From pitch to production — the Grubhub iMessage app

Posted by Rea Bhasin & Chris Manahan on

It all started with a little competition

Every year, Grubhub runs an internal pitch competition that allows anyone in the company to present ideas to a panel of judges.The teams with winning ideas get prizes, including stock grants — but most importantly, our ideas become real products. Having recently attended Google I/O and WWDC developer conferences, we thought this competition was the perfect opportunity for us to pitch ways to use the latest technologies we were exposed to. We brainstormed various ideas to help improve our platforms and overall diner experience. We came up with 20 ideas overall and eventually submitted our top 5 ideas for consideration.

Round 1 — the idea

After a few weeks of anticipation and hundreds of submissions from across the company, the top 18 ideas were selected for Round 1. Among the top 18, one of our ideas was selected — building an iMessage app. Apple announced the launch of the iMessage app store in June 2016, just weeks before we submitted our initial idea. Since the iMessage app store would not officially open until October 2016, launching an iMessage app would ensure Grubhub had one of the first apps in the iMessage app store. This would benefit us by increasing our exposure to new users while positioning Grubhub as an innovation thought leader.

Round 2 — putting it all together

As engineers, we were quick to start building a proof of concept of the iMessage app. However, we soon realized that for Round 2 we needed to build a business pitch explaining how our idea could potentially benefit the company financially — a demo alone would not offer this information. A business pitch needs to contain a few key components, including a description of the business opportunity and a high-level cost/benefit analysis. Under the guidance of our CTO, we quickly pivoted and started reaching out to our Grubhub teammates in Product, Marketing, and Finance to help us gather data, justify our idea, and forecast potential gains from implementing an iMessage app.

Final round — the pitch

After a few more weeks of anticipation, we discovered that our idea made it to the final round. At this point, the top 5 teams get ten minutes to pitch their ideas directly to the panel of judges and to the entire company. As part of the process, we got feedback directly from the CEO on how we could improve our pitch. We also spent the last few weeks of the competition refining and rehearsing our pitch with different groups of coworkers to get additional feedback.

Our results & beyond

The winning business pitch is selected by a combination vote — the judges’ consideration counts for part of the final score, and popular vote among the entire company counts for the rest. Ultimately, we placed second in the competition, which was exciting. Once we discovered that we won second place, we set a new goal for ourselves — building and releasing an iMessage app within the first quarter of 2017. In order for us to successfully do this, we needed to define a feasible MVP (minimum viable product) that we could complete and ship. We ultimately chose to build an iMessage app that allows users to purchase Grubhub and Seamless gift cards. Today, the Gift Card iMessage app is live for both Grubhub and Seamless users and has already increased our gift card sales.

Explore the Gift Card iMessage app

Loading the Grubhub Gift Card iMessage app within a conversation is simple and quick:

You can purchase a gift card for a friend and notify him or her — all without leaving your conversation:

Final thoughts

A major goal of the yearly competition is giving everyone opportunities to think big when solving customer problems — and we are encouraged to apply that thinking to the marketplace, launching products that delight our customers. In the process of competing last year, we learned a lot about various aspects of the business. In fact, the competition motivated us to continue pursuing innovative ideas that have a significant impact on Grubhub’s business.

Getting opportunities to stretch our problem-solving skills and deliver unique products our customers use every day are two of the most exciting aspects of working as engineers at Grubhub. We enjoyed pursuing such goals in last year’s competition so much that we entered the competition again this year. So far, we have made it to Round 2. Because we’re now familiar with the required steps, we are much more prepared and focused on what we need to do to create our business pitch. We hope to make it to the final round and win first place this year. Wish us luck!

The winners will be announced Oct. 4, 2017!