an initial funding of 100,000 euros. In 2022, Delivery Hero acquired a majority stake in Glovo for $2.6B. Glovo is currently under investigation by the Spanish authorities over the legal status of its couriers. If found that they were employees and not self-employed drivers, they could have to pay €400m.

Funding and valuation:

In 2021, Glovo raised its highest funding round, with an estimated €450 million. Glovo has acquired 11 organizations; their most recent acquisition was Worldcoo in May 2023. To date, it has about 35 investors.

3. GoPuff

It’s an American consumer goods and delivery company, but it now operates in the UK after the takeover by Fany. GoPuff has been using Uber to help with a small portion of its deliveries. The company has come under pressure due to the drop in demand linked to high inflation. In September 2023, Deliveroo partnered with GoPuff. 

Funding and valuation:

The company was founded in 2013; at the time, it was valued at $8.9 billion.

In 2021, it was valued at $15 billion. GoPuff has acquired seven organizations; their most recent acquisition was Dija in 2021. The company has raised $3.4 billion to date. It closed its last funding round from an Angel round on May 18, 2022, but the money raised has not been disclosed.

4. Send

This online supermarket is strictly accessible in Australia. It aims to deliver goods within 10 minutes after placing the order on the app. Aurbind Sharma and Rob Adams founded this e-commerce company in March 2021. It went into administration just a year later. 

Funding and valuation:

Send had raised about $11 million before it collapsed. The startup’s founder blamed it on global factors, making it hard to raise money.

5. Voly

Founded during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, it announced its closure in November 2022. The ultra-fast grocery service in Australia stopped growing as the need for home deliveries declined when lockdowns eased. 

Funding and valuation:

It raised $13.9 million before its demise. 

Reinvention:

In February 2023, it re-entered the online delivery market when Our Cow acquired Voly’s assets. The price tag is not known. 

6. Milkrun

Milkrun, Voly, and Send used the same model. When it started during the pandemic, competing for the same market in Sydney, New South Wales. The fast grocery service began in 2021 and closed business in April 2023. 

Funding and valuation:

Overall, it raised $86 million before its demise. 

Reinvention:

A month after Milkrun collapsed, it was announced that Woolworths acquired the business. It relaunched as Metro60. It reportedly bought it for $10 million. However, neither party confirmed this. 

German company Flink was founded in 2020 by Christoph Cordes, Oliver Merkel, and Julian Dames. It offers and delivers groceries, essentials, and home products to your door in ten minutes. It services fans in 60 cities across Germany, France, and the Netherlands. 

Funding and valuation:

Flink has raised $1.2 billion in funding over four rounds. Their latest funding was submitted in May 2023 from a Venture. Details around this deal are unknown. It acquired Pickery in early 2021 and rebranded it as Flink. In 2021, Doordash invested $750 million in Flink, which helped it to stay independent. 

8. Gorillas

It was founded in May 2020 by Elmar Broscheit, Jörg Kattner, Kağan Sümer, Ronny Shibley, Ugur Samut, Şükrü Dağdelen. With headquarters in Berlin, it operates in around 35 cities in four countries. In December 2022, the company was acquired by Getir for €1.1 billion ($1.8 million)

Funding and validation:

The company raised $44 million within its first year, $290 million in the second year, and almost $1 billion in October 2021. The startup was valued at 1 billion, making it a unicorn in nine months. This is the fastest a Germany-based company to do so. 

9. Jokr

The ultra-fast delivery company was founded during the pandemic in 2021. Some well-known and successful investors back the German-based company. It focuses mainly on the Brazilian market under the brand DAKI. In May 2022, it acquired Plaz. And in only eight months it become a unicorn. In 2022, Joker left the US layIte staff as part of its restructuring process. 

Funding and value:

It raised over half a billion in five rounds and secured a $50 million financing in September 2023. This comes in at a post-money valuation of $800 million. That’s a decline from its $1.3 billion valuation in February 2023.

10. Zapp

This ultra-fast delivery company is based in Kent, in the UK. Founder Joe Falter launched the business during the pandemic in 2020 in London. Zapp is also available in Manchester, Cambridge, Bristol, Amsterdam and Rotterdam. This service is ultra-fast because it has its own ‘Zappstores’ stocking products in dark stores close to residential areas to deliver them in record time. It competes with strong players like Getir, Gopuff, and Deliveroo. It’s backed by British Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton, who was part of a more significant $200 million investment in the company.

Funding and value:

Zapp has raised $300 million to date. Zapp is not disclosing its valuation. 

11. Cajoo

Founder Henri Capoul made the headquarters in Paris, France, in 2021. The food delivery company had its stores and managed its inventory of products. It took about 15 minutes for a delivery driver to arrive at your door. But in May 2022, Cajoo was acquired by Flink for €100m ($105m). 

Funding and value:

Cajoo raised $47.2 million in funding in just two rounds before competitor Flink took over.

12. Postmates

Postmates is one of the few ultra-fast delivery companies that started early and lasted a few years before it crashed during the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns. Founders Bastian Lehmann, Sam Street, and Sean Plaice founded the company in 2011. It was based in San Francisco, California, US. In July 2020, Postmates was acquired by Uber for $2.7 billion.

Funding and value:

With over 40 investors, Postmates raised $765 million over 13 rounds before Uber took over. It was valued at $2.65 billion by Uber when it was acquired in 2020.

13. Uber Eats

It’s one of the strongest players in the field that keeps on standing despite several changes in the industry. It was started in August 2014 by founders Chanyu Xu, Garrett Camp, and Travis Kalanick. Its headquarters are based in the US. According to Chrunchbase, Uber Eats’ estimated revenue range is between $500 million and  $1 billion. 

In June 2023, Uber Eats pulled out of Italy due to “lower-than-expected growth” and laid off 4,000 rides. A Milan tribunal has now reversed the layoffs, saying there was no proper consultation with the union. 

Funding and value:

Uber Eats is a subsidiary of Uber Technologies valued at $20 billion, contributing about 16% to its parent company’s income.

14. InstaCart

Instacart is a grocery delivery startup that delivers in an hour. It was founded in 2012, with its headquarters in the San Francisco Bay Area in the US. It operates in the States but also in Canada.

Funding and value:

Its estimated revenue range is between $500 million to one billion dollars. It managed to raise  $2.9 billion over 19 rounds. Its value is reportedly $9.9 billion. Reuters reports that in September 2023, it closed for the first time under the company’s initial public offering. Retail investors bought $12 million of Instacart shares in the company’s first trading, but it has since declined to about $100,000.

* Additional reporting by CrunchBase

About the author

Mia is a multi-award-winning journalist. She has more than 14 years of experience in mainstream media. She's covered many historic moments that happened in Africa and internationally. She has a strong focus on human interest stories, to bring her readers and viewers closer to the topics at hand.

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