After more than 10 years running a platform for croudsourced delivery, PiggyBee is shutting down. David, the founder, sent out the announcement below. I’m sad but I’m not surprised as peer-to-peer delivery services never really took off with any platform. David does his best to share lessons learned in his farewell post so it’s worth a read if you’re interested in these services.
PiggyBee – End of the Trip
More than 10 years ago, I had this idea of creating a platform that would connect people who want to transport an item with people who travel, mainly internationally. Unknown to me at the time, many entrepreneurs were also launching into peer-to-peer “marketplaces”, whether for housing, carpooling, meal delivery, etc. Unfortunately to date and despite all our efforts, the income still does not cover the expenses and I am forced to turn the page on this adventure.
In relation to our model, which has since been surrounded by various competitors, I’m not aware of a service which has been entirely successful in the delivery of parcels between individuals (I mean by successful which is “known to everyone” such as Airbnb, BlaBlaCar, Deliveroo, etc.). Also, I wanted to share here my experience with future project leaders in the hope that a viable model can emerge.
My first observation may seem simplistic but the biggest problem with the model is… the inertia of the package! In logistics, the “last mile delivery” (final delivery to the user) already represents the biggest headache of the century for carriers. In our case, we were faced with this last mile problem but also with the first mile = that the package first reaches the traveler. If you rent an Airbnb, you fly-drive-walk to this one. Ditto for carpooling, you travel to the meeting point. It’s as simple as that: a package does not move on its own; ) It doesn’t matter if it has to be moved 12000km or just 2m, someone will have to take care of it every step of the way! Carriers are extremely successful in the use of relay points: one person is responsible for taking the package to the relay point and another for picking it up there, without any other constraints. Rates through relay points are much more attractive. In the case of PiggyBee, the reward never seemed sufficient (in relation to the price of the object or the gain made by the applicant) for the traveler to agree to take charge of these numerous steps: too much hassle for too little reward.
My second observation is the lack of recurrence, the achilles heel of a “business” (= a project that generates income that will allow the service to grow and provide assistance to its users). Everyone needs accommodation when they go abroad, everyone needs to move around, everyone needs to eat… Not sure everyone wants to get Cuban cigars or the last Yankees t-shirt 20 times a year… It is extremely difficult in this case to retain a group of users, a low retention which sooner or later turns out to be fatal.
Olivier, our most loyal traveler, carried out the majority of transport on the platform. Olivier is a flight attendant for a major airline (=recurrent travel). Abroad, he had the parcels sent to the hotel (= solution to the “first mile” problem). When returning from abroad, he systematically sent his parcels via Mondial Relay, a traditional carrier that uses relay points (= solution to the “last mile” problem).
I participated in several conferences, went to differents congress, we tried to approach the airlines but all that did not save the day (not to mention the enormous reluctance of the airlines to evoke a package from-for someone else…)
I think a part of the solution lies in the process developed by Olivier. Behind, as is the case on the Vinted app for example, a disconcerting ease of use is necessary (I am thinking of the one-click printing of the label which will send the package to the final recipient to a relay point).
Unfortunately, our rocket broke in flight. It takes a lot of resources (human and financial) to support the development of such a platform.
That said, I want to encourage our friends from Cocolis who focus mainly on their territory. France is already used to models “between individuals” such as Bla Bla Car. This is also where, among other places, Airbnb started to take hold. It is easy for users to understand and adopt a variation of a known pattern. Cocolis also responds to a concern which is transportation of bulky objects (or which cannot be really packed-consigned to travel with a traditional carrier). A good answer to the first question asked by investors: “what is the problem you are solving?” The answer is less obvious when it comes to international delivery. Is getting the latest Yankees t-shirt a vital issue? For some, maybe; )
I also appreciated the efforts of my Belgian friends from Hytchers, whose idea was to have parcels travel between different petrol stations used as relay points. The use of trips “which are already done anyway” fits perfectly with current ecological requirements. From what I understood, Hytchers has been overtaken by a handful of traditional carriers (or some unions) who obviously did not appreciate that we could make the slightest shadow to their big profits (and forget about some ecological solution).
The adventure will not have been less exciting, I met lots of extraordinary people, I was confronted with the old environment of traditional logistics and I learned so many things that will serve me all my life.
Finally, I wanted to thank Olivier, the 30,000 users who have joined PiggyBee since 2012, WING, my partner Basile Bedelek, my cousin Sebastien Desemberg, our advisors Olivier Griffet, Anthony Bievelez, Ben Piquard and our interns Alice Latteux, Alexandrine Lebrun , Armand Rousseau and Kevin Sterckx.
Feel free to drop me a line hello [at] piggybee.com