Founders vs Tech Giants – The Downfall
Founders are actively disrupting delivery, mapping, warehousing and taxi services. They have a lot to say, and they aren't afraid of the giants...
In this article I will introduce 4 logistics startups and the founders I had the pleasure of meeting: Luke Seelenbinder from Stadia Maps, Kunehito Nakahara from Souco, Merit Valdsalu from StandByMate and Juan Borras from Outvio. Here you can read more about Estonia’s leading tech and startup conference Latitude59 and here you can read about Estonia and why it’s the hub for up and coming startups.
Revolution of the last mile. Outvio
Juan Borras, the co-founder of Outvio, calls his startup the shipping revolution for online shops. Outvio’s goal is to ship worldwide in no longer than 48h without any need for courier contacts. They wish to enable the ability to track orders and manage returns in one click. What inspired Outvio was the story of how Juan wanted to start an online shop with his partner. The biggest obstacle was negotiating with couriers who offered suboptimal terms at high prices. According to Juan, there isn’t a plug and play solution for shipping for online companies.
What Stripe is for payments, is Outvio for shipping.
The functionality is simple, the business account needs to be created and actively used, and then Outvio provides you an app to integrate into your business. There are also certain tracking features and obviously branding. Outvio is currently in beta and they haven’t yet launched. It is intriguing what Outvio is trying to achieve, as Juan mentioned himself, the current supply chain model is broken and does not fit into the contemporary world.
We dreamed of just being able to create an account online and starting to ship for a reasonable fee.
Outvio has set out to solve the last mile problem for small and medium size businesses, and will have a large market to deal with, once they’ve proven their method after they launch.
Going against Google. Stadia Maps
The co-founder of the American bootstraped startup StadiaMaps Luke Seelenbinder characterised StadiaMaps as a simple tool, that offers map tiles, static maps and routing. According to Luke, most of the competitors provide an enterprise level plan or higher for any logistics company. But StadiaMaps is looking for simpler solutions.
We don’t care about an enterprise plan, all we care about is we want to deliver maps.
He also said, that Stadia Maps believes that they will make an impact in logistics, as they are much cheaper and better if they can get integrated into the vertical. One of their most prominent competitors next to Google is MapBox with more complex pricing options. Stadia Maps already has an upper hand as Google is changing their maps API pricing as of June 2018! “Google we have well beat on price, but it is always a challenge of getting and keeping good data. […] The idea is to build sustainably and go from there. The biggest challenge for Stadia Maps marketing and the technical challenge of making sure data is up to date and fast and available all around the world.”. The Stadia Maps wonder team of two, consisting of an iOS developer and a web developer, are looking to get Stadia Maps registered in Estonia in the future and take advantage of retaining earnings due to tax benefits. So if your logistics company is looking for a cheaper and yet functional way out, Stadia Maps is the way to go.
The AirBnb for warehouses. Souco
With their headquarters in Tokyo, Souco provides a service that Kunehito Nakahara characterized as the AirBnb for warehouses. The need for short term on-demand warehousing in Japan is huge and especially relevant for smaller businesses or businesses that operate with seasonal goods. Their minimalist logo and simple concept make Souco appealing.
I’m doing Airbnb for warehousing, for B2B services. We match the warehouse to the business who wants to use it in short term.
Nakahara also stated, that “it is a global thing. Usually the warehouse contracts are so long, about 5 years and up to 10 years. There are rarely contracts for short time uses for warehousing” He also mentioned that it’s a waste of space to get bigger spaces for small businesses with seasonal goods. Souco is trying to fix that. The warehouse rental is available from 1-day onwards, as long as the customer needs it for. Obviously Souco is not the only one on the market, and Nakahara stated that Flexe is their biggest competitor in the US. According to Nakahara, the model works, and there is no reason why it shouldn’t work in Japan. The challenge is however to educate the market about the need for this service. Nakahara stated that his ultimate goal and signifier of success is when Souco manages to optimize a static entity of a location and make it flexible by offering short term contracts.
Skill specific workforce platform. StandByMate
Logistics isn’t necessarily only about moving objects or organizing the movement with smart maps, it’s also about bridging the gap between service providers and skilled professionals. Merit Valdsalu, the co-founder of the Estonian startup StandByMate, is in the business of connecting seafarers with shipping companies. They provide a specific workforce platform for recruiters in the seafarer’s business. Skilled seamen are promised to get a job in 2 minutes. According to Merit, the need for this service is prominent in all major seaside countries and existing shipping companies.
StandByMate set out to optimise inefficiency skilled workforce recruitment.
StandByMate is solving a relevant issue: “Most of the seafarers in the world work with short term contracts that expire after 3-6 months, creating a situation where the seafarer must search for a new contract actively. Either they sign up at an agency and wait for offers, or they search for offers themselves. On the other side are the shipping company recruiters, who must go through endless amounts of resumes to find a qualified seafarer.” StandByMate set out to optimise this inefficiency in the field. With the service, seafarers create profiles and upload all relevant certificates, allowing recruiters from shipping companies to search for suitable seafarers. It is then up to the seafarers to accept the job or not.The biggest obstacle at the moment is the marketplace, because the supply pool needs to be big enough for the recruiters to find new matches every day. Competitors with this workflow are according to Merit almost non-existent, only job search engines and portals come close. Having raised their pre-seed money from angel investors, StandByMate is now looking for additional financing through an official seed round.
99 problems but a good idea ain’t one
After speaking to these four people from Estonia, Spain, Japan and the United States, it seems that one thing unifies them all – they have 99 problems but good idea ain’t one. Having a great idea isn’t enough however to guarantee success. Founding a business, getting the right team members on board, having excellent operations set up, having product/market fit, creating and nurturing your network and B2B contacts, educating the market etc pp are much more relevant challenges. It will come down to resilience and finding the right tools. The question I was left with was why do it on your own or with a co-founder? Why not use a company builder to help you get on your feet? Foundership is something that is best lived and experienced, and a founder is still a founder if they ask for help and support. It is common knowledge that 9 out of 10 startups fail and never really take off. It doesn’t have to be that way though.
If you are looking at options in the field of logistics, the bigger players will eat you for breakfast. Pitching Beam as a final call in this series of articles is not only logical but also useful for anyone, who took the time to read. You would be risking way too much, if you are not founding at Beam! If you don’t believe it, give us a chance to show you why!
Kristi Ruusna is the People Operations Manager at Beam. She grew up and got her higher education in the field of Theatre Studies in Estonia. After moving to Berlin, she changed fields and started her career in People Operations.