“Built out of sheer frustration, it was definitely scratching a personal itch,” says Marco Saio, Founder and COO of Bevy, London-based startup reimagining the on-demand services for alcohol. According to Marco, the take-home alcohol and tobacco market in the UK is worth a combined £31 billion per year but the online sales and delivery only account for 6% of total sales. He sees it as a space for “enormous growth.”
The app has an inbuilt GPS Technology enabling customers to track deliveries. In addition, Bevy halved the standard 60-minute delivery window also offering competitive retail prices. To see it in action, we gave it a try. If you attended our careers event EXPAND London March and enjoyed job hunting and networking, you should know – beverages that kept you cool were courtesy of Bevy. Here’s our interview with the supplier of alcohol for those opting for more nights in.
Where did the idea for Bevy come from?
If you’re able to instantly access a handyman, a hot meal or a helicopter in seconds, why was there not a service to rapidly deliver your favourite tipples and treats when you need them most? We recognised the explosion of ‘on-demand’ tech and mCommerce and applied this to one of the largest and most antiquated industries around – alcohol.
What’s your business model and who are the Bevy ‘butlers’?
Bevy partners with 24-hour off-licenses and delivers alcohol, cigarettes and other convenience goods in 30 minutes, right up until 5am. We work directly with wholesalers and popular brands like Sipsmith and Brewdog, which allows us to pass on high street prices, Bevy simply charges a flat £5 delivery fee. Our team of trusty ‘Butlers’ can be GPS tracked from store right to your door and are trained to courtesy call and ID customers when necessary.
All members of the Bevy team also do deliveries each weekend to meet customers and learn the business from the inside out.
What’s the hardest decision you’ve made so far and what’s next for Bevy?
It’s a cliché but hiring has been the most painstaking and lengthy decision as candidates interview with each and every person on the team and we have a ‘unanimous or nothing’ system.
Up ahead Bevy will be launching a sleuth of new product features, including eCommerce, a juicy referral and rewards system, order splitting and integration with Smart TVs to name but a few!
It seems that your direct competitors live in the US (e.g. Saucey, Minibar, Drizly). What makes you different?
Unlike pure-play tech companies, we manage and own both our inventory and delivery networks. This not only means that we can provide a superior service, but we also generate significantly higher profit margins. Whilst many services deliver in 60 minutes, Bevy prides ourselves in delivering in 30 minutes on average. And if it should be cold, it will be!
What are the top three things you learned from founding a startup?
More startup clichés that all ring true. Do less with more. This year has seen a number of well-funded on-demand players fail due to overspending and / or trying to scale too fast. Our moxie is to spend as if we wouldn’t be able to raise more funding.
‘Shipping beats perfection’ and I really like the quote by Reid Hoffman: If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late. Careful research and planning is all well and good, but it’s important to keep moving and break things. To date, we’ve shipped over 75 versions of the customer app!
Be prepared for things to go wrong, and often. If it’s rainbows you want then you have to put up with a little rain.
You are experiencing an extensive growth. What’s your startup culture and what role does it play in hiring?
We’re in the fortunate position to have closed our first round of funding but Bevy is and will always remain an extremely lean operation, so we’ve been extremely cautious with hiring. As a rule we don’t use agencies and everyone we have hired thus far approached us directly. Not having trialled Bevy is also a big red flag! We’re fairly obsessed with doing things that don’t scale. Whether it be hand written notes to our early adopters, focus groups, doing deliveries ourselves or even throwing in a comp bottle of bubbles if you order on your Birthday week, we’re very big on the ol’ surprise and delight. We have always taken the view that we’d rather have a thousand people who absolutely love the service Vs. many thousands who are just impartial. The same goes for building the Bevy team.
How to streamline processes in small teams? What is your advice?
Again, we’re lucky to have a small and very tight-knit team so it’s one of those good problems we look forward to having! When we started Bevy, I was based in Sydney, our CTO in Boston, the tech team in India and my 2 other founders in London.
Trial and error are unfortunately the best way to find a winning system that truly works for your team and business.
Luckily we’re now all based in London but we still follow the same communication practices and protocols that we learned the hard way. I’d say that face-to-face still trumps digital meet-ups so stay old fashioned if possible!
What are your tips for a successful startup launching campaign?
There’s nothing like a good old giveaway stunt to really cause a scene. We launched a massive referral campaign to help really get the word out about Bevy before we even launched. The premise was simple: The more people you referred to sign-up to our service the week before we launched, the bigger and better the rewards you unlocked. We offered early access to the app, invites to our launch party and even top shelf alcohol prizes for top referrers. The pre-launch campaign was very time and labour intensive but we had 2k people sign up in the week before the app was even launched.
Share some of the habits that you think contributed to your successful career.
I’ll share some I know haven’t contributed: Acronyms, hotheaded emails, lazy outsourcing, tardiness, saying yes to everything and ruining a good apology with an excuse.
The startup I am following closely… Sweatcoin is a pretty mind-blowing concept that I was lucky enough to be involved with and I can’t wait to see how Google Cardboard will be more broadly applied.
The best career advice I received… Good is the enemy of great.
What keeps me up at night… The impossibility of tax returns and the inevitability of smart people building a great copycat out of their kitchen as we speak.