Sifted readers will no doubt have seen parcel lockers in supermarkets, post offices and train stations — the easy-access boxes that let you pick up a package at any time.
They lessen the burden on delivery staff, who don't need to go to each house or risk leaving a parcel on the front porch of someone who's not home — and investors are betting big on these boxes to solve the last-mile delivery issue.
Case in point: Swedish startup Instabox today announced a whopping $190m growth round led by growth equity investor Verdane. It makes Instabox the best-funded private parcel locker startup in Europe.
After the company's Series B last year valued it at €700m, this round has given Instabox a unicorn valuation, which was confirmed by the company.
I personally believe that it's better for the entire value chain if as many parcels as possible go through lockers
Instabox now wants to translate its model to the rest of Europe — one market at a time.
“In most markets, you don't really have any choice as a consumer. You're just presented with shipping and then like okay, sure, I'm gonna go for shipping. In Sweden we have created another type of experience,” cofounder and CEO Alexis Priftis says. Instabox currently operates 4,500 automated parcel machines.
Startups like Instabox, Airmee and Budbee have been shaking up Sweden’s archaic delivery landscape in the last few years with branded last-mile delivery and lockers. Ecommerce shoppers now have the possibility to choose from as many as ten different delivery companies and methods.
“We want to create a world where shipping is branded, shipping is differentiated and the consumer can choose. And that's not an easy task necessarily, because we have to convince a lot of merchants all across Europe why this is a better idea,” Priftis says.
Taking on Germany
Instabox is growing fast — it was recently ranked third fastest-growing tech companies in Europe by the Financial Times, with an annual growth rate of 300%. The company offers both smart lockers and fossil fuel-free home deliveries in Sweden, Norway, Denmark the Netherlands and as of recently the German market. In total, Instabox delivers more than 3m parcels a month.
Over the last year, Instabox has also acquired same-day home delivery leaders Porterbuddy in Norway and Red je Pakketje in the Netherlands.
A large part of the new money will be spent on taking on Germany, where Priftis is now based.
“This will be a huge challenge for us because we are coming from a small market that is usually on the forefront [of innovation]. Now we have this huge German market with about 2bn parcels per year. We are going to have to earn our right here as well,” Priftis says.
The sustainability aspect
Instabox does do home delivery, but Priftis believes that lockers are a more sustainable solution by limiting the carbon footprint of deliveries and centralising collection.
“I personally believe that it's better for the entire value chain if as many parcels as possible go through lockers. But then we are also offering home deliveries because we see that both merchants and consumers like it.”
In the case of home delivery, Priftis says the company is doing its best to create the most efficient delivery routes.
The company raised approximately €75m last year in a round led by EQT Ventures to a valuation of €700m. With the new investment round, Sweden has welcomed its sixth unicorn.