Deliveroo's accounts lay bare its growing pains

Deliveroo has become a well-known brand - but can it succeed long term? Credit: PA

Deliveroo's accounts for 2016 have been published this morning and they are a rather interesting read.

Here's a takeaway menu of observations.

1) The leap in sales is striking. They've accelerated away, like a delivery bike with a internal combustion engine strapped to it, from £18.1m in 2015 to £128.6 million. Understandably the company is pointing to this a sign of rude health and sparkling potential.

2) Less impressively, the company is currently failing to cover its basic costs and is heavily loss-making. Deliveroo has paid out a rather incredible £142m, much of it promoting the business. The company has been very successful at raising money from investors, and that money is being spent like there's no tomorrow.

3) Deliveroo is going global. By the end of 2016 the company was operating in 12 countries and 120 cities. Millions of pounds were poured into operations in France, Germany, Australia and Singapore in particular.

The majority of the firm's cash is spent on marketing. Credit: PA

4) Deliveroo sees itself as a tech company but it doesn't have many "technology" staff. Only 78 of its 1049 permanent employees work in IT, the vast majority are in sales and marketing.

5) Many people see Deliveroo as a "delivery" company but it doesn't have any delivery staff. Not a penny of the company's £50m wage bill is spent on the self-employed riders who pedal takeaways around.

6) Deliveroo's business model has an obvious vulnerability. The company barely covers its costs on delivering food as it is. If Deliveroo were to additionally have to stump up for both holiday pay and national insurance on behalf of its 30,000 riders then the wheels would probably come off its plan for world domination.

Deliveroo riders in France protest for an increase in pay. Credit: PA

Deliveroo is dependent on an army of self-employed workers and says as much. It notes "changes to regulation and legislation" as a principle threat to the business.

The Telegraph reports that Deliveroo is on the verge of securing yet more funding from investors. The appeal of taking a punt is obvious: the potential rewards are enormous but so too are the risks.

Deliveroo will argue that there are plenty of tech start-ups that have grown up great making huge losses along the way. That is true, but there are plenty of others that have come a cropper.

15:15 – update - Deliveroo have since called me to say that since the end of the year they have taken on more IT employees and now have more than 200 full-time staff working on that side of the business.