Name: Felipe Moscoso Cruz
Major: Earth, Energy and Sustainability
Currently: Founder of Nerdish
Athéna: Today we are talking with Felipe who graduated in 2018 in Earth, Energy and Sustainability. What have you been up to since you graduated?
Felipe: I majored in sustainability and I unofficially minored in computer science. After LUC, I wanted to dive more into computer science so I applied for a second Bachelor’s. However, after the first year, I found that a lot of the stuff that I wanted to do in that field, I could just learn on my own. Then I did a masters in data science in Tilburg and moved back home to Breda. My brother and I started discussing some business ideas like we’ve always done. It started with discussions about the online food industry and how food delivery sucks. Gradually, our conversations became more serious, we started meeting more regularly, doing market research as I was studying and he was working part-time. When I finished my Master’s, we decided to work on our company full-time together and created “Nerdish”.
Athéna: You mentioned that you and your brother thought that the food delivery industry sucked, what was the pain point that you identified?
Felipe: The main pain point is that every time we order food with friends and family, there’s an internal debate of where to order food as not everyone wants to eat the same thing.
One wants a pizza, another one wants a burger or is vegetarian . You just can’t get this stuff in the same order and you can’t order from three different places.
I don’t know if you are familiar with dark kitchens or delivery-only restaurants. What these companies very often do is that they have multiple brands, for example three types of cuisine all coming from the same kitchen, so that they can cater to different tastes. But, you can’t get everything in one order from those places.
Building on the concept of dark kitchens, we thought about having one brand that allows people to order whatever they want in one single order. Big aggregates like Uber eats and Deliveroo make it very difficult to have a profitable online food delivery, because they take big commissions. The platforms don’t allow you to really do what you want to do in terms of the technology that they offer to restaurant owners. So those were the things that we saw as struggles for the things that we wanted to have for our own platform and kitchen. We basically learned that the best way to run the business is to do everything yourself. This means you own the kitchen and have your own delivery fleet, and system. This way, you can do everything cost-effectively but also deliver the highest quality.
When we had to decide what to put on the menu, I scraped a lot of data from Deliveroo in Amsterdam to check the type of trending cuisines, popular dishes offered and popular ingredients. Based on this data, we created our menu. Our menu is dynamic and can shift very quickly depending on ongoing trends. That’s also the advantage of not being tied to one specific type of cuisine.
Athéna: So I assume the name “nerdish” comes from the fact that you have a data-driven menu?
Felipe: Yes. Nerdish is a delivery-restaurant and we make use of platforms like UberEats because it’s good marketing. We do have our own website and ordering system as well as our own drivers, but we haven’t built our own software yet. That’s something for the future, because software development is expensive.
Athéna: As people are used to ordering through UberEats and Deliveroo, how are you convincing people to also use your own platform? So what’s your incentive for people to start using your product?
Felipe: With every order that we get from Thuisbezorgd, we add a flyer which grants you a discount on our own website. it’s very difficult to get people to your website. They often go back to their habits because it’s easy and they know how it works. So it’s hard to get people on your own platform. In November, we’re going to allow people to earn points by ordering on our own website which can be used for discounts.
I really think that in the long-term what will make people use our product is because we aim to make online ordering more fun and efficient for groups of people. If you order with some friends, right now what happens is you ask your friends “what do you want to eat?” and one fills in information or you pass around the phone and then for paying it gets complicated. But what if you can just send a link to a group chat, everyone can open the link and they can finish up their order and you split the bill immediately? It fixes everything for you. There are other ways that we would like to explore changing the user experience. Until now, there hasen’t been many changes in online food delivery systems and we aim to work on that.
Athéna: Tech plays a big role in your business. As you have a sustainability background, how do you integrate it in your business?
Felipe: Firstly, we focus on bringing fresh food to our customers and offer vegetarian and vegan options. Secondly, we choose our packaging carefully. We only use biodegradable sugarcane packaging, while a lot of places still use plastic.
Athéna: You mentioned you work with your brother. How are tasks divided, how many people do you work with, and what are you in charge of?
Felipe: We have one cook and nine delivery guys. Kitchen operations can be run by two people, so my brother and I. I’ve also learned how to work in the kitchen. In terms of the operation, the day-to-day business, I’m either in the kitchen or handling the orders. I also drive around when I have to.
At the beginning, you do everything you can to keep the cost down. In that sense, my brother and I do the same thing. When it comes to behind the scenes work, my brother handles administrative tasks and I do all the technical and graphic tasks. As the menu changes often, I need to make sure that the systems we use can properly talk to each other. Right now I’m also working on building a referral program. The challenge is to not get too busy with operational tasks as it takes time from developing your own resources. For now we need to prove that this business can be profitable. After, the idea is to get funding and open more kitchens and start developing our own software.
Athena: Do you think that your experience at LUC equipped you well for this entrepreneurial journey?
Felipe: I didn’t take any entrepreneurship courses or touched upon it during my studies, but my sustainability courses taught me how to cut through greenwashing. A lot of companies claim to use biodegradable packaging, but then you see they use a carton container, coated with PLA (a type of plastic). It’s considered a bioplastic, so they’re allowed to label it as such, but technically, it will take 1000 years to biodegrade. So I learnt to look for the actual sustainable stuff when it comes to packaging and ingredients. Regarding computer science, I learnt a lot during my minor and then I mostly taught myself. My Master’s in data science also helped a lot because everything we do is based on data, so I let the data speak. Overall, I think LUC really helped me with looking at things critically and going deep in my research.
Athéna: From your experience, what would be your advice to people who would like to jump into the field of entrepreneurship after their studies?
Felipe: If you want to do something, just do it. Money is very often an issue in entrepreneurship, but if you try, you can get the money. We got an investment that allowed us to get started, it was hard but we talked to people and we managed. If you have a good network, make use of it. If you don’t have a good network, build one. There’s always people that know people who can help you with whatever you’re doing. This sounds corny, but make sure that you surround yourself with people who push you to do what you want to do.
Of course it involved sacrifices, my brother and I moved back home to keep down the costs. My parents were very supportive and they also helped us a lot and always pushed us to follow our project.
Athena: Lack of financial resources can definitely deter people from jumping in entrepreneurship. Even if you get money, there is always a risk that there will be no return on the initial investment. How did you get funding in the first place?
Felipe: Getting funding is quite difficult in the Netherlands. Investors are very risk averse if you compare it to the United States for example where they throw money at everything, even when the project is just at the ideation stage. We tried to find someone who was willing and crazy enough to lend us money to start our business. It was difficult, we tried a lot of things, we spoke with a lot of people and everyone said the same thing: too much risk for people with no background in the food business industry. Also, we both came out of university so it’s not like we had a reputation of doing anything. While it’s very difficult to convince people to give you money, there’s always someone out there, you just need to find the person.
Athena: You mentioned that your brother is your co-founder, reflecting on that, how is that going?
Felipe: Well, my brother and I were always talking about ideas. When I was still in primary school, we started a shoe business. We just imported shoes from China and we sold them on eBay. In highschool we also ran a webshop, so we were used to doing stuff together. For us, it is not difficult, rather it’s a natural progression.
Athena: Overall, looking back on your journey since we graduated, what would be your advice for people after graduating?
Felipe: I had this idea in my head that I had to do my Master’s, otherwise my studies wouldn’t be complete, which is a nonsense idea. Of course my Master’s helped me with building Nerdish, but did I need it to get started? I don’t think so. So my advice is just do what you think you need to do. Don’t get stuck in the idea that you need something before you can even start something else. Because very often I think, you’ll learn that there are a lot of ways to get where you want to be and you shouldn’t get too obsessed about one specific path.
This concludes our interview, thank you again for taking the time to share your story with us. If people are interested in Felipe’s journey, don’t hesitate to reach out to him!
This post was part of a larger series of “portraits” of Alumni. Want to be featured, have questions for Felipe, or about alumni in general? Do not hesitate to reach out to Evolucio via our website, Instagram, LinkedIn, Facebook or email@example.com.