Covid Is Pushing Startups to Execute Long-Term Plans ASAP

At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, food delivery services found themselves in an interesting predicament: They were fielding more orders than ever, even as restaurants struggled to get by. For Tony Xu, CEO of DoorDash, adapting to this rapid shift has hinged on building tools that make it easier for cooks, drivers, and delivery people to do their jobs. Local businesses have produced 60 percent of the GDP in cities for every decade that the government has been keeping track, he pointed out, arguing that services like DoorDash can help restaurants with existing robust delivery field a spate of new orders—and put those launching new takeout options on the map. “This moment is really much bigger than just one company or one platform,” he said. “It’s really making sure that an entire industry can survive.”

Last Monday, Xu spoke with Nicholas Thompson, WIRED’s editor in chief, during a Facebook Live. The topic was how food delivery and pickup services are adapting to the coronavirus pandemic. Xu said the past six weeks have brought a flurry of new changes to DoorDash, from contactless deliveries to making sure merchants get paid within the day. “I recognize that we’re among a handful of companies that are lucky enough to be able to work 24/7 during this period,” he told Thompson. As such, DoorDash has to make sure that the developments it had planned for the next few years “can be compressed and executed and prioritized in the right sequence over a matter of weeks, sometimes days.”

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But Xu said that the goal, at least right now, isn’t just the success of the business. Companies like DoorDash have the infrastructure in place to help restaurants across the industry adapt and to give back to those who need it most. As Xu put it: “How do we take our technology and not just power business, but also power the community?”

Hundreds of readers watched and submitted questions for Thompson and Xu to answer live, and this was the last in a series of four conversations presented by Salesforce in which WIRED will explore what the coronavirus pandemic means for the future of business, education, technology, and health.

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