Haider Al-Mosawi Haider Al-Mosawi

Many startup founders worry about how they will market their app, even before their app is built.

But garnering a lot of attention doesn't spell out startup success, because great marketing alone doesn't guarantee that users will continue to use the app. Startup founders must, first, ensure that they're addressing a genuine need and, second, that their product is of high quality, to avoid frustration and encourage user retention.

Carriage, a new food-delivery startup in Kuwait, has taken Kuwait by storm. Not because of huge marketing efforts (although their marketing does help), but because they're addressing a genuine need with a great product. And that gets people talking and recommending it to others.

I sat with Abdullah Al-Mutawa, cofounder and CEO of Carriage, to find out more about the company, how it started, and what makes it special.

Abdullah Al-Mutawa, cofounder and CEO of Carriage. Abdullah Al-Mutawa, cofounder and CEO of Carriage.

The courage behind carriage

Only last year in 2015, Abdullah had no intention of starting a tech venture. He owned a restaurant called The Stack and wanted to see his restaurant succeed.

Talabat, the giant food-ordering platform, was an important sales channel for him to be on, and so he wanted to register his restaurant in it. During the registration process, Abdullah discovered that Talabat is an ordering interface, and that restaurants must handle delivery themselves.

When he asked for the reason, Talabat's response was: "It's a logistics nightmare for Talabat to handle delivery." Abdullah found the answer puzzling, and the nightmare seemed more like an opportunity to pursue than an obstacle to avoid, no matter how daunting the challenge.

Diligence before delivery

Abdullah decided to fully understand the delivery space before diving in. He diligently researched food-delivery companies in other countries, dissecting their business models and cost structures before deciding to create Carriage. "We didn't reinvent the wheel," Abdullah told me. "We just brought the wheel to Kuwait."

And what about competing with Talabat, one of the biggest startups in the MENA region?

"I don't see myself as a competitor of Talabat. I'm competing with the vendors of Talabat. We have a completely different business model," Abdullah said.

The deep dive

The early days of Carriage were tough. Abdullah and his cofounders had to work 16-hour days, handling everything from interviewing drivers, to filing paperwork, to finding office space, to instituting company policies.

"Don't be ashamed of the type of work you have to do," Abdullah said.

Caring about customers

Carriage is fueled by a vision: "What drives us is customer satisfaction, and we want to place Kuwait on the map in the tech scene."

"Customer satisfaction" came up quite often in our brief conversation, and this value is reflected in Carriage's attitude towards improvement. Abdullah had to interview a lot of restaurants to better understand their needs and ensure they're happy with the platform he's building, while also listening attentively to customer feedback after using the app.

"We don't see ourselves the be all and end all. We're open to opinions and suggestions." Carriage is working tirelessly to ensure that delivery times are as low as they can be by harnessing machine learning to delegate jobs to drivers based on their location and delivery route.

"When people try Carriage they get hooked on it for two main reasons: A seamless experience and transparency."

The transparency Abdullah was referring to is the fact that you can track your order on the app to know exactly where it is and how far it will take to arrive at your door. There are many more updates and improvements to come: "The great thing about being a startup is that we're a speed boat that can maneuver easily," Abdullah told me.

The story continues...

To find out more about Carriage, the team behind it, the funding it raised, and other details not covered in this article, be sure to register for this month's Startup Grind event taking place in Sirdab Lab tonight (Monday 5 September) at 7pm.

To register for the event, visit the following page: sirdab-lab.com/startupgrind

To discover for yourself what the buzz is about, download Carriage from the App Store or Play Store and try it for yourself. Visittrycarriage.com for more info, or follow them on @trycarriage to see what restaurants are being added to their platform.

Do you have an idea in mind for a startup? Sign up to the Sirdab Lab newsletter for tips and guidance at: sirdab-lab.com/newsletter

By Haider Al Mosawi