GrubHub, from the beginning

  • GrubHub co-founders Mike Evans (left) and Matt Maloney (Chicago Tribune file photo)
GrubHub co-founders Mike Evans (left) and Matt Maloney (Chicago Tribune…
February 21, 2012|By Mick Swasko, RedEye

Mike Evans was all in when he started GrubHub.

The 34-year-old co-founder of the online food order and delivery site quit his job when co-founder and current CEO Matt Maloney, 36, signed the first restaurant on to use GrubHub's site to take orders. With no money or funding for his operation in March 2004, Evans said he spent most of his time in restaurants persuading them to join the growing GrubHub network of Chicago eateries, and unlike what some starving startups encounter, the experience kept him fed.

"I knew I only had a few months to get it to work before I couldn't handle the personal strain of finances," he said. "I didn't really have to worry about going hungry because I was signing up restaurants. They kept feeding me."

And though many startups spend time living meagerly, Evans said he was making a comfortable living in a few months after GrubHub launched through a combination of little sleep and eager clients who signed up for the service. It wasn't without sweat equity, however. He rode his bike to sell the idea to many of the restaurants that adopted the site in its early stages, doing programming at night from an extra bedroom in his Andersonville apartment.

"I think that the important thing is having an idea that I believed in, something I went for and just jumped for," he said.

Fast-forward to 2012, when Evans is the chief operating officer of a site that has raised more than $50 million and is serving up delivery and pickup service to more than 75 cities. Despite the success, Evans said little about his life has changed, even as GrubHub approaches its eighth birthday.

"My lifestyle is really similar," he said, quipping that after getting home from a recent business trip, he ordered chicken wings using his own site. Even from the beginning, he said he knew his idea would be a hit.

"That's a common attribute of entrepreneurs: Most of them are very good at deluding themselves and thinking [their idea] is going to be the next big thing," he said. "That turned out to be true for me."

mswasko@tribune.com | @mickswasko

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