(Bloomberg) — The former chief executive officer of Just Eat is putting his own money into one of Egypt’s main food-delivery apps, looking to tap growth in the nation of over 100 million people where practically everything can be ordered by a phone call.
David Buttress, who led the London-based company from 2013 to 2017 before its merger with Takeaway.com, said he’s investing a “relatively significant” sum in elmenus, the Egyptian app, and joining the board. The service with more than 1.5 million monthly users in the North African country has benefited like many of its peers worldwide from a surge in food orders as Covid-19 keeps people home.
“The Egyptian market is big and has a lot of potential to expand” as more customers switch from calling eateries directly to using apps, Buttress, now a venture partner at venture capital firm 83North Ltd., said in a video interview.
Elmenus, which has about 20% of the market, saw revenue triple last year as the pandemic spurred more restaurants to outsource deliveries, he said. It targets tenfold growth in 2021. The Middle East and North Africa’s online food delivery market was worth more than $3 billion in 2020 with some 22.7 million users, according to data cited by elmenus.
Buttress’s elmenus investment, the size of which he wouldn’t disclose, is his first in the region, which he describes as a “maturing market” for food-oriented tech firms. “There is still a lot of growth to achieve there,” he said, singling out Turkey as “super-exciting.” Sub-Saharan Africa also has investment potential, he said, adding that he’d looked at Kenya and Nigeria.
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Egypt, where people can make a phone call to procure a single cup of coffee, a banquet or even a blood test, has obvious appeal for delivery apps. Just 6% of the country’s food orders are currently made online, Buttress said. All the same, foreign brands have struggled, with Uber Eats and Glovo both pulling out last year.
The local roots and knowledge of elmenus, which began about a decade ago as an online directory and added deliveries in 2018, may be key to its success, according to Buttress, who has previously invested in Brazil, North America and Western Europe.
In the coming months, the company plans to seek other investors, including from overseas, while adding more restaurants and recruiting 4,000 new drivers.
Egypt’s market has “real depth,” said Buttress. “They have big cities and a large consumer base and are becoming more and more digital.”
(Updates with estimated value of Mideast food delivery market in fourth paragraph)
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