Vitaly Alexandrov, founder & CEO of Food Rocket, is a two-time winner of the Oxford Russia Fund scholarship. Previously, he was the CEO and founder of the international CRM marketing agency Out of Cloud that provides consumer data analysis and helps companies build personalized marketing. The agency’s clients include Puma, Panasonic, Nikon, Alfa Bank and Pfizer. The agency won the Best Use of eCRM category at Russia’s Tagline Awards in 2017 and Best Use of Analytics in Loyalty Programs at Loyalty Awards in 2018. At 27, Vitaliy wrote the Email Marketing Strategy book that was a bestseller at Ozon, Russia’s Amazon analogue.
In 2019, together with partners, Vitaliy launched the Foody startup to optimize the restaurant procurement process in the U.S. Three months later, Foody was showing a monthly growth of 20%. In 2021, the startup pivoted and launched San Francisco’s first 15-minute grocery delivery Food Rocket.
Where did the idea for Food Rocket come from?
Over the last few years, I founded several startups in Silicon Valley, and they were always food-related companies. For example, my first company Foodcast helped retailers predict future sales and decrease food waste. We then created Foody Foody, a platform where restaurants could find all their suppliers in one place and place orders through a mobile app. Its AI engine and inventory auto-ordering software has proven to decrease food waste by 25% and increased the gross margin by 3%.
As soon as the pandemic began, the restaurants were shut down and we had to decide what to do next. We chose to make a pivot. The pandemic created a new consumer need for fast and safe on-demand grocery delivery, and the U.S. market has great potential in this area. As a result, Food Rocket became California’s fastest grocery delivery company. Food Rocket delivers groceries within 10-15 min after the order is placed. Exactly what people need.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Throughout the day, I both manage the team’s operations and plan
for the future. This is why spending time with my family and playing sports are an important part of my daily routine. Even though we work 16-18 hours a day, there is no problem of burnout. Entrepreneurship is a calling, not a profession. I don’t like the word “vacation” because I do what I like. Weekly fasting enables me to stay resourceful, to deal with stress and to reboot not only my body, but also my mind.
How do you bring ideas to life?
My first idea for Foodcast.ai came to me while I was studying at one of the top business schools in Skolkovo. As the pandemic hit the market, I was discussing our strategy with one of my advisers. A business transformation idea emerged from the discussion. It seems to me that our networking actually generates a lot of ideas on its own. To be an entrepreneur means bringing these dreams to life. When you are passionate about what you do and you are supported by your peers, everything will work out.
What’s one trend that excites you?
I am fascinated by how technology is evolving and at the same time how consumer behavior is changing. In the past, we spent over an hour in supermarkets getting groceries for the week. It can now be done in 15 minutes.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
A healthy sense of self-confidence is one of the most important skills for an entrepreneur – along with flexibility, which helps one to constantly “rebuild.” This is particularly true in the U.S., where IT business is highly competitive. There are people from all over the world who are coming to build startups. As a result, you have to constantly come up with new ideas.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Do what you do, and things will happen as they must. What I mean is that entrepreneurship is always about trial and error, and the three essentials of any entrepreneur’s life are the will to overcome, the will to win, and the will to persevere.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
I am often told that I won’t be able to do something, because it’s impossible. Personally, I don’t think there’s anything that’s impossible. The whole world is a derivative of your mind. This may sound trivial, but I believe that people are not objective. A person is a reflection of others and things around them. So, when everyone tells you that something is plastic, you believe that it is. The world, meanwhile, is measured by how far into the past and into the future you can look and decide that everything is possible.\
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I always talk to my team and ask them to give me honest feedback. I think this is essential, especially in a small startup team. I apply this rule in my work every day and recommend it to everyone.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Companies must pay attention to both the quality of their products and the quality of services they provide. Consumers no longer just buy milk. They buy specific brands. That’s why it’s crucial to invest in brand value and build a marketing approach that can clearly communicate all of your product’s benefits to the consumer. That’s what we do every day.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I don’t consider my first two projects – Foodcast and Foody – mistakes. I had some really tough battles with my agency partner Out of Cloud, who did not believe in their success. In addition, I knew that these were not the projects that I would sell for $ 1 billion in five years. Nevertheless, I realized I needed to take action, dive into this industry head first, and then, thanks to my entrepreneurial aptitude and ability to read market signals, I would discover a model that would grow exponentially.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
I think that cohort education is the future. In essence, it’s a hybrid education model that combines online learning with offline rules. For example, if you fail an exam online, you or your team don’t make it to the next level. This way one-time users are converted into regular ones and don’t drop out.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
My last such investment was in books. There’s nothing better than to invest in your education through books. You invest just a little, and you get a lot of valuable experience.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
https://onfleet.com helps you to save a lot of money on building your own dispatch system for drivers. It gives you the ability to launch your driver’s app routing system in a matter of days if not hours.
https://taxjar.com helps you to calculate sales tax in real time. TaxJar helps you to collect the right rate on every product in more than 14,000 taxing jurisdictions.
https://www.zendesk.com.ru helps you to launch your support desk from day one.
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
James Kerr, Legacy: 15 Lessons in Leadership. There are different types of team management. For us, athletic style is the best. Startup is a team sport, so it’s important to learn how a team works and plays.
What is your favorite quote?
You get as much energy as you need. I heard this from our advisor Philipp Bashyan. When you are enthusiastic about an idea, when you invest yourself in it, when you want to bring it to life – you have the energy to do it.
- Entrepreneurship is not a job, but rather a calling
- A pivot is a path to new opportunities
- Networking is a path to not only new ideas, but also the successful implementation of current ones.
Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.