Gopuff Buys Time for Its 30-Minutes-or-Less Delivery Promise

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“Once you can execute, and obviously that’s hard, it wins in the long term,” he said.

Gopuff added that it was putting a public offering on the back burner because the stock market had been volatile and it had enough cash on hand. The layoffs were part of a global restructuring, it said.

Mr. Gola and Mr. Ilishayev met as students at Drexel University in Philadelphia in 2011. In their sophomore year, they founded Gopuff for college students, offering fast late-night deliveries of junk food, condoms and smoking paraphernalia. They called themselves a “one-stop puff shop,” which led to the name Gopuff. Deliveries were available until 4:20 a.m.

To set themselves apart from DoorDash and Instacart, which connect customers to restaurants and grocery stores via their apps and rely on gig workers, Mr. Gola and Mr. Ilishayev decided Gopuff would buy goods from distributors and wholesalers and have warehouses. Its warehouse workers would be full-time employees, though its delivery drivers and bike messengers would be contractors.

Mr. Gola, who dropped out of college, and Mr. Ilishayev, who graduated from Drexel with a degree in legal studies, became co-chief executives of Gobrands, Gopuff’s parent company. To fund the business, they sold used office furniture on Craigslist and eBay. They also offered discounts on orders to attract customers and charged just $2.95 for delivery.

As Gopuff gained traction beyond Drexel students, Mr. Gola and Mr. Ilishayev expanded their product offerings and set up warehouses in Boston, Washington and Austin, Texas. Starting in 2016, the company raised money from venture firms such as Anthos Capital and, later, investors including the Japanese conglomerate SoftBank.

“We saw it in the data: customers coming back multiple times every month, very strong customer retention, customers who would stick around forever, basically,” said Jett Fein, a partner at Headline, a venture capital firm that invested in Gopuff.