Tech start-up of the week: Xpreso

15 Dec 20132 Shares

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Pictured are Xpreso CTO Paulo Tubbert , NDRC's Gary Leyden, Xpreso CEO Eamon Keane, Xpreso software engineer Fabiano Pallonetto and Xpreso's commercial director Simon Pleass

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Our start-up of the week is Xpreso, real-time courier re-routing player and winner of the NDRC’s €30,000 Lift Off 8 competition in Dublin earlier this week.

The NDRC LaunchPad 8 company beat off intense competition from a group of fellow incubator companies, including CloudDock, Digital Perceptions, Inforama, Vivos.me, Twiddle, FoodCloud, Medxnote, Social Energy, Loylap and Media Planner.

Xpreso solves the “sorry we missed you” problem by connecting couriers and consumers in real-time; putting consumers in control with precise delivery alerts, rescheduling and rerouting options.This saves courier companies money while providing a Hailo-like delivery experience for online consumers.

As CEO Eamon Keane explains it online shopping is quick, easy and convenient. However, he believes shoppers are often disappointed by the delivery experience in terms of missed deliveries or waiting for hours on end for the courier to arrive.

“This Christmas each person is estimated to waste 140 minutes waiting for delivery drivers, costing the UK economy some €1bn according to Retail Week. An estimated 600 million hours are spent each year in the UK and Ireland waiting for delivery drivers.

“At the same time, couriers themselves are frustrated when they arrive to an empty house, because they have to return the next day with the parcel and deal with angry customers. According to Metapack, 10pc of all deliveries to domestic addresses fail to be delivered at the first attempt in the UK. With the current 1.1 billion B2C parcels in the UK market this translates to more than 100 million failed delivery attempts per year.”

The solution

Keane observes that frustrating delivery experiences also result in poor customer loyalty for online retailers, costing them up to 40pc of their marketing budget by losing hard-won customers.

“Xpreso solves this problem with an open communication platform between couriers and consumers. On the morning of delivery we send the customer an arrival time window and a link to track their order in real-time e.g. ‘Your Apple iPad is now on Dave’s van from An Post and will arrive between 10-11am. You can track your order in real-time here: anpost.xpreso.com/YourOrder’

“With the link, or by downloading our app, you can view the driver’s location on a map and get a continually updated ETA and a push notification when he is nearby. We then give you a range of options if you don’t happen to be in the house at that time such as selecting a particular neighbor, a local shop or parcel locker for the parcel to be re-directed to. Alternatively you can nominate a different delivery date. With Xpreso you can also communicate instructions to the driver such as ‘my doorbell doesn’t work, could you please call me when you arrive?’

“These features dramatically improve the customer experience and the feedback we have got from online shoppers has been highly positive,” says Keane.

The market opportunity

The European ecommerce industry is worth over €300bn and is growing at 19pc per year, with €100bn of this in the UK. Delivery is a key pain point for ecommerce.

Keane points out that most courier companies are still struggling to adapt to the boom in ecommerce. The ratio of B2B vs. B2C for most couriers has switched from 80:20 five years ago to 50:50 currently.

“With over a billion parcels being delivered each year, the expectation for people to be home from 8am-8pm is not realistic.

“People often get items delivered to work, with 20pc of the parcel volume direct there. However only one third of bosses are happy with this practice, and 10pc have banned getting personal items delivered to work. A switch towards a more flexible delivery system is what the market is crying out for.

“Xpreso is working with courier companies to bring about these changes, with an initial focus on the UK market. We offer a very low capex, software as a service solution to courier companies, with no change to their existing enterprise software.”

The founders

Xpreso has a rounded team of four co-founders. Keane studied Mechanical Engineering in UCD, where he received the Institute of Mechanical Engineers’ Best Student Certificate.

“Following my master’s degree in Energy Systems, I pursued a Ph.D studying the impact of electric vehicles on the power system at the Electricity Research Centre in UCD. I dropped out of my Ph.D to start Xpreso, motivated by a poor delivery experience. During my Ph.D I undertook two internships at IBM’s Smart Cities Technology Centre, which was a good foundation for starting Xpreso.”

Xpreso’s commercial director Simon Pleass has three decades of senior operational and management experience in the transport and logistics industry.  He was chairman of the Courier Association of Ireland from 1992 to 1999 and his most recent role is as CEO of Cyclone Couriers, Ireland’s largest same-day courier company.

Xpreso’s CTO Paulo Tubbert has a passion for coding and built his first website at the age of 12. He graduated top of Electronic Engineering in UCD in 2012 with all his electives as computer science. He worked as an IT consultant for the Electricity Research Centre after his degree, which he left to co-found Xpreso.

Fabiano Pallonetto is Xpreso’s second software engineer alongside Paulo. He has a Master’s in Computer Science from the University of Pisa and is currently pursuing a Ph.D at University College Dublin. He previously built a solar energy company to €1m turnover in Italy before coming to Ireland. His Ph.D topic is ‘Demand Response Algorithms for Home Area Networks’.

The technology

Xpreso works by sending the customer an SMS the morning of delivery with a link to view the driver in real time on a map.

“The customer can then view their order on our website or alternatively they can download our app on iPhone or Android.

“For the courier driver we have an Android app which geocodes his jobs, optimises his route, and allows him to communicate with consumers. In this way, he can avoid calling to houses where no one is home and significantly increase his productivity.

Keane says the ultimate goal is to remove the friction fron the consumer’s post-purchase experience.

“This extends from paying duty on imports, communicating with the courier, returning items, tracking warranties right through to re-selling the item on eBay.”

Bootstrapping and seed investment

“We have received fantastic feedback from the couriers that have used our software. We’re beta testing it right now with three drivers and they describe what we’ve built as ‘brilliant’. Couriers typically rely on a sheet of paper with their jobs printed on it, so the fact that we give them a visual view of their route is of huge benefit.

“We’re talking to several international delivery companies with a view to agreeing the parameters of trials in early 2014.

“We’re currently raising a seed round and are in talks with investors in Ireland and the UK.

“After taking the decision to leave my Ph.D, bootstrapping for several months was a struggle financially but the seed capital from NDRC Launchpad was perfectly timed.”

One of the best things about Ireland’s start-up scene at present, Keane says, is how easy it is to get advice at the moment.

“A startup is relatively risk-free when you’re young and it’s much more rewarding than working for a large company,” Keane concludes.

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Editor John Kennedy is an award-winning technology journalist.

editorial@siliconrepublic.com