Jonathan Weins was born and raised in the three neighbouring countries Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands. As part of his studies, Jonathan went to an exchange in Hong Kong where he started to get involved in the then very young local startup scene. Jonathan’s experience in Hong Kong allowed him to appreciate the entrepreneurial culture in this part of the world and he made the decision to leave Europe and pursue his own startup in Asia.
First, Jonathan was a founding employee of a consulting firm in Hong Kong when his thirst for entrepreneurship led him to contribute his skills to the launch of Foodpanda in Hong Kong where he was the first guy on the ground. During his time at Foodpanda, Jonathan played around with a lot of ideas and concepts and launched a few successful side projects, but being directly exposed to a huge gap in an industry, it quickly dawned on Jonathan that he had to do something to fix the problem he had discovered.
After a couple of conversations with his co-founders, they quickly decided to simply test this crazy little concept by launching Dah Makan in Malaysia!
In your own words what is Dah Makan?
In its most fundamental form, Dah Makan removes the worry in your daily life about what to eat by making it simple and affordable for you to eat healthy and delicious food without the hassle of having to cook or driving around to restaurants or supermarkets when you have a busy schedule.
How did you come up with the idea of Dah Makan?
Working very long hours in corporate environments and having a very busy lifestyle as a result of my previous jobs led to me making poor eating decisions. What you put into your body is extremely important and continually eating bad food had a profound effect on energy and health. Needing convenient food that suited my lifestyle meant that I had to settle for options such as fast food like KFC or Dominos delivery or very highly processed food like microwave meals. I personally wanted this to change and learnt that many others in similar situations felt the same way, thus Dah Makan was born!
Could you walk us through the process of starting up Dah Makan?
When establishing a new concept, it’s important to first make sure that it’s not just a crazy idea or a “nice to have” product as these are just short lived gimmicks usually. You want to make sure you’re solving a real world problem.
We started out in a small apartment using our own kitchen and public transport to deliver our earliest batch of quality meals. By meeting a lot of customers, we quickly discovered that we were solving a serious problem which many of us had faced on a daily basis. Many of them were sacrificing time, health and money on low quality meals when they had only minutes to spare each day. Our earliest customers embraced Dah Makan quickly and started to recommend us to their friends, colleagues and families and this was when we realised the potential Dah Makan had.
Did you encounter any particular difficulties during startup?
As with any startup, finding product market fit is difficult. We started out with what we thought people would expect from a healthy food delivery – initially by serving salads and raw vegan options for our customers. We realised however, that most people didn’t want to diet but wanted healthy eating to be an enjoyable part of their everyday routine. We needed diversity and an exciting menu to truly fulfil our customers needs. It took us a while to get this right, figuring out how to make the most guilt-free, affordable food which is also healthy so you want to want to eat it at least twice a day. Our great feedback so far suggests we’ve cracked that code!
How have you been developing Dah Makan since startup?
Since the very beginning, we were very keen to adopt and integrate a lot of new tech into our current model. The crossroad of technology and food delivery has so far, remained rather untouched and we have been combining new and innovative advances in tech as much as possible to improve our product and the overall customer experience. This is the main direction we want to follow in order to bring something new and valuable to the market and makes us stand out from our competitors.
What kind of feedback did you get for Dah Makan so far?
We had some amazing stories about customers on their Dah Makan journey. Numerous people have told us how much we’ve simplified their days by removing the burden of cooking tasty and affordable food after a long day, working mothers and busy couples who can now enjoy more time with their family. One of the best stories we have heard of is how we’ve helped someone lose 12 kg in just 5 weeks. These stories help motivate us and reinforce our belief that we are making people happy (and healthy!)
Do you face a lot of competition in this industry?
In all honesty we don’t spend too much time analysing and comparing our strategies to others in the same industry. We believe in providing the best experience for our customers through refining their experiences and that’s what we do.
Have you developed any industry insights that you could share?
The F&B industry is fast moving and challenging and customers are quite savvy. In order to make them happy you have to work hard at continuously delighting them. One thing that was surprising to find out however is how little the industry has changed with the increased implementation of technology. Tech has made our lives easier in so many areas but food is not one of them! This is something we want to leverage one.
How do you plan to stay relevant in this industry?
We are first and foremost a tech startup, we have this emphasis of tech in our DNA as a company, we believe that the utilisation of technology can greatly change food delivery by making it convenient and affordable. There are many concepts which have not yet been widely spread in F&B, the use of Big Data, AI (Artificial Intelligence) and Machine Learning. The use of these boundary pushing fields is what will keep us ahead and allow us to continually innovate and provide for our customers which is our main goal.
Were there anything that disappointed you initially?
The lifespan of businesses within the F&B industry is something which surprised me here. It was very similar to the fashion industry whereby brands pop up and disappear within a few years of opening despite initial hype and traction. However, I wouldn’t say that I was disappointed by this as all it means is a new positive challenge to keep innovating in order to stay ahead of the curve..
What do you think about being an entrepreneur in Asia?
It has both its advantages and disadvantages. I think people in South East Asia are willing and open to embrace new brands and concepts so it is very easy to create an initial hype for your product. However, because there are so many available options, this means that to build a successful brand in the longer term, is a much tougher challenge.
The environment for startups here, especially in Malaysia, is very open, which means people are willing to collaborate and partner together to make a difference. One major difficulty however is if you start without any local network as I did, as it limits your reach greatly, however, luckily my co-founders’ personal network solved this quickly.
What is your definition of success?
My definition is simple, if you’re challenging the status quo and your product, idea or concept solves a problem for an individual or a group of people and you have achieved your goals you set out to solve while maintaining true to your personal ethics, you’ve succeeded.
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur?
Entrepreneurship is about creating a solution that improves people’s life and in this way defines the future we live in. I’ve always been very excited about both aspects.
In your opinion, what are the keys to entrepreneurial success?
“Don’t give up”, it sounds like a cliche, but it’s very true.
For those who haven’t started yet and have a small idea and a spark: start small, start today.
For those who have launched already: Remember that learning and building is a lifelong journey, it’s not about the destination so much as enjoying the trip along the way.