Just Eat Takeaway takes away chairman, investigates COO, weighs Grubhub sale as meal delivery cools down

The food delivery business, and tech companies leading the charge, were hot commodities at the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic as people stayed indoors and turned to apps to fill their bellies with pre-made meals. Now with that trend cooling off, those companies are feeling the chill.

In the latest development, big changes and drama continue to buffet Just Eat Takeaway, one of its big players in the global food delivery business. The company today said that its chairman, Adriaan Nühn, is leaving the company effective today as the company pushes to refocus itself; and that its COO, Jörg Gerbig, has also stepped away from his role on the management board because he is being investigated for inappropriate behavior — in the company’s words, “possible personal misconduct.”

Just Eat Takeaway also confirmed to TechCrunch that it is still exploring divestment options for Grubhub, the U.S. business it paid $7.3 billion to acquire less than a year ago, in June 2021.

“In April we confirmed that management is currently, together with its advisers, actively exploring the introduction of a strategic partnership and/or the sale of Grubhub, in whole or in part,” a spokesperson today told TechCrunch. “The process is ongoing and further announcements will be made as and when appropriate. There can be no certainty that any such strategic actions will be agreed or what the timing of such agreements will be.”

Just Eat Takeaway announced the two executive changes just ahead of its annual general meeting, where both had been scheduled to be reappointed to their roles.

While the two executive announcements are unrelated to each other, together they contribute to a picture of a company facing a wide set of challenges at the moment.

Partly because the business is under pressure, Just Eat Takeaway was clear to spell out that Gerbig’s investigation was “not related to financial or reporting obligations” but the result of a confidential complaint through the company’s Speak Up program where employees can report misconduct allegations.

Nühn’s departure is, however, directly related to the changing tides of the business and shareholder dissatisfaction with how it’s being managed.

“The Chairman’s decision to stand down recognises the concerns raised by our shareholders,” it said in a statement. “Their strong support is important to ensure the Company can focus on the challenges and opportunities ahead. We understand and share the concerns that have been raised by our shareholders. We are working hard to address them with proposed actions that management is confident will position Just Eat Takeaway.com for continued success going forward.”

The bigger picture for Just Eat Takeaway is that demand in the food delivery business has been wilting, and the rush of startups that raised hundreds of millions of dollars to build their businesses around it, went public on the back of early growth, and then danced when business boomed during the pandemic, are all now feeling the pain.

Just Eat Takeaway is listed on the Amsterdam stock exchange, and its share price has been dropping over the last six months: at the moment it is around €25/share, close to the lower end of its 52-week range (which is €23.59 – 83.56), and well below the company’s price when it originally listed. That pressure had already prompted CEO Jitse Groen last month to disclose that the company was eyeing up a plan to either partly divest or entirely sell off its Grubhub business in the U.S.

It is not the only company seeing cooling demand. Transportation giant Uber, which owns Uber Eats, this morning reported its Q1 earnings, where it said that its mobility business (e-hailing of cars and its other ride-based operations) just pipped its delivery business (which includes Uber Eats), at $2.52 billion versus $2.51 billion respectively.

Gross bookings for delivery at Uber are still exceeding those of mobility, at $13.9 billion versus $10.7 billion respectively, but the growth of the segments tells a different story. Mobility’s bookings were up 58% over a year ago as more people get comfortable again with less social distancing; while delivery was up only 12%.

Just Eat Takeaway and Uber Eats are not alone. DoorDash is due to report its quarterly earnings tomorrow, and those will be coming at a time when it’s also seeing lukewarm interest in its stock. DoorDash too has been trading down over the last six months, and its share price as of this writing, at just under $80/share, is also at the low end of its 52-week range ($74.32 – 257.25).

And the picture seems just as challenging in Europe. Deliveroo, which went public in London just over a year ago, is also trading down, and is currently at just over £107/share, also at the low end of its 52-week range (£99.04 – 396.80). Its Q1 earnings, posted in April, showed gross transaction value that, like Uber Eats, grew 12% — a very far cry from the 133% growth in the same period a year ago.

For Just Eat Takeaway, the executive departures and the news of the Grubhub sale are also a stark contrast compared to the heyday of Covid-19 business. Two years ago — in the midst of the Covid-19 pandemic — the company quietly negotiated to buy Grubhub from under the nose of Uber, which itself was also looking to acquire Grubhub as part of a bigger economy of scale play. Uber later picked up Postmates for significantly less money, $2.65 billion all in stock, to fill out its consolidation ambitions.

Now, who knows what the coming months will now bring for any of them in terms of consumer demand, whether they will follow through on their promise of making everything more efficient through tech, and, because they are all publicly listed, whether investors keep an appetite as they work through these things.

Meta wants to sell you the metaverse in its first brick-and-mortar store

The company formerly known as Facebook is about to have an IRL shop.

Meta will open the doors to the Meta Store (almost typed the Meat Store, that’s a very different store — really sort of the opposite) on May 9. The company’s debut shopping experience will be located on the Meta Burlingame campus, home of its Metaverse-focused Reality Labs division, and will be open Monday through Friday.

Ray Ban Stories in Meta Store

Meta Store

Customers can try out Meta’s various hardware at the store, including the Portal, Meta Quest 2 and Meta’s less feature-rich reimagining of Google Glass, Ray-Ban Stories. While Meta will sell the first two directly in-store, you’ll still have to order the smart glasses through Ray-Ban via a salesperson. The company is also revamping Meta.com with a new tab for shopping online so you don’t have to leave your house for a full-featured brand experience.

As far as the Quest 2, Meta’s VR hardware previously sold under its since-retired Oculus brand, customers can try out a decent selection of games including rhythm game Beat Saber, VR fitness title Supernatural, GOLF+ and Real VR Fishing, for the virtual dad market segment.

Mark Zuckerberg pretty much let the cat out of the bag on this one last week in an Instagram post depicting him doing VR much like anyone might, in a futuristic Apple-like retail environment with a huge wraparound screen and Nikes, like any person might wear. The company has apparently been interested in retail stores since at least 2020 according to a report from The New York Times, which accurately detailed many of the forthcoming store’s specifics late last year.

But, isn’t this the metaverse, one might ask? The mostly theoretical web of virtual identities connecting us to digital retail experiences, and in turn ourselves and one another? Well, you can’t very well sell people stuff in the metaverse without getting people into the metaverse, so Meta has every reason to get its VR hardware in particular out into as many hands as possible. In that sense, it’s sort of surprising that Meta/Facebook didn’t already have a brick-and-mortar store. Now it does, though.


Masters, an app for training with celeb athletes, closes a $2.7M Seed funding round

It’s now 2022 and there are many, many apps out there that allow you to do cardio or build muscle by taking classes inside smartphone apps. We are all familiar with the success of platforms like Peloton (IPO’d), but there are of course new upstarts such as FiiT (raised £9M) or Fitplan (raised $9.9M). Plus there is Moxie, where coaches creator their own courses. What has not quite been cracked yet is the celebrity fitness class. Masterclass has largely cornered the market in the higher-arts, but celebrity fitness is a relatively undiscovered country. Yes, of course, there have been individual celebrities who’d made their own fitness app – but these have limited appeal and amount to a side-hustle for the celeb.

Now a new startup – in beta since 2021 – hopes to become that platform where elite athletes can train mere mortals such as myself.

Masters (see what they did there?) is an app that lets users train with some of the world’s most famous athletes and learn the tricks of their trade via 4-week-long, guided, on-demand, training programs.

The startup has now closed a $2.7M Seed funding round led by Sweet Capital (the King.com founders fund) with participation from Mucker Capital, Goodwater Capital and Luxor Capital. In addition, a number of athletes also threw in some angel cash including Shaun White, Bam Adebayo, Kai Lenny and A’ja Wilson and professional tech angel investors including Anton Gauffin, Jakob Joenck, Henrik Kraft, Greg Tseng, Prerna Gupta, Hank Vigil, Janis Zech and Andreas Mihalovits.

The company has signed-up world-famous athletes such as X Games & 3x Olympic snowboarding champion, Shaun White; World & 9x US champion in 3,000 meter steeplechase, Emma Coburn; Surfing world champion, Kai Lenny; Soccer superstar and Golden Ball winner, Ada Hegerberg; and 2x Wimbledon tennis champion, Petra Kvitova – among many others.

Greg Drach, CEO and co-founder of Masters said: “The future of learning is ‘learning from the best,’ and in that same vein the future of training is training with the best. If ten people can go to an in-person group exercise class led by a very good trainer, then why can’t 1,000 people, or 10,000 people take a virtual class led by an Olympic champion or NBA legend?… Our goal is to translate those winning methods into actionable programs that anyone can adopt.”

Masters app

Masters app

Masters is live now as an iOS app, with each course being cohort-based, meaning that those participating are doing so alongside peers who are on the same journey. Each course is presented in high-quality video.

The startup was founded in 2021 by Greg Drach and Christian Dorffer – the founders of Midnight Runners, an urban running communities, along with Daniel Taschik, the former CTO/co-founder of Dubsmash, the video-sharing app which was acquired by Reddit in 2020 and shut down by same last year.

Riccardo Zacconi of Sweet Capital commented: “I always wanted to know what the best professional athletes do to reach the top. Like, what do they actually do when they go to the gym? Masters has managed to distill their routines into tangible programs that anyone can do, and they’ve struck a powerful chord with a lot of people.”

Capital from this round of funding will be deployed by Masters to sign new athletes, launch the Android app and improve the product.

Dorffer told me: “People love to follow their sports idols on TV, social media, print and audiobooks… Masters represents a brand new publishing format, we call it ‘interactive training documentaries’. We believe this premium educational format is the future and that traditional lean-back video formats will struggle to compete.”