Saving 20 million meals this year, and growing – Interview with Too Good To Go CEO Mette Lykke

Mette-Lykke-TooGoodToGo

The Copenhagen-based startup Too Good To Go is dedicated to the fight against food waste. Food waste is a huge global issue, with one third of all food produced being wasted – landfills are overflowing while others starve, and our environment is suffering the consequences. And it’s not just about the food itself, it’s all the resources that went into producing the food, the land, the water, the labour. Founded in Copenhagen in 2015, To Good To Go allows people to buy surplus, unsold food from restaurants, cafes, supermarkets, bakeries etc. that otherwise would have to be thrown out.

Today the company is led by Mette Lykke, who formerly co-founded Endomondo. Together with a fast-growing team, she expanded with To Good To Go to 12 countries, raised a total of €16 million, and is on her way to save 20 million meals per year. We first interviewed her in 2012 during her Endomondo times. It’s about time to catch up!

Before joining Too Good To Go as CEO, you co-founded the super-successful social fitness community Endomondo. What experiences from this previous entrepreneurial journey have helped you most in your current role at Too Good To Go?

To be honest all the experiences help, the bad as much as the good! Building something from the ground up takes time, resilience, belief and a great team. It can be chaotic of course, but you have to trust in the vision and that’s something that’s fundamental to success.

Then of course you take with you more practical learnings – on strategy, management and team building, and you do have the benefit of having built a network. But no one thing stands out, it really is a sum of all parts.

How did the founding team come up with the idea for Too Good To Go and how does the app work?

It happened during a dinner in a buffet restaurant. At the end of service, the founders saw all the food that was left in the buffet, being thrown in the bin, even though it was still perfectly good to eat. They decided to create a service to connect people with restaurants with leftovers at the end of the day.

The initial idea developed into a free app that allows people to buy the products that are not sold by the end of the day, products that are totally edible but would end up being thrown out. Log into the app and you’ll see all the restaurants, bakeries, hotels or supermarkets around where you are or the location you choose. You choose where you want to buy from, pay through the app and go collect your food at a designated time.

What is your business model – how do you make money off of food waste?

The app is free for everyone to use, consumers and partners. We take a percentage of every meal sold through our app.

In how many countries/cities are you already active, and what is the main target group for Too Good To Go?

Currently on the app we have over 22,000 restaurants, bakeries, hotels and supermarkets, in 11 countries in Europe. Over 2,000 cities in Europe are fighting food waste using Too Good To Go.

We’re really a service that everyone can use, which is important in order to make the impact we want to on the food waste issue. We have over 10 million people now registered on the app and they range from students, to young parents to those who are retired. Everyone can benefit!

You’re already counting over 10 million users. To what do you attribute your rapid growth?

Our growth comes from the nature of our concept: a clear win-win-win. Consumers get great food at a lower price, our partners get exposure to new consumers and make a profit on food they would have otherwise thrown out and most importantly everyone is helping the environment by fighting food waste together. It’s a simple concept and it’s smart!

In total you raised about €18 million in venture capital. What advice do you have for other social-impact-driven startups looking for funding?

I’ve personally had good experiences with raising the initial funding from private business angels. Ideally try to get yourself in front of those entrepreneurs who know the drill, can provide input and believe in your mission. It saves a lot of time in the critical first year or two. You can then add the institutional investors at a later stage.

What are your next milestones in terms of growth and international expansion? And where do you see the company in 4-5 years in terms of size and impact?

We’re focused on Europe and on making the biggest impact we can here, for now. Our target is to save 20 million meals this year. By the end of next year we want to have inspired 50 million people to take action against food waste – measured as registered users on our platform.

Your mission is ‘A world with no waste’. What else needs to be done to achieve that and in which areas do you think other tech entrepreneurs could/should innovate in order to contribute to this goal?

A world with no waste is really our vision, it’s the future we strive for everyday.

At the moment the field is very open. Waste and misuse of resources is a global problem that affects all industries. Tech solutions are playing a great role in helping companies to reduce inefficiencies and waste less, but there is still a lot to do.

In the field of food there are hundreds of tech companies creating solutions for agritech, distribution, logistics and even smart solutions for food retailers. The final consumers are also facing a lot of challenges to reduce waste at home. 52% of the food waste in Europe happens at home. Because of that, smart food solutions for kitchen management, better cooling efficiency and food preservation are key to reducing food waste.

Too Good To Go is a very international and fast-growing startup and you’re headquartered in Copenhagen. What is your experience with Copenhagen as a place to start and grow international tech companies? Have you ever considered moving the business to a bigger startup hub like London or Silicon Valley?

Copenhagen offers a good environment to develop global tech solutions. Denmark is a very open country, everybody speaks English and the tech pool is strong. On top of that, sustainability and climate change issues are very close to the hearts of the Danish population. This reality facilitates a good environment to develop global tech solutions to fight sustainability challenges at scale.

At the moment, we’re very happy with having our headquarters and our development hub in Copenhagen, as well as growing our local offices for maximum impact.