There’s a new name to add to the growing list of startups founded by former Monzo employees: Packfleet.
The London-based logistics startup, which is today announcing that it’s raised £1m in a pre-seed round led by Entrée Capital and General Catalyst, counts four Monzo alumni as its founders: Tristan Thomas, former VP of marketing; Hugo Cornejo, former VP design; Josh Garnham, engineer; and Robin Bilgil, also an engineer (both soon to go full-time on Packfleet).
It also has two Monzo founders among its angel investors: both Tom Blomfield and Jonas Templestein have backed the business, along with Russell Smith, former director of marketing at the bank.
But what, you might wonder, does this pack of digital banking veterans know about logistics?
Not all that much — but they do know a thing or two about building a fun customer experience, says Thomas, and that has been sorely lacking in parcel deliveries.
Packfleet has two users: the small and medium-sized businesses — breweries, clothing outlets, vegan cheese manufacturers — which use its service to deliver their goods to customers; and the customers receiving those goods.
“The delivery companies around today were started in a world without the internet,” says Thomas. And it shows: it’s well-nigh impossible to reschedule a parcel arriving at an inconvenient time, and if you’ve been on a shopping spree, the doorbell can be disturbing Zoom meetings all day to announce a delivery.
Packfleet wants to fix all that, making it easy for customers to pause deliveries or change delivery addresses, and for businesses to ensure that their goods actually arrive, and aren’t lobbed over fences or dropped off with the wrong person.
“How do we make receiving a parcel as good as something like Deliveroo?” he says. The app is still a prototype, but over time the team hopes to add features which will enable users to track an order on its way to them — just like an Uber or a pizza delivery.
Our vans are going to be out on the streets, we’ll be able to brand them and people will see them all around London.
“There’s an opportunity to build a consumer brand here which hasn’t been done before for parcel couriers,” adds Thomas. “Our vans are going to be out on the streets, we’ll be able to brand them and people will see them all around London.” (The branding will, of course, be neon and the vans will be electric.)
For business customers, priorities are “speed, ease and price,” says Thomas. All things which traditional courier companies don’t do well, he adds: they’re not very flexible or very digital. “It feels like a very legacy way of doing things.”
There’s an opportunity to make deliveries a whole lot more efficient as well by, for example, using the couriers to pick up returns as they drop off new orders. Or giving customers the chance to try on clothing while the courier waits, so they can send it back immediately if it doesn’t fit. Thomas says Packfleet is talking to a high-end clothing business at the moment about that latter possibility.
Packfleet charges merchants for parcels sent, and in future is planning to add premium features to the app for consumers too. These could enable customers to set delivery windows — only having parcels dropped off between 8pm and 10pm, or on Thursdays, for example — or reroute orders so that they’re delivered to, say, the café a customer is sitting in.
The market, says Thomas, is “huge”. The UK parcel market alone is estimated to be worth £6bn domestically — and ecommerce is only set to grow. Businesswire estimates that the global courier express parcel services market is worth around €350bn, and it’s growing by 7-8% in countries like Italy and the UK.
Some startups have started to nibble at it. There are several courier upstarts, such as London-based Gophr, which fulfil one-off deliveries there and then — like dropping off pharmacy items or food. Others, like Dubai-based Paack and Paris-based Trusk, are targeting bigger corporate customers.
The company which comes closest to Packfleet is Sweden’s Budbee, says Thomas. Budbee, which was founded in 2015, works with companies like H&M, Zalando and Inditex and has delivered to over 3m customers. It’s operating (and profitable) in Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands, and in January this year raised €52m.