Shaper: Timo Boldt

Show aired on 2nd June 2018

Transcript

Elliot Moss
Good morning this is Jazz Shapers, I’m Elliot Moss here on Jazz FM. Thank you very much for joining. Jazz Shapers is the place where you get to hear the very best of the people who are shaping the world of jazz, blues and soul and right alongside them we bring someone who is shaping the world of business. We call them Business Shapers. I am really pleased to say that my Business Shaper today is Timo Boldt and Timo is the Founder of Gousto and Gousto brings you food in a box on a weekly basis which you can then make amazing dishes out of. I hope that’s a good explanation, is it Timo?

Timo Boldt
Absolutely fantastic. Thank you so much for having me.

Elliot Moss
That’s an absolute pleasure and luckily when one describes a simple product, one shouldn’t get it wrong. Tell me Timo, how you got into the world of food because it wasn’t always so?

Timo Boldt
I lived in California when I was sixteen/eighteen years old. My family are hard core food entrepreneurs who have built various food businesses. They have never raised money, no boards, no venture capital funds but on balance they have done quite well building organic supermarkets and vineyards so I worked in a vineyard, I worked in a supermarket so I got massively inspired to become an entrepreneur and I really, really love food and I deeply care about provenance and quality. Back then I worked in finance, I looked at my own challenges, not having the time to cook and even if I had the time, I ended up wasting half the food which is a real shame so I kind of tried to combine you know, my passions and came up with the idea for Gousto.

Elliot Moss
Now you said, you just mentioned the finance piece. You were in that world for a few years, a handful of years. What did you like about it? Let’s start there before we say what you don’t like about it. What worked for you, what did you learn that now you think ‘you know what, that was useful’?

Timo Boldt
I really love working with intelligent, passionate people and you do meet a lot of really switched on people working in finance. So I really enjoyed that part and I gained a little analytical toolbox. You do gain quite good skills. I do like numbers. I do like analytics, I taught statistics at University a long, long time ago and so I quite enjoy the geeky bit of finance and I am glad I’ve done it. The chair of my first company has now invested into Gousto as an angel, some of my former colleagues have worked for Gousto for many, many years so there is a lot to like about it.

Elliot Moss
And on top of that, you mentioned being a bit of a geek and a statski, you are very well educated and generally the people I have met over the last few years, some leave school and they are always going to be an entrepreneur, others chose another route. You’ve done an MBA I believe, has that worked for you as well?

Timo Boldt
Yeah.

Elliot Moss
Truthfully?

Timo Boldt
I am an absolute learn-a-holic. I really, really love reading and meeting amazing people. I am very blessed, I’ve got twenty mentors I look up to and speak to regularly. One of the things I’ve done in the first couple of years of Gousto is I’ve done an executive MBA in Cambridge so that I can kind of get management skills and I expose myself to people who run, some of them run ten thousands of people. In finance you naturally have small teams and you are not really trained at leading or managing teams so I really benefitted from that.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out much more about my Business Shaper today, Timo Boldt, the voracious learner and also Founder and CEO at Gousto. Time for some more music, this is David Sanborn and Joss Stone with Let The Good Times Roll.

That was David Sanborn and Joss Stone with Let The Good Times Roll. Timo Boldt is my Business Shaper, Founder and CEO at Gousto. They put lovely ingredients in boxes, send them to you, you open them, you cook with them and you enjoy yourself. So the transition from you are sort of a voracious learner, I get that sense and that helps doesn’t it, it means you are constantly open to doing things differently. Before I go into the business itself, it is intriguing to me that you said openly I’ve got twenty mentors, tell me a little bit about how you access them and why you are so comfortable asking for advice?

Timo Boldt
I strongly believe in high standards and I think high standards are domain specific. What I mean by that is I have absolutely no clue about how to be a great radio host or how to edit radio programmes but I am sure if I can spend you know ten hours with you I understand what I high standard is and therefore I can then you know, comment on it, I can hire people, I can you know set objectives and I can encourage people to do great things on radio. So that philosophy has helped massively as we scale the business. I have been a founder for four years, now I am CEO, the jury is still out, I am on year two but I massively believe in you know, calling up on the best people in an area and asking for their advice and luckily people are incredibly generous with their time. If you ask five people, four out of five will actually sit down, have a coffee, give you amazing insight that will tremendously impact your business.

Elliot Moss
When you set the business up to take that point about high standards and I absolutely agree, I think that must be right, the more time you spend you can really get into the detail. How did you find your team? Because it’s a really important part isn’t it in a start-up, as much as you can do a lot yourself and you will drive it with your own energy and your ideas and so on, you can’t do it on your own?

Timo Boldt
No it is all about people and the common denominator between the two chapters at Gousto being a Founder and being a CEO is deeply caring about people and really punching above your weight to hire and retain the very, very best intelligent and passionate people. So in the early days I hired half my network, you know many people out of investment banking. Naturally they all look like myself and you know, same age, same education.

Elliot Moss
Incredibly handsome you forgot to mention, incredibly kind.

Timo Boldt
Thank you I am flushing. But you know and as we scaled the business you know, I really, really invested tonnes of time to understand areas I’ve not worked in to identify the kind of best possible people and then a built a relationship with them over years and then years later I brought them into the business so a heavy focus on people.

Elliot Moss
And tell me about the Gousto idea itself because obviously you said you were surrounded by food entrepreneurs and all that. How did you decide it was that bit of it because it is quite novel, I mean you are not the only business doing this – there aren’t many others – but it’s a pretty novel thing to do to say you know what I am going to… the insight is people want to cook great stuff, they don’t know how to assemble it, I mean how did you come about to that point?

Timo Boldt
To be honest back then I was relatively naïve. I looked at myself, you know, time poor, cash rich, relatively young, late twenties, living in London, having a good income and I ended up wasting so much food and I really wanted to cook so I bought all these cook books and I lived next to Boreham Market which is fantastic for produce from the farm but I really wanted to solve that issue so I initially looked at you know, renting a High Street shop and then you know, it occurred to me that there are certain issues on the High Street and it might be better to look at online so the biggest trends across food in Europe, not just the UK are online convenience health and sustainability and Gousto is kind of ticking all four boxes. We see a massive shift in consumer behaviour and I realised I could build a model that you know, makes people happier and their lives better, easier and more healthy.

Elliot Moss
And how quickly did you realise you were on to a bit of a winner?

Timo Boldt
In the early days we focused on people like myself which was completely wrong. Our customers are scattered across all of the UK, pricing starts at £2.89 per meal including free delivery. The people who really, really cook are thirty to forty five years old, 80% of customers are female, 80% of customers live outside of London, scattered across the UK. We are all competitively busy nowadays, we run after toddlers, you know we want to choose whatever we eat on the bus, on the train, not take our car and drive to a supermarket so it’s a huge shift in consumer preferences but it has taken me some time to realise who is actually cooking in the UK.

Elliot Moss
And now turnover is roughly what in the business?

Timo Boldt
We are approaching a hundred million pounds in turnover. We are not there yet but we are growing rapidly fast.

Elliot Moss
Stay with me to find out more from my guest, Timo Boldt, the successful CEO and Founder and Founder and CEO, maybe he will retain his CEO title, maybe we’ll ask the Founder what he thinks after a while, he is coming back in a couple of minutes but before that we’ve got some words of wisdom I hope from our programme partners at Mishcon de Reya for your burgeoning business.

You are listening to Jazz Shapers with me, Elliot Moss every Saturday I meet someone who is shaping the world of business, doing things that we think about doing but we don’t quite get around to doing them ourselves. If you’d like to listen to any of my fabulous guests, there is over three hundred of them over the last few years put in the words ‘Jazz’ and ‘Shapers’, go to iTunes and you will find some there or alternatively if you are flying in the future with British Airways you can find us on Highlife. Right now, living the highlife with me is Timo Boldt. He is the Founder and CEO at Gousto and Gousto as I said, put ingredients in boxes and send them to you wherever you are and as you were saying Timo, you worked out that they were mainly women and scattered across many parts of the country and not just in London at all. Tell me about, because every business has a technology platform – not every business but many do – tell me about you worked out the technology that you needed, how you worked out where AI plays its role, where the basics you know, the piping, everyone talks about these clever things but actually there is just a lot of hardware and I imagine software that goes right underpinning everything. Tell me how you made sure that you built the right kinds of things for this business?

Timo Boldt
So Gousto is a data company that happens to trade in food. We very early on went to the submission of reducing food waste, you, I, all of us at household level on average waste 20% of all food and then there is a tonne of food waste in the supply chain because if you send food across ten thousand supermarkets, obviously there is a lot of inefficiency. So in the early days we obsessed about how do we make lives better, how do we obsess about the customer but at the same time how do we build a business that can have positive impact on the environment and sustainability. So we applied AI and technology on to automation in the factory and also forecasting so our forecasting is ridiculously accurate, our automation platform is ridiculously accurate, guaranteeing that you as the customer get everything you like, the best possible quality but there is absolutely no food waste for you at home.

Elliot Moss
Wow and on the more human side, in the more kind of I want to make sure I have great ingredients, where do you source all of your ingredients from? All different places?

Timo Boldt
We source across farms in the UK, our fish comes from Scotland. We have a production facility in Lincolnshire where we get amazing potatoes and vegetables from so we really spent a lot of time on British farms and visiting farmers and building long-term relationships so that we really understand quality and where the stuff is coming from.

Elliot Moss
Now you said it is a data company that happens to share food but actually your passion is food. Do you personally still at this point with almost three hundred employees, do you still get in the car or the train or whatever it might be, go along and meet these farms or is that down to other people now or do you still like to keep your hands connected?

Timo Boldt
I used to develop our recipes. They are now all banned for quality reasons so we have an amazing team of chefs, we have an amazing team of people who visit farms. I still you know, will organise and supply a conference. We are getting a hundred farmers visit us in June. I am doing a kind of talk for an hour. We are giving awards for sustainability, initiatives, we ask suppliers to reduce packaging in the supply chain for us, we are giving out prizes so I still do a fair bit of that but then obviously we empower amazing people who lead those initiatives.

Elliot Moss
Now I imagine you were super hands on in terms of raising money and you have raised a lot of money and you mentioned at the beginning that your parents didn’t raise any money, it was all their own, they went and did it and pretty successfully. You’ve raised I believe 56.5 million pounds since you opened the doors, 28 million pounds, 28.5 million pounds to be precise in the last round. How do you do that because a question I ask of everyone who raises lots of money, it’s not easy is it?

Timo Boldt
It’s all about having a vision. Overnight success takes ten years. We have an absolute clear vision of what we want to accomplish in the next ten years and then it is all about relentlessly executing against those two, three big ideas. We have seen this huge shift in consumer behaviours. For fifty years supermarkets have built stores across the UK. For the next fifty years people will buy ingredients and meals on the go so everything is moving into your mobile phone, 80% of our orders are coming via mobile phone, only 20% desktop so a huge, huge shift. If you have this idea and it is such a seismic idea and you have the right people in your team, it is relatively easy. The hard bit is to find the right investor who buys into your vision and not just wants to sell in the next you know, eighteen months.

Elliot Moss
I am talking to Timo Boldt, we are talking about data companies that are food companies that are technology companies that are whatever you want them to be. In reality Timo, the most important person in all this is the customer and if I put myself in the shoes and I am a customer every day whether I am on Amazon or whether I am on any other app that I might use in some form and there are plenty of them, I need two things. I need to have choice and I need to know that it is coming fast. Tell me how you are specifically giving customers choice and ensuring they get what they want quickly?

Timo Boldt
We are offering customers by far the most choice in the UK or globally actually in our market. Every single week you choose from thirty meals whatever you like to eat so whether it is quick meals, we have 10 to table meals which literally only take 10 minutes and are designed for busy people. We have boost and balance designed for healthy eating. You know we have family friendly tray bake meals, literally whatever you like we will have it on the menu. We use technology and AI to personalise the menu so you should really only see what you care about and I see a slightly different menu but with this way personalising it. My son is four month old, your kids are slightly older, they eat completely differently and therefore to really build an amazing proposition for customers across the UK you have to obsess about building flexibility into choice and really allowing them you know, to be for them. That’s the mission we are on.

Elliot Moss
And in terms of ensuring you remain competitive, how do you generate new user experiences? How do you generate the next widget, the next whatever it might be? Do you test stuff? Do you just try stuff in beat, I mean I am always intrigued with how companies like yours keep competitive. What is your process if there is one?

Timo Boldt
So we think about innovation in three terms; ideation, selection and execution and what I mean with ideation is in real time I see what people look at in terms of recipes, I see what they choose, I see how they rate the recipes, I see how they refer their friends and so on so I get a huge amount of data on customer behaviour, you know, this vegan dish is less successful than this one so let’s do more of this one. So we understand sort of customer feedback in real time which then drives our new product development in almost real time combined with our trading or automation platform we can then give you as a customer exactly what you want in a really, really fast you know cycle.

Elliot Moss
Does someone come in to your office at the end of the day and go ‘Timo, Timo you’ve got to see what’s happening in real time today – X, Y and Z happened and we are going to try this tomorrow’. Is that what happens or do they just get on with it? Because I mean you know, there’s a sense of you talk about, right at the beginning we were talking about high standards and about really delivering best in class and yes you need great people to do that but they also need to have clarity on the vision and where you want to go because some brave new idea may just not be a good one for lots of other reasons they may not have thought about. Is there a sifting process? Is that where the selection piece comes in of your ideation, selection, execution bit?

Timo Boldt
Yes absolutely. So we deeply understand you know, the big customer trends and we are trying to deliver again certain customer trends, convenience is one, health is one, you know high protein is one. So we try to kind of compartmentalise our innovation process around certain customer features and then really, really, really deliver world class recipes against those needs.

Elliot Moss
Which of the bits of the process do you enjoy the most? Does Timo the CEO and Founder go ‘oh yeah I just felt it, I was in, I was in flow. My whole life makes sense to me’. Are there moments when that happens?

Timo Boldt
Yeah every night at roughly 8.00pm when I eat Gousto. I cook four times a week. I love cooking, I love food obviously. I get excited whenever our new menu goes live and I get to choose our meals. I do that literally a minute after the menu goes live and so I am really, really passionately believing in the product obviously and I am still cooking all the time. I get to test eat in our kitchen, you know three or four times a week and as you can tell…

Elliot Moss
No you look lovely.

Tim Boldt
…you should have seen me a few years ago.

Elliot Moss
You are managing yourself very well considering you have a young child and you eat for a living. Just for a few more minutes Timo Boldt is my Business Shaper and we have been talking about the natty, clever stuff that goes on behind the scenes and about consumer choice and about your love of food and it strikes me that the geek in you and the passionate foodie in you is probably in a very good place because you are doing something you really enjoy. Also I have read that you are a bit of a champion when it comes to women’s rights which doesn’t surprise me in the sense that you seem like a stand-up guy but why that specifically? I mean you do a number of things around sustainability, I get that, and food waste, I get that. Is it just because it’s the right thing to do is there something more personal behind that?

Timo Boldt
I have a wife who works like a demon. I’ve got lots of friends and I think one day I just realised that one of my very, very deep friends, I love her, she has left working in investment banking in the 90s, came back twenty years later only to realise that things actually haven’t changed at all. People do talk more about equality but the world hasn’t moved on so that really kind of inspired me to think much more about it. I am having impact, Gousto now has four hundred employees so I deeply, deeply care about this topic. We need to you know, hire the very, very best people and we absolutely can’t discriminate against anyone. I mean it is ridiculous that we even talk about this topic, you know it’s 2018, it’s quite sad so…

Elliot Moss
But is it… practically what do you do because you must get the best talent and what you are saying is don’t discriminate against talent because its female which is sort of obvious but are there more active things that you are doing to help working mums in your business for example? And how many senior women are in your business because often the whole gender pay gap is driven by a number of things but often it is often at the senior level there are just less women? And that’s one of the big issues that needs to be addressed in practically every industry.

Timo Boldt
Yeah absolutely. I think you need to apply this thinking across your entire hiring and retention funnel. You’ve got to keep yourself very honest about it so you’ve got to start with you know, hidden biases in job descriptions, in you know the way we interview people, is it a fair process, should we take the name out, should we take pictures out and then once they are in the team, are we promoting people fairly enough you know, are we promoting only the people who shout the loudest, is there a fair process applied to everything we do. If you look at my senior team, my chief financial officer she has been an absolute believer in this so she and I are hosting talks inside Gousto, we’ve got a little book club on the topic, so we passionately believe in this. We’ve got a fairly equal leadership team but there is always more, we need to do obviously especially when you look at technology. There are, if you look at Universities, there are just not enough women at the moment studying technology so it is a massive issue for us to create a kind of equal workforce within technology.

Elliot Moss
It sounds like you are thinking about lots and you are doing lots and that must be right. In terms of the business, what have you got planned over the next few years? You talked about a kind of ten year horizon in a way without either advertently or inadvertently, you are about five or six years in to that. Where do you see things going and what are the levers that you need to pull to ensure it goes that way?

Timo Boldt
One billion meals are eaten in the UK on a weekly basis alone. 72% of those meals are home cooked, so 700 million meals are literally home cooked and eaten in the UK. So it’s an absolutely enormous market and I, or we as a team are on this huge mission to make lives easier, better and more healthy so I think we’ve done a relatively good job, we’ve built by far the most competitive value proposition for customers, you know we offer the lowest price point, the best quality, the most menu choice, the most convenient options, seven day delivery and so on but for the next couple of years we will just take it, you know ten levels further, really obsessing about you as a customer so you will see more choice, you will see even better value for money, you will see even faster delivery but we will really push the boundaries of what’s possible, leveraging technology and you know, applying the brains and the passion of four hundred employees to solve problems for you as a customer.

Elliot Moss
I like the notion of you obsessing about me, Timo and your team of course.

Timo Boldt
Always.

Elliot Moss
Always. Good you keep me at the centre of your thoughts.

Timo Boldt
That’s all that matters.

Elliot Moss
And all your other customers too. It has been a real pleasure talking to you. You’ve definitely got a clear vision of where you want this to go and it sounds like you are thinking about doing lots of the right things to make that happen. Just before I let you go, what’s your song choice and why have you chosen it?

Timo Boldt
I would love to listen to Dave Brubeck, Take Five. He brought jazz to the masses, it’s slightly cheesy but in a similar way we are bringing food and convenience and health eating to the masses.

Elliot Moss
Thank you Mr Cheesy. It is indeed Dave Brubeck with Take Five.

Timo Boldt
Thank you.

Elliot Moss
That was the song choice of my Business Shaper today, Timo Boldt. A guy with high standards, he understood how important it was in every area that his business would touch that he needed to know what best looked like. A guy that was comfortable talking to his mentors and he has twenty of them, there is something in that isn’t there about being confident enough to ask for advice and a really strong focus on women’s equality in the workplace and that must be right. Anything that we can do to address the imbalances that exist and make it easier for women to do as well as they should do in the workplace is to be applauded; and he is doing a really good job. Do join me again, same time, same place, that’s next Saturday, 9.00am sharp for another edition of Jazz Shapers. Thank you very much, I hope you’ve enjoyed the programme.

Timo Boldt

Timo Boldt’s city career included several special situations hedge funds. In 2007 he left Project Management at BMW to become an Analyst at Rothschild, before 2011 where he became an Associate and later Vice President at Petrus Advisers. He then founded Gousto in 2012 after he was inspired by the realisation he was wasting too much food. Coming from a family of serial food entrepreneurs, he was motivated by both their lifestyle and passion. Their mission is to provide food in a box on a weekly basis that you can then cook, and they rely on AI to ensure minimal food wastage. Concurrent with his role as CEO of Gousto, Timo is a Member of the Digital Advisory Board: a group that advises on digital strategy, data and tech capabilities, and vision around emerging technologies, at Unilever.

Follow Timo on Twitter @TimoGousto.

Listen live at 9am Saturday.

“I really love working with intelligent, passionate people.”

“I am an absolute learn-a-holic.”

“I strongly believe in high standards.”

“I massively believe in calling up the best people in an area and asking for their advice.”

“The common denominator between being a Founder and being a CEO is deeply caring about people.”

“We obsessed about the customer but also how do we build a business that can have a positive impact on the environment and sustainability.”

“It’s all about having a vision.”

“We as a team are on this huge mission to make lives easier, better and more healthy.”

“Overnight success takes ten years.”