Interview with GoPuff co-founder Rafael Ilishayev, on why the startup acquired BevMo, breaking into the California market, responding to drivers’ demands
Rafael Ilishayev is the co-founder and co-CEO of GoPuff, a delivery service that provides snacks, drinks, and other essentials to customers within minutes. Ilishayev and his co-founder, Yakir Gola, started GoPuff while they were still in college, and have since grown the company into a multi-billion dollar business with a presence in over 650 cities. In this interview, we discuss Ilishayev’s background, the growth of GoPuff, and his vision for the future of on-demand delivery services.
Interview with Rafael Ilishayev, Co-Founder and Co-CEO of GoPuff
Rafael Ilishayev is the co-founder and co-CEO of GoPuff, a delivery service that provides customers with snacks, drinks, and other essentials within minutes. In this interview, we discuss his background, the growth of GoPuff, and his vision for the future of on-demand delivery services.
Can you tell us about your background and how you became involved in the technology industry?
Ilishayev: I grew up in Philadelphia and attended Drexel University, where I studied business administration. While I was in college, I started working as a delivery driver for a local hookah shop. I saw firsthand how difficult it was for businesses to provide fast and reliable delivery, and I started thinking about how technology could be used to solve this problem.
I met my co-founder, Yakir Gola, while we were both in college, and we started GoPuff in 2013 as a way to provide on-demand delivery of snacks and drinks to college students.
How has GoPuff evolved since its inception, and what do you attribute to its success?
Ilishayev: Since we started in 2013, GoPuff has grown tremendously. We now operate in over 650 cities across the United States and have expanded our product offerings to include everything from groceries and household essentials to alcohol and electronics.
One of the key factors behind our success has been our focus on customer experience. We’ve built a platform that is easy to use, and we’ve invested heavily in our delivery network to ensure that orders are delivered quickly and reliably. We’ve also been able to leverage our technology to optimize our operations and reduce costs, which has helped us to scale rapidly.
What sets GoPuff apart from other on-demand delivery services, and how do you see the industry evolving in the future?
Ilishayev: One of the things that sets GoPuff apart is our focus on convenience. We’ve designed our platform to be fast and easy to use, and we’ve optimized our delivery network to ensure that customers get their orders as quickly as possible.
Looking ahead, I think we’ll continue to see a lot of innovation in the on-demand delivery space. As more and more customers become accustomed to the convenience of on-demand delivery, we’ll see a greater demand for a wider range of products and services. We’re already seeing this with the expansion of our product offerings, and I think we’ll continue to see more players in the industry diversify their offerings in the coming years.
What are some of the challenges facing GoPuff, and how are you addressing them?
Ilishayev: One of the biggest challenges facing GoPuff is competition. There are a lot of players in the on-demand delivery space, and it can be difficult to differentiate ourselves from the competition.
To address this challenge, we’ve been focusing on expanding our product offerings and investing in our delivery network. We’ve also been working to build strong relationships with our customers and provide them with a high level of service and support.
What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Ilishayev: My advice would be to stay focused on your goals and be persistent. Building a successful business takes a lot of hard work and dedication, and there will inevitably be setbacks along the way. But if you stay focused on your goals and stay committed to your vision, you can overcome any obstacle.
It’s also important to be willing to take risks and try new things. Innovation is the key to success in the technology industry, and you need to be willing to take risks and try new things in order to stay ahead of the competition. Overall, Rafael Ilishayev’s story is a testament to the power of perseverance.
In conclusion, Rafael Ilishayev’s story is a testament to the power of innovation and persistence in the technology industry. As the co-founder and co-CEO of GoPuff, he has played a key role in revolutionizing the on-demand delivery space, providing customers with a fast, reliable, and convenient way to get the products they need.
For journalists and academics, the Knight Institute has requested that Facebook change its policies
According to Reuters: Those who filed suit to prevent President Trump from barring his detractors on Twitter have moved on to Facebook.
The Knight First Amendment Institute disclosed Monday’s letter to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, in which it proposed modifying Facebook’s terms of service to establish a protected zone for journalists and researchers studying the social networking site, on Tuesday. The letter warned that under Facebook’s present policies, investigators risk not only being banned from the site but also facing legal consequences under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Knight is advocating for a change in Facebook’s policies that would make it possible for legitimate journalists and researchers to scrape data and create temporary accounts for study purposes.
The letter stressed the importance of “digital journalism and research” in helping the general people comprehend Facebook’s platform and its societal impact. The tools that are typically necessary for this kind of journalism and study are explicitly forbidden by Facebook’s terms of service.
Three journalists, including New York Times’ Kate Conger and Gizmodo’s Kashmir Hill, as well as researchers from Princeton and the University of Michigan, were represented in Knight’s letter. Hill of Gizmodo published a story shortly after Knight revealed its letter, detailing how Facebook had tried to pressure Gizmodo into taking down an open source tool it had developed as part of its investigation into the company’s People You May Know feature on the grounds that it violated Facebook’s terms of service. (Anyone who downloaded the app would be able to see if Facebook suggested them as friends to those whose profiles they had seen.) The tool is still available, but Hill argues that the incident demonstrates the need for a safe haven for journalists and researchers.
I questioned Ramya Krishnan from Knight if the safe harbor could be used by competitors of Facebook or data-mining organizations looking to make money off of Facebook user data. (The Cambridge Analytica issue involving Facebook is probably still fresh in your mind.) Knight suggests the following safe harbor qualification criteria: Researchers must have a public interest rather than a commercial one, and they must take reasonable precautions to not mislead Facebook users about the identity of the people behind their temporary research profiles. According to Krishnan, these caveats would ensure that negative actors are not afforded the safe harbor. If suspicious behavior is uncovered, the Knight Institute envisions Facebook-employed monitors deciding whether or not it merits safe harbor protection.
The question of whether or not Cambridge Analytica would have been protected under the safe harbor has been considered, Krishnan added. A resounding “no”
Of course, this is all speculation. The only action taken by Knight so far has been a request to modify the service’s terms. The firm is under no obligation to respond to the letter, and it’s hard to picture Facebook inviting fresh criticism by declaring itself the final authority on whether or not journalists and researchers who scrape data and utilize masked accounts are legitimate.
In spite of Knight’s letter, Facebook shows no signs of rushing to alter its current policies. In an email response, Facebook said, “We appreciate the Knight Institute’s ideas.” Campbell Brown is Facebook’s head of global news partnerships. “Journalists and researchers play an important role in holding us accountable when we get things wrong and in educating the public about corporations and their goods. We do have stringent constraints on how third parties can use people’s information, and we do acknowledge that these sometimes come in the way of this effort. According to the company’s statement, Facebook already provides some resources for journalists and promises to provide a new software-building tool to examine the performance of political ads on the platform. There was no indication in the announcement that talks with Knight about a media and academic safe haven would be initiated.
No matter what the future holds for Facebook and the Knight Institute, the threat of civil and possibly criminal liability under the CFAA for terms of service violations is raised by Knight’s letter. You may remember (as I explained in an article last August) that the definition of “hacking” in the 1986 anti-hacking law is vague. While it may be obvious that hackers using stolen credentials obtained from the dark web are breaking the CFAA, what about a data scraper mining publicly available information, as was the case in a lawsuit filed against LinkedIn last year? Or consider Gizmodo, whose open source tool first required Facebook users to enter their login credentials so that the program could access the site automatically.
Gizmodo was not accessing or even collecting data from individual Facebook accountholders’ computers. Hill claimed on Tuesday that Gizmodo feared legal action after Facebook warned it that their tool breached Facebook’s terms of service.
Although Knight’s letter recognized that Facebook had not made that allegation in litigation against a journalist or researcher, it did note that both Facebook and the Justice Department have cited the CFAA in connection with terms of service violations. (The most well-known instance of the company’s use of the statute was in a case against the then-emerging social networking site Power.com; the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Power.com liable for CFAA violations, 844 F.3d 1058, because it had continued accessing Facebook computers despite having been sent a cease-and-desist letter.)
Due to concerns about criminal liability under the CFAA for violations of terms of service, a group of journalists and researchers filed a lawsuit against the Justice Department in 2016, arguing that the CFAA violates the First Amendment to the extent that it forbids the collection of publicly-available data related to online discrimination. While dismissing most of the plaintiffs’ claims in Sandvig v. Sessions (2018 WL 1568881), U.S. District Judge John Bates of Washington in March kept alive First Amendment allegations by two researchers who said they feared prosecution if they carried out plans to create fake user accounts to test discrimination at employment websites. The Department of Justice has requested that Judge Bates allow discovery into which places the investigators want to visit.
Similar research methods and public-benefit objectives are mentioned in both the Sandvig suit and the Knight letter. Is the Institute thinking about going to court to get the same shield from CFAA civil liability that Sandvig’s ACLU attorneys are trying to get for him in the criminal context?
No comment from Krishnan at Knight just yet. She emailed me to tell me that the institute is still waiting for Facebook to respond to its “safe harbor” proposal. “The suggestion is made in good faith and with constructive intentions,” she stated. We’ll observe how Facebook reacts before making any further plans.
The New Reality for Uber and Lyft: Fewer Drivers, Savvier Customers, and Uncertain Investors
Companies are reducing expenses, reintroducing lower-priced rides, and exploring new methods to attract drivers.
Market-research firm YipitData reports that because to the labor shortage and high gas prices, the average U.S. fare for Uber and Lyft reached a record high last month. Together, the companies saw at least 20% fewer riders and 35% fewer journeys in the first quarter compared to the same period in 2016, per data compiled by YipitData. Once states began phasing out unemployment benefits due to the pandemic last year, businesses hoped the labor crisis would ease. Nevertheless, the need for drivers has not been met by the available workforce.
Investors and industry watchers alike are wondering how big the market for ride-hailing services really is in light of this predicament. To deal with this tenacious set of problems, businesses are reintroducing ride-sharing, or picking up numerous passengers who each pay only a portion of the total fee. During the height of the health crisis, carpooling was put on hold.
Uber has partnered with its archrivals, the taxi industry, to expand its pool of on-demand drivers. Lyft has promised more compensation for its drivers. Meanwhile, both businesses are limiting employment and spending to reduce overhead. Lyft President John Zimmer stated in a message to employees on Tuesday, which was obtained by The Wall Street Journal, “Our near-term action plan will be focused on boosting profits—whether we like it or not, that’s the ticket of entrance in today’s market.” Shares of Lyft and Uber have both dropped by over 65% in the past year, while the Nasdaq Composite Index has dropped by less than 20%. Companies are looking for a way to increase earnings while yet remaining affordable in order to attract and retain a larger consumer base. It is in Uber’s best interest to make the service accessible to as many people as possible, according to Andrew Macdonald, the company’s global mobility head, who issued a statement through email.
In an effort to attract budget-conscious riders, Lyft has launched its first marketing campaign this month emphasizing the benefits of using the company’s rental bikes. Uber introduced new features this week that are designed to make reserving rides faster and more affordable. One option allows users to pay for their Uber rides with vouchers for special occasions like weddings, while another automatically imports hotel and travel reservations from Gmail and suggests prebooking rides.
Uber and Lyft have lowered their fare pricing for years. Although the corporations lost a lot of money due to the discounts they offered, they were able to increase their customer base by the tens of millions. After going public in 2019, the corporations shifted their focus to increasing profits, only to be devastated by the pandemic. They had trouble getting enough riders, and then they had trouble getting enough drivers. The lack of drivers continued longer than projected, driving up prices throughout the industry in 2017. Then, just when prices had leveled down, surging gas costs prompted yet another increase. New costs were added by the corporations in order to compensate drivers.
According to YipitData, average U.S. fares increased to a new high in April, 35% more than they were before Covid-19. Both Uber and Lyft have stated that they anticipate fares to fall, but that they would likely not return to their pre-epidemic levels because of the companies’ primary focus on profitability. Youssef Squali, an analyst with Truist Securities, recently stated, “The days of ride-share being a cheaper alternative to other modes of transportation are gone.” It appears the market is not as big as we imagined it would be two or three years ago.
There were around three million fewer Lyft riders in the first quarter of 2018 compared to the same period in 2016, a 13% decrease. The number of riders in April was approaching pre-pandemic levels, but Uber reported at least a 20% drop in U.S. trips for the quarter. A former frequent user of rideshare services, 31-year-old San Franciscan Sharan Godya is now more likely to take the bus for shorter distances. “I’ve never done that before,” he admitted.
Companies say they are making more money now than they were before the outbreak because of increased fares and that they anticipate a recovery in both ridership and trip volume. Uber reported that its user base and trip volume have returned to pre-pandemic levels in countries outside of the United States, but have been slower to recover in the United States due to the greater impact of the recent Omicron wave.
Both businesses are placing their hopes on shared rides bringing back frugal clients. In November, Uber began them again in Miami, and by the end of the year, they will have expanded to 15 additional cities. Pooled rides on Lyft have been available again in San Francisco and other cities as of earlier this month. In a note to employees this week, CEO John Zimmer announced plans to roll out the service nationwide in an effort to “Win riders via affordability.”
Uber is partnering with existing taxi companies in several areas to increase its driver pool and lower operating costs. Employing a known taxi service will lessen the need to offer incentives to attract drivers. Both companies have stated that they cannot reduce bonuses to the point where they risk losing drivers due to the increased competition for gig workers. Sergio Avedian, who writes about his experiences as a driver on his blog The RideShare Man, has driven for seven different ridesharing applications, including Uber and Lyft. Nobody can be trusted.
The fascination of American IT companies with ShareChat, India’s most popular social network
ShareChat makes it simple to start chatting with others in a country where many people are just now getting access to the internet. It also doesn’t bother with English support.
The biggest names in technology are running out of room to expand. Most of these companies have been looking to India as a source of new customers because more Indians have joined the internet in the past few years than live in the United States. ShareChat is the company that has shown to be the most successful in reaching this country’s eccentric population. ShareChat is an India-focused social network with headquarters in Bangalore, often called India’s Silicon Valley. It supports more than a dozen regional Indian languages and has many of the features you’d expect from a social media platform, such as a feed based on your interests and the people you follow, the ability to share text, images, and videos, and the ability to comment and like other users’ posts.
ShareChat was built to take advantage of the exploding content consumption in India. It’s meant to encourage new internet users to continue browsing the web and, more significantly, to continue sharing information via WhatsApp, the most widely used messaging program in the country. ShareChat is more like Reddit than Facebook or Twitter, and it doesn’t require you to follow or friend someone to get started. Upon first logging on, you’ll see a range of posts in the language of your choice, including news, tabloid gossip, good morning messages, and more. ShareChat also has public chat rooms where you may join at any time and start talking to complete strangers, a typical internet advantage that is especially appealing to first-time users in India who are coming online from rural areas. ShareChat also features a function called “Shake-N-Chat” that pairs random users talking about comparable topics together for a one-on-one conversation. ShareChat’s largest departure from standard social media is its lack of an English language choice. That’s a big reason why the biggest names in western technology have taken notice. Twitter’s only other startup investment is in ShareChat (twice). It’s thought to be on the edge of raising more money from Google and Snapchat. There was also speculation that Google might buy ShareChat for a billion dollars.
An Enormous, Competitive Market
Google, like many other Western IT firms, has become increasingly frequent in its betting on Indian startups. Reliance Jio is the largest telecom provider in India, and it has lately received hundreds of millions in investments from tech giants like Google, Facebook, Qualcomm, and Intel. In addition, the news aggregator and content app DailyHunt received funding from Microsoft and Google towards the end of last year.
Not only that. The cost of gadgets and internet service is a key concern in India, where the typical family income is roughly $3,600, so most of these tech companies have spent a lot of time over the past few years attempting to optimize their services for the country. For instance, you can dial a toll-free number to have a conversation with the Google Assistant offline. Amazon offers a battery-operated version of its Echo smart speaker for use in areas of the country without reliable access to electricity. Dumbphones can access social media and newsfeeds from the likes of Facebook, Google, and Twitter. For about $3 per month, Netflix subscribers may watch TV series and movies in standard definition (SD) on their mobile devices. The run-on list is infinite.
It’s easy to see why India has captured the attention of tech companies. Around 650 million people call it home for their internet access, making it the second-fastest expanding internet economy. Cisco predicted in 2018 that by 2023, this number would have surpassed 900 million.
Wireless provider Reliance Jio deserves much of the credit for India’s digital revolution because, beginning four years ago, it began offering cellular 4G services at rock-bottom pricing, pushing the rest of the market to follow suit. (Most didn’t or were absorbed into larger corporations.) These days in India, you can get a 4G plan that includes unlimited calling and 2 GB of data each day for less than $4.
Tech businesses can’t afford to miss out on the massive market potential in India, where just around half of the population is online compared to the United States and the United Kingdom, where over 90% of the population is online.
Only 10% of Indians speak English, and most of the country’s internet users come from non-English-speaking rural areas, making it difficult to break into the Indian market. Nine out of ten Indian internet users are expected to adopt regional languages in the near future.
That’s where we (and ShareChat) come in. Its non-English social network boasts 160 million monthly active users who spend an average of 31 minutes per day within the app, putting it on par with market leaders like Facebook.
Moj (which means “entertainment” in Hindi) is a short-form video app that was released by ShareChat and quickly gained 80 million monthly active users. Moj, in contrast to ShareChat, is written in English. ShareChat’s rapid expansion can be partially attributed to the fact that the government of India has outlawed dozens of Chinese apps, including the popular one TikTok. ShareChat was launched in 2015, but 100 million of its current 160 million users joined in just the past year.
Amit Sharma, an analyst at GlobalData, notes that consumers who are new to the internet, let alone social media, often lack the literacy skills necessary to understand how discovery functions. ShareChat gets rid of that problem by delivering the material directly to the user. Companies like Google and Twitter can utilize this technique to enter new markets and make money from advertising to those people they acquire.
According to Sharma, “[ShareChat] encompasses a massive following in Tier II, III, and IV cities and towns,” which is why the app is such a hot commodity among Western technology firms.
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