Q&A with Felipe Villamarin, Simon Borrero and Sebastian Mejia, Cofounders of Rappi

by Y Combinator10/17/2018

We put together a list of the top YC companies by valuation as of October 2018. You can see that list at https://ycombinator.com/topcompanies.

Here’s a Q&A with Felipe Villamarin, Simon Borrero and Sebastian Mejia, Cofounders of Rappi, one of the companies featured on the list.

What does Rappi make/do?

Everything, delivered.

Rappi’s mission is:

  1. Improve the life quality of people in Cities in latam. Not only time save them time.

  2. Social impact for couriers. Connect a society filled with inequality and transform their lives with up to 3x min salary earning in a flexible way.

  3. Put Latin America on the map: We believe tech and innovation must be homegrown. A success story like us in LatAm can act as a catalyst for the ecosystem — meaning more entrepreneurialism and more investment. We think Rappi can be the most impactful tech co LatAm has seen.

How many employees does Rappi have?

Over 1,500 employees across Latin America.

How many founders?

Three founders — Simón Borrero, Sebastián Mejía and Felipe Villamarín.

What is your most impressive recent product milestone?

We just passed the 20-million-order mark. 🙂
Another great milestone is RappiPay. A new product that allows millions of Rappi users to send funds to each other, split bills, and pay for purchases on Rappi.
The latest evolution of RappiPay also allows users to pay for their purchases at physical establishments. It leverages QR codes and results in instant payments to our partners.

What is the larger impact / societal impact of your product in the space you work within?

Our business model is an inclusive model that benefits all the stakeholders that are part of it. Users get back their time to enjoy it doing what they like the most, while they can also get anything they need from their city in a couple of clicks, in the comfort of their homes or work.

We enable the couriers that use our app to have incremental income in their free time and earn between 30% and 50% more than the average of a monthly minimum wage per hour.

Finally our partner stores can enter the world of e commerce and mobile commerce in a simple way and improve their sales and expand the reach of their brands

What’s an interesting element of Rappi’s company culture?

Every mentor tells you that culture is the most important aspect of building a great company, but nobody ever tells you how to do it. When we started Rappi we knew that big companies are built through really hard work and long hours so we just got to the office at 6am every day and worked until 10pm. Every single day.

As early employees joined the company and understood the size of the challenge, they quickly followed suit.

When you join Rappi you enter a very hard working, intellectually challenging environment where logos and CVs have no importance. Execution, results, great user feedback, courier satisfaction are the things that matter.

Looking back, what motivated you to start Rappi?

We worked together creating software that transformed the way you buy your groceries online. We worked with the biggest brands all over the world and won several awards for the best interface for shopping groceries online. Nonetheless, every time we looked at user satisfaction we saw that they loved the app and hated the logistics.

We then decided to start an experiment in which we leveraged on our UI mixed with crowdsourced last mile logistics. Started in a small neighborhood with the inventory of a small mom n’ pop shop. The experiment never ended.

Is what you’re working on now the original idea or did you pivot?

Rappi remains true to our original idea, and we have added services and features derived from listening to our users. A number of surprises have sprung up across the way, but these have always served as an incentive to continue innovating for Latin America and build the Super app of LatAm.

Were there moments where you thought the company might die? Describe one of those and anything you learned from it.

Many! When we were in YC we knew that we were going to run out of money in 4 to 6 months and that we really needed to get the company in shape for demo day. It was our moment to do or die. We got everybody together and worked non-stop for the entire 120 days. We delivered on every growth goal. When demo day arrived, we closed one of the biggest seed rounds in the history of YC.

What was a particularly important insight you had about your market that made your product work?

Rappi stumbled into the most precious thing we all are missing: time. We connect the part of society that has everything in life except time, with another that needs extra income and has some extra time.

In addition to this, LatAm has a great delivery culture. Cities are chaotic, delivery was super manual and not all stores offered it — there was plenty of inefficiency and high costs. We thought: what if we digitized this ecosystem and started to deliver anything in under 30 minutes for less than a dollar?

What’s one piece of advice you’d share with a young founder?

Ideas are worth nothing. Everything is execution.

Big companies are not built on a 9 to 5 shift. Put in great amount of work to create a company culture that can push through any obstacle that is placed on its path.

Hire the best people. Example: When you’re starting, you need to convince that friend that has that killer job in investment banking or is making a great salary at Google to leave that super-safe life and join you in your crazy dream. If you can’t deliver on that, don’t start the company — you’ll fail.

Startups are a combination of luck and hard work. If you get the best people you know, work your ass off, luck starts to magically appear.


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