Hungry? You might need Wolt, the food delivery app making life easier, one meal at a time. Oskari Petas, Wolt Co-Founder and Head of Payments and Localisation, tells us about the journey he and his business are on.
Wolt was set up some 4 years ago by a group of 6 co-founders, looking to make the world a better place using smart technology. After seeing how taxi services were moving from a traditional model where customers call a specific taxi company, to app-based bookings which offer better choice and availability, the Wolt team realised the same could be done for restaurants.
Setting out to upgrade the restaurant experience, Wolt connects hungry customers with restaurants, and allows you to have your meal delivered by a team of couriers who work - and earn - flexibly. Their mission is to make life easier, one meal at a time - and with the Wolt brand operating in 11 countries and growing, it seems to be a vision the public can get behind. “We have grown from 6 to over 200 employees,” Oskari says, “and it’s exciting that we are now doing new things, faster than ever.”
As a company facilitating food delivery, customers are naturally interested in the variety and quality of the meals they can order through Wolt. One of the key building blocks of Wolt’s success is not in the kitchen, but in the backend payment systems that allows everything to happen. Wolt lets customers pay for food via their mobile phone, and then facilitates the payment to restaurants and couriers. This means that there’s a constant flow of money going from customer to restaurant, which needs to be moved fast and reliable, for the business to keep on operating.
Keeping that money flowing is Oskari’s job: “As a co-founder, you have to have a learning mentality. I started out designing and developing APIs, but I’ve also had to learn a lot about legal, compliance, payment systems and so on. Our business is pretty much built around the fact that you can make payments on a mobile phone, and we can transfer money around when we need to”.
“Speed of transfers is super important. And with new technology we are getting the things we need to continually improve the security of transfers, too, like biometrics for example. The cost of payments matters as well, so people know they'll get their money quite soon, safely, and without paying too much in fees.”
Wolt uses TransferWise for international payments. Oskari explains, “After looking at the competitive landscape for payments, the choice was fairly easy. The model and pricing TransferWise use is clearly set out and good value.”
“Getting started with TransferWise was painless - it was one of the easiest onboardings we have had to do because the forms and everything you need is easy to find and clear.”
For growing businesses, being able to reduce the administration needed for payments is important. Wolt do this by making payments using the TransferWise batch payment system, to process large volumes of transfers in the shortest possible time. “We use the batch payment system, because the file upload is easy to use, and saves a lot of time. I’d recommend it to other businesses looking to make mass payments - it’s just the way it should be. You use a simple CSV to make a lot of tricky payments, and at a low cost. It makes a lot of sense.”
Wolt have already expanded into 11 countries, with more planned for the end of this year, and into 2019. Being able to scale successfully means working at speed to make sure they’re capturing as much of the new market as possible.
One of the ways the Wolt team have been able to scale internationally is by finding solutions which work across regions, from a clear model that can be replicated in other regions, to partners who are not bound by borders. “Using a single provider for international payments makes sense. If we needed to find a lot of different local partners for each market, and do all the technical integration for each of them it would all be a lot slower. We would lose a lot of business, so finding a partner that we can work with globally has been crucial”
“We did look into the option of working with other partners when we started expanding, but if you look at a market like Georgia, even finding a local partner to work with payments in Georgian lari would be challenging, because it’s not a major currency like the Euro. You then need to do a lot of research about the potential partners, find referrals and do all the technical development needed.”
For other businesses looking to expand internationally, the Wolt team believe that having a clear scalable model, and hiring local teams with the right mindset is crucial.
Getting good partners is also important for all growing businesses, Oskari says. And even if you’re not currently planning on international expansion for your startup, who knows where the future will take you. Having the option in place to make payments in other countries might actually be the springboard other companies need to grow, says Oskari: “Getting a global solution for payments actually creates a lot of business opportunities because it solves a lot of your issues even before you have them”
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