Hey, I'm Dan! I invest in startups at Madrona and write the DL, a weekly newsletter about tech in the Pacific Northwest

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How to Compete and Win

In contrast to the Haven story, here is a fantastic thread on how DoorDash came from behind to beat Seamless and UberEats in food delivery:

  • Three years after launching in NYC, DoorDash was stagnant and unprofitable (Seamless had a 17 year head start, and Uber had a 50x larger marketing budget)
  • DoorDash retreated from the city to focus on the suburbs, where they found product market fit and became profitable
  • DoorDash defined the food delivery market as a set of tradeoffs around selection/quality, price, and speed. They decided to focus on selection and quality instead of price (where Seamless was the leader) or speed (where Uber was the leader)
  • Analyzing their data, they found that as long as deliveries took less <42 minutes, there weren’t any marginal benefits to faster delivery (Uber focused on <30 min delivery), so they doubled down on quality and selection, trading off speed and price
  • In contrast to competitors who were primarily focused on the end customer, DoorDash weighed the needs of all three sides of their marketplace - merchant, dasher, and customer - equally
  • Finally, they built a great team and culture of operational excellence (My favorite part of their values is “Get 1% better every day”)


Moral of the story: Define your market, decide how you win (e.g., quality > speed and price), use data to improve your product (42 min delivery time), focus on all of your customers (not just the ones who pay), and build the right team and culture to support your strategy.


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