If you’re a downtown dweller, having packages delivered to your home is a less lethal form of Russian Roulette. The smart people have anything they order online dropped off at their places of work. But the thrill-seekers will take their chances, possibly coming home to a “sorry we missed you note” – or worse.
Personally, I had the recent pleasure of finding a package of mine that had been cut open with items stolen from it. (What would have been my new kitchen scale is now likely being used to measure out that sweet, sweet nose candy.) So when I came across Veho Technologies, an HBS startup looking to take the misery out of delivery logistics, I knew they were onto something.
To put it into terms we all know and hate at this point: Veho Technologies is like the Uber for package deliveries. It uses peer-to-peer delivery to let you coordinate how and when a package will be delivered. I spoke with Matt Graham, one of its co-founders, and he gave me the lowdown on this local startup.
“We had more than a hunch that package delivery was poorly managed,” Graham told me. Even on a grad school campus, packages would be stolen or go missing before reaching their destinations.
At first, Veho approached local businesses around Boston to see if they’d pick up and store people’s packages, keeping them safe until the consumers can swing by to collect them. Many of the businesses were game, but the package recipients weren’t so much.
“After two and a half months, we realized it wasn’t going to work,” Graham said. “People don’t want to walk somewhere to pick up their packages. They want them delivered to their doors.”
That’s when the team at Veho Technologies contemplated shifting gears and adopting a model just like Uber’s. Instead of having businesses store packages for people, the startup wondered what it would be like to have local folks looking for on-demand work deliver packages to people in their area. They came to the conclusion that a peer-to-peer delivery model would not only be more convenient for consumers, it would also be more cost effective and reliable for package carriers.
You may not be aware, but carriers have to contract out their package deliveries to unionized drivers. And you know those UPS and FedEx trucks you see driving around? Carriers don’t actually own those vehicles, despite the signage. Instead, they have to pay to rent out the trucks. Combined, contracting drivers and trucks to make deliveries is a steep expense for these carrier companies.
“It’s about knowing when your package will arrive so you can make arrangements.”
By having regular people who want to make deliveries as a side gig and can use their own cars in lieu of a huge truck, Veho Technologies is offering carriers a more affordable option that can also provide a more enjoyable delivery experience for customers. All these carriers have to do is pay a per a fee for each package delivered, and Veho takes care of the tech-enabled logistics.
Drivers log into the app and have a list of packages they need to pick up at the carriers for delivery. After they scan each package with their smartphone, they’re given the best delivery route to drop off all of the items at the correct addresses, in the most efficient way possible. They have the ability to connect with recipients and Veho if they have any trouble during their deliveries.
On the other end of the equation, the day of a package arrival, Veho notifies recipients several hours beforehand with a text containing an ETA, information about who the driver is and a map for tracking the driver’s whereabouts. People can coordinate their schedules accordingly or, if they can’t be home at that time, send the driver instructions for what to do with the package. For instance, they can ask the delivery person to drop the package at the back door or with a certain neighbor. And if consumers encounter any issues or have concerns, they can contact Veho directly through the app.
“It’s about knowing when your package will arrive so you can make arrangements. For most people we’ve spoken to, visibility and communication make a huge difference,” Graham said.
This way, people can prevent having their packages sitting on their front stoop, just waiting to be stolen. Likewise, they won’t come home to find a note stuck to their door explaining they have to arrange another day for a redelivery attempt or go somewhere to pick up their packages. Eventually, the goal is to give consumers the power to pick a time to have their packages delivered.
So far, it’s delivered close to 3,000 packages in Boston with six crowdsourced drivers and has had zero cases of theft, damage or complaints.
The company plans to thoroughly vet and check into drivers making deliveries through its service. But it also maintains that treating these drivers better than other shared-economy employers will attract more reliable people.
“We’re a driver-centric company,” Graham said. “With a profitable business model, we can pay them well and treat them well. We have to make it a win-win, so we have decent people making reliable deliveries.”
So far, the former CEO of FedEx SupplyChain, Tom Schmitt, has invested and advised the venture. Rick Jones, the current CEO of Lone Star Overnight, has also backed the company. Now, the company is in talks with Boston VCs to raise its seed capital. It’s hoping to expand throughout Boston and show that it can be done a larger scale before bringing it to more cities.