In the past 16 months of its existence, delivery startup Black and Mobile has found success with the first iteration of its app connecting Black-owned restaurants to hungry Philadelphians. And with the launch of its second version next month, it looks to continue growing beyond city limits at scale.
David Cabello’s experience as a courier for other food delivery services exposed him to the profitability of the food delivery business. Cabello founded Black and Mobile in February 2019 as a delivery service working exclusively with Black-owned businesses and allowing them to aggressively price menu items as a way to compete with other food delivery apps.
With Cabello and his team still working remotely from Philadelphia, Black and Mobile has since expanded its service to Detroit and plans to expand to Atlanta by the end of summer, then Los Angeles by year’s end.
The demand for Black and Mobile’s service has increased during the coronavirus pandemic, Cabello said, but the ability to keep up with the higher demand has pushed the founder and the current app to their limits.
“When we call orders in, it takes two hours sometimes to get through to restaurants,” he said about Black and Mobile’s dispatch system, which can result in lost customers who might order elsewhere instead of waiting to get their order.
A new, custom-designed Black and Mobile app from fellow Black-owned business JumpButton Studio will change that.
“This new system will send orders right to the smartphone or tablet,” Cabello said. “All employees can download the app and take orders on it. It will be more efficient for us to do deliveries and call orders in.”
JumpButton cofounder and CEO Nicodemus Madehdou — along with Mahdi Hassan Sharif, Matthew Auld, Jon Arvin Medalla and Kyle Vicencio, the internal team tasked with the project — welcomed the challenges that came with developing the new Black and Mobile app.
“Our primary challenge was taking a six-month project and building it out in roughly two months due to the exponential growth of Black and Mobile and the demands it had; six months would be far too long for scaling without new processes and systems,” he said.
Here’s the app’s full tech stack, per Madehdou:
Our backend is utilizing PHP as a RESTful API built on a custom-written MVC styled framework. The API is responsible for handling communications between our proprietary database as well as interfacing with Shopify to ensure synchronous events and datasets such as orders, products, vendors, etc.
The frontend stack is comprised of React.JS and merged with a Cordova package to ensure a flawless deployment for all mobile platforms. We are utilizing some custom written libraries to handle communications with the PHP API in an asynchronous manner as to not have the UI hang for the end consumer.
The frontend will be utilizing a WebSocket to ensure proper realtime updates of driver locations and restaurant order status. That from a birds-eye view is our present tech stack but this will certainly evolve or change over time.
For Madehdou, ensuring the new Black and Mobile app adequately maintained the startup’s sense of culture and community was an additional challenge.
“Delivering an app that does justice to the service that Black and Mobile provides from the outside looking in might be as simple as, ‘They’re empowering black businesses,'” he said. “But once you have to break down what that kind of empowerment looks like, especially with our studio being Black-owned, we needed to make sure it not only could compete with the current competition, but also provide an authentic experience supporting Black businesses.”
Cabello is also excited about the way the new app will enhance his workflow and help him expand his business.
“I work 80 to 100 hours a week but now 60” with the new app, he said. Before, “I would have to add up every order in every city. I want to be the face and going to other cities [to] expand.”
While the U.S. works through social unrest and a pandemic at the same time, Cabello is hopeful that businesses’ current responses to the Black community is more than a fleeting trend.
“I hope the trend doesn’t fade away,” he said. “Supporting us is a must. It’s all cool now but in a few months they may forget about it. We’ve been enslaved and locked in a box economically. It’s not about Black Lives Matter. We need our own economic structure. We don’t even get reparations. Tech is one thing but working for ourselves is important.”
Michael Butler is a 2020-2022 corps member for Report for America, an initiative of The Groundtruth Project that pairs young journalists with local newsrooms. This position is supported by the Lenfest Institute for Journalism.