Claude Ritter: “At Lieferheld, it was just a crazy couple of years in the beginning. I literally did not go home for like 10 days in a row. I just went to H&M and bought some new t-shirts and boxers and was just changing clothes like that. We were just working all the time. And I believe it was fairly similar at Lieferando. Both teams had sort of an insane level of wanting-to-win and competitiveness. And, obviously the competition between the two teams further fostered and accelerated the success.”
From Founding in China Twice to Starting Lieferheld and BOOK A TIGER
Claude Ritter is one of Germany’s online entrepreneurs who can be labelled as to have been quite successful in his career so far. He co-founded online food delivery service Lieferheld in 2010, which was later sold to the widely known Delivery Hero Group. After the acquisition, Claude served as CPO and was in charge of global product and engineering at Delivery Hero. Law suits, police raids and almost getting into fist fights with his rivals at other Berlin-based food delivery startups were part of the experience of digitalizing the food delivery market in the early 2010’s – having him go through extremely tough times and fierce competition while trying to make it as a founder. Prior to his work in the online food delivery market, he had been active as entrepreneur before though – he started Aionics (a Swiss-based web agency) and co-founded two companies (The NetCircle, DUQI) in China where he lived for 5 years.
In 2014, Claude started his latest venture: As co-founder & CPO of Book A Tiger, he is now working on digitalizing the cleaning service market. Again being in a competitive situation with another Berlin-based startup (Helpling), BOOK A TIGER offers a modern alternative to traditional cleaning services. With its online platform, it makes household cleaning accessible and affordable to everybody. The startup connects customers with reliable cleaners. Like this, BOOK A TIGER is reducing illicit work within the industry and is giving its client the benefit of having more available free time.
In this regard, the company did an interesting pivot in 2016: A first only connecting its clients with freelance cleaners, BOOK A TIGER started to employ its cleaners directly and to focus more on its B2B activities. This turned out to be a smart decision leading to some impressive success: The startup raised a double-digit financing round in early 2017 (by now 20m€ have been invested into BOOK A TIGER) and the B2B business grew by 1,600% from starting the pivot to the point of the financing round. The customer retention rate improved by the factor of 2,5x. About 1,000 employees work for the startup by now.
Besides his main work on BOOK A TIGER, Claude is also a Partner at Cavalry Ventures, a Berlin based (pre-)seed fund, and invests into early-stage startups as a business angel.
Claude Ritter on Startup Notes
In this episode, we discuss Claude’s journey and his learnings as an entrepreneur so far, how to start a startup and his work on Book A Tiger. During our very insightful conversation, Claude gives advice for aspiring founders, answers some of our listeners’ questions, talks about mistakes and also describes his criteria for investing into early-stage startups as a business angel.
Out of the many points discussed with Claude in this regard, there are a few that stand out. Besides the exciting ‘behind the scenes’ stories that he shared with us about the intense competition between Lieferheld and Lieferando from the early 2010’s, he explained in detail what matters to him when considering an investment into a startup as a business angel/VC. According to Claude, the assessment of an investment opportunity especially comes down to the personal fit between founders and investors. As he states in our conversation, in this regard also the little things matter – like being on time for a coffee meeting or pitch and being attentive and not replying to emails while in a discussion. But of course any investment opportunity must also be backed up by a business idea that makes sense. As he explains, this could either be by a company solving a specific problem that people have or by developing a technology that is simply ‘amazing’. The best way to get in touch with Claude for pitching a startup is definitely via personal introduction. As he describes in our episode, he e.g. does not accept any invitations on LinkedIn by people that he does not know or has not gotten an intro to.
Here is the full list of topics that we cover with serial entrepreneur and angel investor Claude Ritter:
[01:20 – 03:33] Claude’s background and the steps of his career as an entrepreneur so far
[03:34 – 04:10] Why he disagrees that you can learn to be a founder
[04:11 – 06:19] On the fierce competition in the online food delivery market in Germany in the early 2010’s
[06:20 – 07:19] What made Lieferheld and Lieferando both a success after all
[07:20 – 08:14] How the competition in digitalizing the moving services industry today is only a somewhat similar situation
[08:15 – 09:39 ] On the key moments and actions that defined Lieferheld’s successful journey
[09:40 – 11:57] The difference between BOOK A TIGER and its competitor Helpling
[11:58 – 12:45] The competitive advantage that BOOK A TIGER has by employing their cleaners directly
[12:46 – 14:45] What Claude would do differently if he started over with a new company again
[14:46 – 16:49] Claude’s advice on how to choose your first job in the startup industry [Listener Question]
[16:50 – 18:02] Why he would not want to work in the FinTech industry
[18:03 – 20:08] How business school graduates should get started if they want to found a company
[20:09 – 22:45] How to identify promising markets and business models
[22:46 – 23:21] The most common mistake that young founders make over and over again
[23:22 – 25:21] How founders can ‘wow’ Claude as an investor during a pitch
[25:22 – 27:08] The best way to get in touch with Claude for pitching your idea to him
[27:09 – 29:26] His advice on when to best contact potential buyers for exiting your company [Listener Question]
[29:27 – 30:33] Claude’s most successful investment to date [Listener Question]
[30:34 – 32:29] The most important advice he can give to aspiring founders
[32:30 – 34:41] Open job positions at BOOK A TIGER
Podcast Host: Emil
If you are interested in hearing more about the fierce competition between Lieferheld (Delivery Hero) and Lieferando that Claude Ritter described, make sure to also listen to our episode with Christoph Gerber (CEO of Talon.One) who co-founded Lieferando and described his journey (including the 62.9m€ exit toTakeaway.com), learnings and how to stay humble and hungry a as founder after an exit in our conversation.
For learning more about BOOK A TIGER’s competitor Helpling, tune in to our episode with one of its founders — Rocket Internet alumnus Benedikt Franke who we talked to about his learnings as an entrepreneur that led to entering the online cleaning services market.
Lastly, if you would like to learn more about the work of an investor, the virtues of outstanding entrepreneurs and the status of digitization in Germany, check out our episode with VC Christian Miele who is a partner at e.ventures.
Subscribe and listen to our Startup Notes episodes also on iTunes. If you do, make sure to also drop us some feedback and a rating! Thank you for listening and being part of the Startup Notes community.