At a time when e-commerce is exploding due in large part to the pandemic, a business that helps any online merchant ship goods to a consumer in one or two days is going to be in demand. Deliverr is a startup that fits that bill, and today the company announced a $ 170 million financing round.
The round breaks down to $ 135 million Series D financing led by Coatue. The remaining $ 35 million comes in the form of a convertible note led by Brookfield Technology Partners. Existing investors Activant Capital, 8VC and GLP participated in both parts of the investment. In less than four years, the company has raced from from rounds A to D, raising $ 240 million along the way.
Deliverr co-founder and CEO Michael Krakaris says it has been a rapid rise, but that his business requires a lot of capital. “It has been this really kind of crazy journey, and we’ve been growing very fast, but also this space is very capital intensive, and it’s a winner-take-all market where you gain efficiency at scale. You know scale is what makes your model highly defensible in this space,” Krakaris told me.
The way Deliverr works is it uses software to determine how to get goods to warehouses in parts of the country where they are needed. It then uses these warehouses’ fulfillment departments to help pick and pack the order. The software then finds the fastest and cheapest delivery method and it gets shipped to customers with a two-day delivery guarantee. They are also ramping a next-day delivery product to expand the business.
Deliverr doesn’t actually own any warehouses. It rents out space, and part of the challenge of building this business is establishing relationships with those warehouses and working out a business arrangement, one that is still evolving as the company grows. “A year ago, I would have said we typically wanted to be 5-10% of a warehouse’s business. There are cases now where we are 100% of these warehouses’ businesses. We’ve grown to that level,” he explained.
Krakaris says that the pandemic raised major challenges for the company. Just setting up a relationship with new warehouses could require driving long distances because getting on a plane would mean quarantining when they landed. In some instances there were shortages of items. In others, COVID would shut down all of the warehouses in a given region, forcing the executive team to make a set of business adjustments on the fly, but this constant crisis mentality also helped them learn how to shift resources quickly, a lesson that is highly useful in this business.
The company started 2020 with 50 people and have added 100 employees since. They plan to double that this year, although that is variable depending on how the year goes. He say that another challenge is that he has done this hiring during COVID, and has never met a majority of his workers.
“You know, I’ve never met more than half the company in person, but I’m try to be as open as I can and learn about everyone, and we hold events to try and get to know everybody, but obviously it’s not like being together in person,” he said.
When merchants launch their e-commerce businesses, they can easily manage the end-to-end operations in the early stages. But as they begin to grow, managing their own operations, from warehousing and logistics to delivery and cash collection, can become difficult. This can prevent them from scaling effectively despite having a steady inflow of demand.
Now, there’s a need to offload some of this workload. This is where e-commerce fulfillment services come in handy.
Today, Flextock, one such company providing this service to businesses and consumers in Egypt, is announcing that it is part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2021 batch. Founded by Mohamed Mossaad and Enas Siam in September 2020, the Egyptian company launched in stealth this January.
According to COO Siam, the founders noticed that as e-commerce activities in the Middle East and North African regions accelerated due to the pandemic, merchants were left overwhelmed with the volume of orders they received.
“We saw it as an opportunity to build a tech-enabled platform to be able to help anyone that wanted to grow their own independent brand or store,” she told TechCrunch. “We wanted them to focus on their products and marketing while leaving the supply chain and logistics bit to us, which we do through our end-to-end proprietary software.”
Mossaad, the company’s CEO, describes Flextock as a tech-enabled fulfillment provider. When merchants sign up to the platform, they send their products to one of the company’s fulfillment centers. Flextock takes the whole catalog and tags the products for tracking purposes. Then, integration is made between Flextock and any online store they use, be it Shopify, WooCommerce, Wix and Odoo, among others.
As orders are made, Flextock packages and ships the products from the fulfillment center to the customers. Flextock doesn’t own any delivery vehicles, so to achieve this, the company partners with existing logistics companies in Egypt. This model has helped the startup to create a marketplace for different last-mile delivery companies in the country.
There’s also a dashboard for these merchants to track each order, get more visibility into their shipping process and know how well their products sell.
Flextock makes money on a per-order basis. That means the merchants on the platform pay a flat fee that changes with respect to the volume of products moved.
Mossaad says that since the company beta launched in January with more than 20 businesses, it has been growing 50% week-on-week across 28 cities in the country.
According to the CEO, Flextock is the first end-to-end fulfillment service in Egypt. And in a market that will likely see more competition in the next couple of years, Mossaad thinks Flextock has the opportunity to become the market leader.
Behind this rationale is that the six-month-old startup is backed by Y Combinator and has also raised $ 850,000 which is just the first part of its multi-million-dollar pre-seed round that will close sometime this year.
“We were able to very quickly get the acceptance of YC given the size of the opportunity we are focused on. We believe that commerce is expected to change in the Middle East and Africa, and Flextock is going to be at the forefront of powering this next generation of commerce,” he said.
The founders combine a wealth of corporate experience and a strong track record of scaling tech startups in the MENA region.
Siam started her career managing supply operations at Nestle across the Middle East and North Africa. Later, she became the General Manager of Careem Bus, a mass-transit service and Uber subsidiary, where she helped build the product from scratch and grew it to 150,000 monthly rides in a year.
Mossaad, on the other hand, has worked on multiple turnarounds across different African countries during his time at Bain & Company. He joined Egyptian online food delivery platform, Elmenus, as Chief Strategy Officer. He helped scale the company’s revenues 5x in less than a year and was instrumental to its $ 8 million Series B round.
The CEO says Flextock has its sights on other African and Middle Eastern markets — specifically Saudi Arabia — and the plan is to provide its services to over 1 million businesses in these regions over the next decade.
“We are on a mission to enable more than 1 million merchants in Africa and the Middle East to sell online without carrying out the hassle of running their own operations. We are well-positioned to do that, and hopefully, we will be able to achieve that in a record time.”