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Business is great for EMBA participant and entrepreneur Timo Schmidt

29 October 2014

The article at a glance

Gousto co-founder, Timo Schmidt, continues to achieve recognition and gain funding as he embarks on the EMBA programme to build on his …

Gousto co-founder, Timo Schmidt, continues to achieve recognition and gain funding as he embarks on the EMBA programme to build on his business success.

GoustoAs a poster boy for the Government’s “Business is Great” campaign, Cambridge Executive MBA (EMBA) participant Timo Schmidt is becoming a familiar face on billboards around the UK. Gousto, the company he co-founded, is featured as an entrepreneurial success story – and thanks to £5 million of new funding, it’s set to enjoy an even more generous portion of the lucrative online food market.

Timo founded Gousto with James Carter in 2012 to help busy professionals prepare delicious, healthy meals in their own homes. Customers can choose online from a range of recipes, which are then delivered to the doorstep with all the fresh organic ingredients in their correct quantities. At £4 per meal and with nationwide coverage, Gousto has demonstrated wide appeal, having grown by more than 1,000 per cent last year.

Timo Schmidt and James Carter
Timo Schmidt and James Carter

After appearing on the BBC’s Dragons’ Den in August 2013, Timo and James raised three rounds of venture and angel funding totalling more than £1.4 million. In September 2014, the company announced the latest £5 million round, led by Unilever Ventures and existing investor MMC Ventures.

Timo, Gousto’s CEO, says: “If we were in the game of building a small, profitable niche business then I don’t think we would have raised money from Unilever. But I really think that this business can have mass-market appeal, and that we’ll have a huge opportunity over the next 10 to 30 years. Online will account for 40 per cent of the grocery market by 2025. It’s an £100 billion opportunity and we are in the pole position to build a sustainable business and a household name.”

With the company becoming a big player in this sector, Timo decided to invest in an MBA. He says: “Gousto now is at the stage where we’ve got almost 100 hugely talented and driven people in the team, so I actually have to be a grown-up CEO. I have to think about vision, strategy, organisation and values, and how to get everyone energised, buying into the vision and so on.”

So the idea behind doing the MBA is to invest into Gousto’s future, and in my ability to lead, motivate and train people to build a long-term successful business. Did I need to get an MBA? No – but I’m a learnaholic and want to lead by example, and I strongly believe that you need to get better and better all the time.

He chose the Executive MBA at Cambridge Judge Business School for two principal reasons. The course structure suited his lifestyle, with tuition delivered over 16 weekends and four week-long sessions. This has permitted him to “keep on working 100-hour weeks on building Gousto without too much disruption”.

Timo also discovered that the programme attracted an unusually varied cohort, with a wide range of backgrounds represented. He says: “I didn’t want to surround myself only with people who have done finance all their lives; I used to be a VP in a hedge fund myself, after years of investment banking.”

I looked at the Cambridge class and it was a lot more diverse, which I particularly found appealing. And everyone is hugely driven and passionate, having had on average 14 years of management experience.

Being able to tap into this fund of business knowledge is something that has already had an impact on Gousto. “My colleagues and I often manage to sit down for one-on-one sessions over a beer, discussing their problems and mine,” he says. “They have some fantastic ideas for my business that I’d never have thought about, and I’ve implemented some of them right away. That’s a huge benefit of the programme. And I get to make all my homework assignments and group work relate to my own business, allowing me to see things differently.”