Tony Xu grew up as the child of immigrants, working in his mum’s restaurant before going onto Stanford and working at McKinsey, eBay and Square. In 2013 he started the food delivery service DoorDash, at first running the deliveries himself. Now his company employs 500 people, works with over 200,000 delivery people, and operates in 600 cities. We talked to Tony about how he runs it all.
Location: San Francisco
Current Gig: CEO and Co-Founder, DoorDash
One word that best describes how you work: Fast
Current mobile device: iPhone
Current computer: MacBook Air
First of all, tell us a little about your background and how you got to where you are today.
My background has taken me from the world of cancer research to business and now technology. There’s no linear path forward; I search for hard problems that offer tangible impact and a potentially continually challenging learning curve. It’s why I feel so lucky doing what I do everyday. Building a company as fast growing as DoorDash is like always climbing uphill.
Take us through a recent workday.
My days are split between one-on-ones, team meetings, customer meetings, recruiting and general thinking time. I spend 50 per cent plus of my time in recruiting, as I find it has the highest output to input ratio. I work best in the mornings so I try to spend my efforts on the hardest problems then.
What apps, gadgets or tools can’t you live without?
iPhone. Besides the phone, my top apps are Gmail, Slack, iMessage/text, Lyft and of course DoorDash.
What’s your workspace setup like?
No desk, just my MacBook Air, iPhone and AirPods. This enables me to work most freely, truly feel the office, and be a fly on the wall for many conversations among teams.
What’s your best time-saving shortcut or life hack?
Put the phone in a room separate from your bedroom so you can sleep through the night.
Who are the people who help you get things done, and how do you rely on them?
The best part of working at DoorDash is collaborating with incredible teammates who all share similar values. I may try to edit things here and there, but in general, the teams run solo.
How do you keep track of what you have to do?
Google Calendar and Notes.
What’s your least favourite thing to do, and how do you deal with it?
My least favourite thing to do is the laundry. The only reason I have clean clothes is that I trade chores with my wife: I do the dishes (her least favourite thing to do), and she does the laundry.
How do you recharge? What do you do when you want to forget about work?
I go on long runs in Golden Gate Park or in the Marin Headlands. I also read literature outside of tech, typically nonfiction. Currently, I’m reading a book on city gentrification, Ray Dalio’s Principles, and a PhD thesis on automation.
What’s your favourite side project?
When I get into something, I’m all in, so I used to love running marathons. But that’s been too intense an endeavour to keep up with since starting DoorDash. So I am in search of a new hobby these days.
What are you currently reading, or what’s something you’d recommend?
I’d recommend Play Bigger: How Pirates, Dreamers, and Innovators Create and Dominate Markets by Al Ramadan. It’s a great reminder to be authentic to who you are and to define your work on your own terms.
Fill in the blank: I’d love to see ______ answer these same questions.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Be the best version of yourself.
Is there anything else you’d like to add that might be interesting to readers and fans?
Being in control of your schedule and actively planning how to spend your time plays a significant role in your work and life happiness. Most people actually have more control over their time than they believe.
We’ve asked heroes, experts and flat-out productive people to share their shortcuts, workspaces and routines. Want to suggest someone we should feature or questions we should ask? [contact text=”Let us know.”]