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Gorillas is the fastest-ever 'unicorn' in Europe


The founder of the fastest-ever ‘unicorn’ in Europe dreams of fleets of cycle couriers rapidly delivering groceries in every British city.

A year ago, Turkish-born tech entrepreneur Kağan Sümer barely had a few euros to his name and was trying to get his fledgling firm, Gorillas, off the ground in Berlin.

Since then, the expansion of the company – with huge injections of cash from venture capitalists and hedge funds – has been truly breath-taking and its most recent funding round valued it at more than $1billion – giving unicorn status.

Growth: Gorillas' most recent funding round valued it at more than $1bn

Growth: Gorillas’ most recent funding round valued it at more than $1bn

Gorillas now operates in 35 cities across Germany, Holland, Italy, France and the UK, namely London, Manchester and Southampton.

It is about to launch a major marketing campaign across the UK, to get more customers ordering groceries for delivery, and step up its operations around the country.

More cities are being added every month promise is to get groceries to the customer within 10 minutes at retail prices, with a flat fee £1.80 delivery charge.

The delivery couriers – all on electric bikes – pick up their stock at strategically placed ‘dark stores’ — mini warehouses where packers work to fast-paced background music, and the delivery fleet then whisk the groceries off to the customers.

Turkish-born tech entrepreneur Ka¿an Sümer

Turkish-born tech entrepreneur Kağan Sümer

Former Olympic-standard water polo player Sümer, 33, who operates out of London, Berlin and New York, says he’s barely started.

How does he feel to have gone from a company with no employees to more than 8.000 in a year?

‘I don’t see it as an amazing achievement because we’ve got such a long way to go,’ he told MailOnline and This is Money in an exclusive interview.

‘We’ve had terrific investors and I’ve built a superb team around me.

‘I always thought that if we can get to the moon, we should be able to get to the supermarket – or at least bring the supermarket to us.’

His delivery team all ride electric bikes, and it’s a key part of Sümer’s thinking that the business should be environmentally friendly.

He’s pleased that around 40 per cent of Gorillas’ orders are fresh fruit, dairy and vegetables, and thinks the traditional supermarket model is obsolete.

Healthy business: Around 40% of Gorillas¿ orders are fresh fruit, dairy and vegetables

Healthy business: Around 40% of Gorillas’ orders are fresh fruit, dairy and vegetables

‘Food like that needs to be eaten fresh when you want it, and not left to sit on a shelf for days. When the caveman got hungry, he went out and got his food – we’re just doing the same in a slightly different way.’

He’s wary of negative publicity – and he’s had his share with reports that his riders in Germany are fighting for unionisation and others that fed-up residents in some areas of Berlin are complaining that the areas around Gorillas’ dark stores are overcrowded with couriers and their bikes.

Sümer quotes an old Turkish proverb: ‘If a tree grows a lot of apples, people throw stones to get the apples down.’

He says he’s keen to take his workforce with him and claims an employee satisfaction rate of 89 per cent, which in part, he says is down to his monthly ‘all hands’ online meetings with all the employees.

But other challenges also lie ahead: In the UK alone, Gorillas faces stiff opposition from many other start-ups. Getir, which pioneered rapid delivery in Turkey, entered the UK market in February. Other competitors Weezy and Dija use a similar model.

Supermarkets including Waitrose, Morrisons and the Co-Op use Deliveroo for rapid deliveries from stores.

And the big boys are taking notice of this new upstart – last year, Sümer hired former Lidl UK boss Ronny Gottschlich as chief commercial officer.

Sümer certainly doesn’t lack ambition: ‘I would like to see our company expanding globally in 50 per cent of the world’s cities before long,’ he says.

‘It’s a tough road and it’s been full of mistakes, but I’m a strong person because I know that I’m also vulnerable.

‘I don’t want to stand still – always evolving, that’s my mantra.’

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