Waterloo startup aims to revolutionize food delivery industry

Thursday, January 9, 2020

They won’t graduate until next spring, but their startup has already taken flight.

The five founders of Gooloo recently earned a spot in the University of Waterloo’s Concept $5K Finals, where they explained their business model to a panel of judges alongside nine other student teams.

“Only six per cent of food delivery orders are placed from companies, and only 26 per cent of food delivery orders are placed during weekdays,” began Yuqian Li (Actuarial Science and Statistics) in her pitch on behalf of the Gooloo team. “The great potential of weekday lunch delivery services went unexploited. That’s where Gooloo came in.”

Li first sketched out the concept for Gooloo with four friends —Lu Lyu (Statistics), Yinong (Oliver) Wang (Computer Science and Statistics), Hansen Wang (Computer Engineering), and Zeyi Shen – in their first year at the University of Waterloo.

Yuqian Li delivering her pitch
“We started to notice huge lines to buy lunch at different locations around campus,” says Oliver Wang. “It was especially problematic for students with tight schedules. When we all started to work co-ops at local companies, we saw the same thing. Unlike people working in large downtown areas, people working in small to mid-sized cities like Waterloo find fewer lunch spots near their office and experience long wait times.”

The founders of Gooloo also identified a mismatch between student budgets and lunch prices. “For many students, prices at both university food courts and restaurants make daily lunches unaffordable,” says Li.

In response to the expense and inconvenience they experienced firsthand, the five students came up with a unique solution—an online food court that provides free lunch delivery services to people living in population hotspots within small- to mid-sized cities.   

“While giants like Uber provide delivery services, Gooloo brings revolution and innovation to North America’s $25.4B food delivery industry,” says Li.

Currently, customers can choose to purchase one, three, five or 10 virtual meal tickets to store in their Google accounts and use to pre-order weekday lunches. Gooloo then partners with local restaurants to offer 15 lunch combos delivered in bulk to more than 35 major population hotspots in the Kitchener-Waterloo area.  

By leveraging economies of scale to maximize cooking efficiency and reduce delivery times, Gooloo is able to provide discounted lunches to its customers. “Part of our competitive edge is our ability to offer high-quality lunch combos for an amazing deal,” says Li.

After testing its business model on campus throughout 2018, Gooloo formally launched in February 2019 and has enjoyed steady growth throughout the year. Today, the company has captured the loyalty of 2,200 customers in Kitchener-Waterloo and fills more than 100 daily lunch orders. 

“For now, we’re still in the process of developing new ideas to improve our business model,” says Lyu. “We want to become a data company, not just a delivery company. We want to apply AI and data concepts to better serve our customers and make more profits for the restaurants.”

After finishing their studies in 2020, the founders of Gooloo plan to join local business incubators and initiate the process of raising capital. While they aspire to expand throughout Canada and the U.S., they’ve got their sights set on Hamilton and London in the near term. If Gooloo’s first year in business is any indication, they’re well on their way.

All ten Concept $5k Final pitches can be viewed on the Concept by Velocity Facebook page.