A Fireside Chat with goPuff
January 11, 2021
Drexel alumni and Co-Founders of goPuff, Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev Drexel class of ‘15, were able to dive deep into their entrepreneurial journey during their fireside chat with Drexel University’s host, the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, on December 3rd. They discussed the unique values instilled in them by their first-generation American backgrounds, the story behind goPuff, the challenges they faced as startup co-founders, and their goals for the company’s future.
After meeting on the first day of college in their business 101 class, Yakir and Rafael became quick friends after realizing they had a similar upbringing and shared core values. The two also came to a similar conclusion about a big void in the convenience and delivery market. They saw that convenience stores were not so convenient and on-demand delivery services were not so on-demand, so they set out to change the space and created goPuff.
The pair began as goPuff’s original delivery drivers and constantly discovered new ways to grow the business. During this time they were gathering feedback from all their customers on new products to add, and always looking out for ways to improve the business. Now, goPuff carries much more than just the college essentials, they have health products, grocery items, alcohol, and many more products. Yakir stated, “starting somewhere and then continuing to reinvent yourself is really important” to which Rafael added, “you really have to nail it before you scale it. You need to focus on something, get it right, and then scale it.” With so much knowledge of growing a business, they really stressed the importance of trying new things and believing in yourself. Starting a new business is never easy, but growing from mistakes is an essential part of the journey. As they put it, “You either win or you learn.”
At the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship, the Thought Leadership class is a valued part of the curriculum and the co-founders rely heavily on its teachings through day to day operations. The pair still interviews every potential HQ employee and has over 50 Drexel alumni working at goPuff. Yakir describes the work ethic of Drexel graduates as a mindset of “let’s outwork everybody else and work harder than everybody else.”
While COVID-19 has had a negative impact on countless businesses, goPuff saw a fortunate acceleration to its already rapid growth. The pandemic expedited the time frame in which people shifted their buying habits to online stores/services - basically accelerating goPuff’s app adoption by 2+ years. In addition to their current business model, the pandemic has added a social impact to goPuff’s operations. As Dean De Carolis pointed out, “there’s very much a social cause to what goPuff is doing now, people can’t get out of the house for a lot of reasons and goPuff is taking up the role of social entrepreneurship too”. While goPuff started as a college delivery app, COVID has transformed it into so much more than that.
goPuff helps to save local businesses and helps customers that they could not even imagine they’d reach before. While Rafael and Yakir are helping provide for local communities, they also find it very important to give back to the Drexel community and hope that their journey will inspire other young entrepreneurs to chase their dreams and start their own ventures.
“It’s all about how badly you want to do something. Do you want it more than everything else in your life? If that’s the case, then you’ll find a way."