Next Gen 2019: Rafael Ilishayev and Yakir Gola
Rafael Iliyashev (left) and Yakir Gola. Photo by Tessa Marie Images.
Tired of being the only one among his Drexel University friends with a car to run errands, Yakir Gola knew there must be a better way. So he and classmate Rafael Ilishayev began to ponder the idea of a service that would deliver what they needed. “The concept of convenience stores really wasn’t convenient for us or any of our friends,” says Ilishayev.
Both sophomores at Drexel at the time, they put together a business plan for goPuff between classes. A delivery service for everything from snacks to toiletries to over-the-counter medicines, goPuff maintains its own inventory. Doing so means they can guarantee stock and pricing and decrease delivery time. “We wanted to be the best and the fastest delivery—period,” says Gola, an Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy graduate.
Debuting goPuff in 2013, Gola and Ilishayev focused largely on Philadelphia college students. “We were open 15 hours a day for the first couple of months, and it was just Yakir and I,” says Ilishayev. “We handled all the deliveries.”
At first, they offered about 50 products, all stored in a single warehouse outside Philadelphia. Now, goPuff has over 2,000 products—everything from ice cream to shampoo—and more than 80 warehouses throughout the country, serving 31 states and Washington, D.C. It has a team of over 800, along with thousands of contractors. That stunning success earned Gola and Ilishayev a spot on the coveted Forbes “30 Under 30” list in 2017. “I don’t think it’s going to end there,” says Gola, who notes that they’ve acquired about 30 liquor licenses. “It’s exciting to change an industry.”