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US firm behind pizza ordering app comes to Belfast - 70 jobs on the menu

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Slice founder Ilir Sela (left) with the firm’s chief technical officer Jason Ordway

Slice founder Ilir Sela (left) with the firm’s chief technical officer Jason Ordway

Slice founder Ilir Sela (left) with the firm’s chief technical officer Jason Ordway

A US technology firm has said "it's not a matter of if, but when" it expands into the pizza market in the UK as it opened a new office in Belfast creating 20 jobs.

New York-based Slice lets customers order from independent pizzerias across America on its website and mobile apps.

The firm said its new office, located in McAuley House on Castle Street, provides it with space to accommodate the expected expansion of Slice's presence in the city.

Slice's founder and chief executive Ilir Sela explained the company is "focused on the US market for this year".

"The pizza industry globally is worth $155bn and $46bn of that is America," he said.

"That's the only market we operate in and we have a national presence there. I am looking forward to expanding internationally at some point. It's not a matter of if, but when."

The business was founded in 2010 by Mr Sela and to date it has driven over $600m in earnings for more than 12,000 independent pizzerias in the United States.

In 2018 the company committed to creating 50 jobs when it established a new software engineering centre in Belfast after receiving £400,000 in support from Invest NI.

Slice has since recruited 35 people and is in the process of filling the remaining 15 roles. Its headcount in Belfast will be brought up to 70 through the additional 20 new posts.

We're passionate about authenticity, not only with pizza but also with our team and we're pleased that we've found that in Belfast Slice founder and chief executive Ilir Sela

Those 20 jobs will include roles within engineering, product development, design, finance, marketing and analytics.

Explaining in more detail what Slice does, Mr Sela said: "The way to think about Slice is the way you think about Domino's.

"Domino's has 5,900 locations in the US but the app is where a lot of the transactions are made on the consumer side. On the business side Domino's has invested millions of dollars in terms of their infrastructure, technology, point-of-sale.

"So they are a market leader when it comes to an end-to-end platform. Slice is in essence building a massive pizza chain where part of our product is a marketplace where consumers can interact and order from our partner restaurants.

"It is vastly different from something like Just Eat, which is more of an aggregator that simply uses small businesses to deliver food to consumers."

In total Slice employ about 670 people across five offices - three in Macedonia, one in Belfast and a headquarters in New York.

Its New York office has around 120 staff working mainly in product engineering and leadership, while Macedonia is mostly operations and has around 550 staff. Belfast is mainly focused on product development.

"We're passionate about authenticity, not only with pizza but also with our team and we're pleased that we've found that in Belfast," added Mr Sela.

"Community is critical to the way that we build our business, which is why we want to expand the number and variety of roles available in Belfast. Growing the Belfast office is a pivotal point in Slice's story and our vision is that story will continue to unfold.

"Slice is about championing local, independent pizza restaurants in a way that supports the long-term growth of their business. In the same way, we want to invest in Belfast in a way that contributes to the overall growth of this vibrant city."

Jason Ordway, chief technical officer at Slice, said like many other US investors the firm was initially attracted to Belfast for the strong engineering talent.

"However, since setting up in Belfast we have discovered that strong talent pool extends beyond engineering to many of the other skills we need," he said.

"There is a financial benefit, but for me the talent, plus the financial benefit, plus the five-hour difference between New York and UK are the easy ones.

"Communication with English speaking people is another benefit and there's a key connection between UK and US as everyone loves pizza. The talent has been unbelievable.

"There are known quantities from three different universities with great kids who are coming out with great undergrad degrees and, last but not least, the tech scene in Belfast is enormous.

"It went from a small handful of start-ups to everything under the sun form security to mobile. It's crazy here, in a good way. We're excited for what lies ahead for Slice in Belfast."

Mr Ordway also stressed Slice would certainly move abroad but "the timing is to be decided".

"There are a lot of pizza eaters worldwide so I would surprised if we don't," he added.

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