In 2013, goPuff was founded by two enterprising students called Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev. Fast forward to today, and it’s one of the fastest growing delivery services in America. Having spotted a gap in the market for fast home delivery, it’s milked the opportunity for all its worth. Providing what you want is on the right side of the law, goPuff promises to deliver it to your doorstep faster than you can run to the store. Behind its success lie Gola and Ilishayev, two twenty-somethings with a talent for business that goes well beyond their years. If you’ve ever wondered what it takes to become the CEO of a leading start up, find out now as we reveal 10 things you didn’t know about Yakir Gola.
1. He and Rafael Ilishayev met in a Business 101 class
The year was 2012 and Yakir Gola and Rafael Ilishayev were starting their first year at Drexel University in Philadelphia. On the first day of their Business 101 class, the two met and instantly clicked. But while most of us meet friends at university, not many of us meet our future business partners. So, what made Gola and Ilishayev different to the rest? “We had a common tongue and thought of the world in the same way,” Gola has since explained.
2. His parents are from Israel
When Gola says he and Ilishayev have a ‘common tongue’, he’s referring to their shared ancestry. Ilishayev comes from a Middle Eastern family who emigrated from Russia a couple of generations back. Gola’s parents are also migrants, having moved from Israel to America around forty years ago.
3. He’s been hustling since he was a kid
goPuff may only be 7 years old, but Gola’s been working since he was a kid. Growing up in Philadelphia, he helped his father run the family’s small jewelry business throughout high school and college, giving him the kind of business experience that proved invaluable when it came time to start his own business. Gola has since credited his dad with much of his own subsequent success, saying “My dad immigrated from Israel 40 years ago. Coming from a poor family, he moved here and was really ambitious, a self-starter. I learned a lot about running a small business from him — how to make profits, to negotiate and build relationships.” In contrast, Ilishayev was a complete newbie to the world of work – although considering the company is now worth over $3 billion, it clearly didn’t take him long to learn the ropes.
4. If he hadn’t owned a car, goPuff would never have happened
For their first two years at Drexel, Gola and Ilishayev enjoyed the typical student lifestyle. The only bug bear for Gola was the fact he was the only one of his friends with a car. “I was driving everyone around, going to 7-Eleven picking up snacks and pizza,” he’s since recalled. “I was a nice guy, being a good friend, and when someone asked me, I would go.” But sooner or later, even nice guys get sick of running around, especially if the running around involves stopping at four different stores just to find what you’re looking for. “There must be a better way,” he can remember thinking. And sure enough, there was. A way called ‘goPuff”.
5. He created goPuff to satisfy cravings
Ever hunkered after some late night Ben and Jerrys? A mid-morning bag of potato chips? A donut shaped afternoon pick me up? If you have, you’re exactly the kind of person Gola was envisioning when he created goPuff. In the early noughties, people used delivery services for restaurant take out, but that was about it. If you wanted a snack or a beer, you had to make the trek to the convenience store. It was exactly that gap in the market that goPuff aimed to fill. “We wanted to satisfy those last-minute cravings,” Gola has said to NBC. “So many people want it right now — they run out of cups, they want a late-night snack or a quick drink or Red Bull for a test the next day.”
6. He’s a college drop out
When goPuff launched, both Gola and Ilishayev were in the middle of their studies at Drexel University. As thestatesman.com reports, despite starting small, demand soon picked up, and soon, both of them were regularly skipping out of their classes in the pretense of using the bathroom to make a last-minute delivery on campus. “Everything else was secondary. We would have to leave class sometimes to make deliveries,” Ilishayev has since said. While Ilishayev managed to juggle the demands of the growing business with his studies long enough to graduate, Gola decided to drop out of college and concentrate on goPuff instead. Considering the business is now worth over $3 billion, we doubt he’s harboring too many regrets.
7. He’s a do-gooder
If there’s one thing Gola likes, it’s a good cause. Over the past few years, both he and Ilishayev have developed reputations for their philanthropic endeavors. Both work closely with Politz Day School of Cherry Hill, NJ and Drexel University via the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship and Chabad Serving Drexel University. Earlier this year, they showed their commitment to the next generation of entrepreneurs by establishing a $25,000 scholarship for students experiencing financial hardship at the Charles D. Close School of Entrepreneurship. Gola has also made personal donations to Color of Change and the Bail Project and is currently in the process of establishing a $500,000 fund to support black- and minority-founded startups.
8. He’s been named to Forbes’ “30 Under 30″
Gola has turned a small student start up into a national success story. Achievements like that don’t go unnoticed, so it probably comes as little surprise to lean he’s been listed on Forbes’ 2017 “30 Under 30” in the Retail & E-commerce category. He’s also received the 2017 Target Marketer of the Year Award and the Drexel University Founders Award. Earlier this year, Valley Youth House cemented his success by naming him an ‘Emerging Leader’.
9. He’s helped revolutionize an industry
Earlier this year, goPuff were named to CNBC’s Eighth Annual Disruptor 50, an annual compilation of the top 50 private venture-backed companies transforming the economy. It’s been a long time coming for Gola, who’s always seen goPuff as a revolutionary concept. “Rafael and I started the business with a small selection of convenience products and after immediate interest on campus, we realized that the convenience store industry needed to be turned on its head,” he’s commented via Medium. “People no longer considered the convenience store to be convenient and we felt we had found the way to revolutionize that space.”
10. He’s got big plans
When goPuff started, it was a small operation offering 50 products from a single warehouse outside Philadelphia. These days, it’s a national concern serving over 500 cities in 31 states. You don’t build a business in that way without having some serious ambition. And ambition is something that Gola has in spades. “I don’t think it’s going to end there,” he said while speaking to mainlinetoday.com about the company’s growth. “It’s exciting to change an industry.”