logo_small_beeI’ve written about the peer to peer delivery and shipping businesses, which offer travelers a way to earn some money as a part of their trips. PiggyBee is an interesting addition to this space because they focus on non-monetary rewards, like a ride from the airport or a drink with a local. Still in the early stages of development, PiggyBee does not currently charge for their service, and unlike many new sharing economy businesses they do not yet have any outside funding. The founder, David Vuylsteke, is considering some different models for creating a profitable business while connecting travelers with locals and helping facilitate affordable delivery. I spoke with him this week about the history and future of PiggyBee.

ShareTraveler: Can you tell me a little about the economics of peer to peer shipping? Is it significantly cheaper for people to send items this way than using shipping companies?

David Vuylsteke: PiggyBee is significantly cheaper and especially on any long distance. Get a quote for delivering something from London to Sydney and you will quickly figure this out. Second concerns remote areas. Sadly, regular courier services don’t have financial interests into serving distant zones or specific countries. They will ignore these people simply because money (or even politic) is the issue. Last but not least, what if some user wants to get superior wine from a local producer that does not offer shipping. Our traveler may simply transport anything from A to B, door to door, which is not offered by shipping companies.

 ST: Unlike most peer to peer companies, you are not encouraging a cash transaction. Instead you’ve set up a variety of reward options. Can you share statistics on how many people using your site opt for the various rewards compared with how many people go with cash payments? What’s the favorite reward?

D: The “pick up from the airport” reward is a popular reward. We also observe travelers will do it without giving too much importance to the reward (simply sharing a drink or local handshake upon delivery). In fact, it’s like they simply want to be part of the game: “So many times I wished this service.. I’ll do it for you so someone will later do it for me”. So far, we do not track deliveries so rewards are left to the discretion of users, unless we get the story (As Stephan, one of our early adopter craving for Belgian chocolate and beer, has offered diving lessons in Bali)

ST: I see you have 67 travelers and 1362 delivery requests currently listed on your site. Do you have any numbers you can share on how many people are successfully making connections on your site?

D: We connected approximately 200 “couples”. The main issue on our global service is critical mass. As one is looking for an item to be transported from Paris to New York, a traveler is moving from Rome to Seattle. We’re looking to focus on popular routes (and products) in the future in order to increase conversion. We’re also looking for transport partners (airlines, travel agencies, …) in order to fill up our traveler database.

ST: Are you focused on any specific countries or region of the world right now?

D: Not yet but we observe some trends. Northern countries (from Europe) are more open to this kind of service (mainly because they love about ecology and greener solutions). We have many users from India and the middle east. Last but not least, there’s a lot of work in Africa where we offer optimized logistics.

ST: Where do you hope to see PiggyBee in 5 years?

D: Back in 2012, the idea was to launch a simple product globally to see what would happen. Through bootstrapped, we now need some business models to convince partners and investors, still the objective is to maintain our global free service. In parallel for a few months now, we have been working on a local version, called PiggyBee Express, where we offer immediate or scheduled delivery from your favorite shops. Transport service is charged and PiggyBee Express still offers this peer to peer specificity, where (after an interview and background check), anyone can be a driver. PiggyBee Express will launch the following weeks. If I start in Brussels later I can scale and get in Paris, and then link Brussels and Paris. 

ST: Is this PiggyBee Express service similar to Postmates in San Francisco?

D: Yes. The express model exists already, but it doesn’t quite exist yet in Europe so I have some space to do it.

ST: Will you continue to support existing business model?

D: I will definitely continue to support it. With the global model with my family in South Africa we need this. To send belgium chocolate and other things. I’m talking to people about the express model, and early adopters from the global model are coming back and saying you can’t let us go.