DoorDash’s Andy Fang on international expansion and lasting post-pandemic delivery behaviors

DoorDash co-founder & CTO Andy Fang

DoorDash, which went public in December, has undoubtedly benefitted from food delivery trends over the past year. The company’s stock began trading at $182 per share on Dec. 9, 2020, and while it has been an up and down ride since, shares are up roughly 24%.

Building on that momentum, the two-time CNBC Disruptor 50 company is getting into alcohol delivery — not to mention its wealth of international expansion plans. At the heart of those plans is co-founder and CTO Andy Fang, who leads the engineering team, and is responsible for the overall product vision, technology roadmap and architectural direction of the DoorDash platform. Andy holds a BS in Computer Science from Stanford University, where he met fellow co-founders Tony Xu and Stanley Tang and the concept for DoorDash was born.

CNBC recently spoke with Fang, who says grocery, convenience, alcohol, flowers and gifts are becoming paramount to the company’s platform offerings, while international opportunity abounds.

The following Q&A has been edited for length and clarity.

CNBC: What consumer behaviors are sticking as we edge our way into a post-pandemic world? Are people ordering in more than they were pre-pandemic?

Fang: Yes, there are more consumers using DoorDash than ever, ordering delivery more than they were before Covid-19 – but notably, they are continuing to order at higher rates, even in the face of reopenings. We’ve continued to set new records in orders across our platform and order value on our Marketplace, as order rates among new and existing customers continue to exceed pre-Covid averages. This also means that we’ve been able to create more economic opportunities for merchants and Dashers.

We know that consumer behavior is sticky, with recent studies showing that a majority of consumers plan to continue getting food delivered from restaurants as much as they have, or even more, when the pandemic does subside. Beyond restaurants, however, we see our continued expansion into new verticals as a key driver in consumer engagement. Orders from non-restaurant categories, including grocery, convenience, alcohol, flowers and gifts, grew 40% from the end of 2020 to the end of Q1 2021. Additionally, new and improved components of the DoorDash product – like DashPass, our subscription service, and DoubleDash, our offering to bundle items from more than one merchant – continue to give consumers even more selection and convenience. 

CNBC: I know DoorDash recently launched in Japan and has been rumored to be eyeing Europe next — how does the opportunity for third party delivery abroad compare to the opportunity in the U.S.?

Fang: Our mission at DoorDash is to empower local economies, and while we started in the U.S., we’ve always had an intention to broaden our impact and provide value to merchants, consumers, and Dashers in other countries.

Internationally, just like in the U.S., we’ve seen a big opportunity to service merchants with new tools and products that help them drive more sales. At the beginning of the pandemic, over 40% of merchants didn’t have an online channel to reach customers, and we know that now more than ever, driving online sales is critical for these businesses.

From creating an online store for direct ordering, pickup and delivery, to powering white-label delivery fulfillment, we know that by introducing more merchants to the services we offer, we can support how they do business and help enrich neighborhoods all over the world. The opportunity before us is vast, and as we dive deep into the unique needs of each new country we enter, we continue to be excited by the impact we can make for our stakeholders there.

CNBC: Can you tell me more about the early DoorDash days? Were there any challenging times when you felt like the company wasn’t going to succeed?

Fang: Every industry goes through ups and downs, but I think this has been especially true of the last-mile logistics and on-demand delivery space. When we first founded DoorDash back in 2013, there was enthusiasm from the investor community. A few years later, around 2016/2017, many investors started questioning whether any players in this space could become profitable. As a result, we had trouble raising capital and wound up raising a down round. Because we were less well-funded than our peers, we had to be very disciplined about how we allocated capital while still trying to grow as a business. Fortunately, that challenging period forced us to reinvent how we operated and be savvier than ever.

Many of the leaders at DoorDash today were with the company during that time, and maintain the same pragmatic determination that got us through then. Experiencing those lows made us a sharper and scrappier team. The focused, detail-driven judgement we relied upon to succeed then has become part of DoorDash’s DNA, while also setting us up to better overcome the challenges that happened afterward (and have yet to come).

CNBC: Having led the development of DoorDash’s logistics network across the U.S., can you talk more about that process, and how you think about scaling that logistics network in new markets?

Fang: Building the DoorDash logistics network was an expansive effort, and is an ongoing effort across our company today. On one hand, it’s really an exercise in capturing all the details you can about the physical world – Where are the open parking spaces on Main Street? How long does it take to cook a pizza? How long will a pint of ice cream stay cold? – while also balancing the dynamics of a three-sided marketplace.

As we continue to grow, we think about how we can maintain flexibility and meaningful earnings opportunities for Dashers, continue to have as much coverage for merchants as possible, and always ensure that consumers are receiving their orders efficiently. Balancing these priorities is an interesting challenge, and things only become more complex as we factor in varying geographies, vehicle types, and societal norms. The logistical considerations for a dense urban city like Chicago or New York are different from those of a suburban area like Palo Alto, Calif., where we started. And in Japan, where a majority of Dashers complete deliveries by bike, vs. in a car, we may suggest different delivery routes, or offer different bags for carrying goods to their final destination.

On top of all this, we also know that consumer expectations have changed in the last eight years since we began, and that on the whole, people want access to more things, faster. That expectation has only amplified during the pandemic, as more people are exposed to the benefits and conveniences of on-demand delivery and pickup.

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