Shiply is a UK-based green logistics company founded by young entrepreneur Robert Matthams after he realized that the current way goods are shipped and delivered to households is extremely wasteful, leaving 25% of trucks and 15% of delivery vans empty after delivering packages to homes and businesses. Robert's idea was simple: pair the empty returning delivery trucks with new deliveries, and he could save money, time, and fuel while making shipping green. And just like that, Robert had redesigned the logistics industry to a new, greener standard. The response has been phenomenal. Shiply offers a very disruptive 75% savings over the competition in the UK for shipping nearly any item, and has quickly amassed a 400,000-client user base that puts 30,000 transport providers to better use. We sat down to ask Robert about how all of this got started, and where he sees shipping and logistics in our eco-friendly future. He couldn't comment on when Shiply would expand to the U.S. and other countries across the world, but we gather Mr. Matthams has big plans for Shiply, and for the future of transport.
Inhabitat: Could you tell us how Shiply got started? How did you go from the first concept of the company to actually creating and growing Shiply?
Matthams: I got the idea when I was ordering a pool table towards the end of my business studies degree at Manchester University. The driver was coming all the way from London yet returning completely empty. It occurred to me that this was such a waste, so I looked into it and found Department of Transport figures stating that 25% of lorries and 15% of vans run empty in the UK. Shiply is a response to this as the site matches empty or partly loaded lorries with people wishing to transport. Since launching in 2008, Shiply now has over 400,000 users, 30,000 transport providers and receives a new quote request every 22 seconds.
Inhabitat: Your pricing model is quite disruptive to the industry, offering to save customers up to 75%. Do you think your competitors will change their models to yours in order to compete and green shipping?
Matthams: Competition is to be expected in any business, in fact, if you had no competition at all, you would have to wonder if what you are doing has any merit! So, we just concentrate on our core offering and keep a close eye. We’ve certainly seen a few traditional transport companies try to replicate Shiply, but I’d say over 15+ have already folded. Technology is not where their strengths lie and so they are better off using the marketplace rather than trying to replicate it as a side project. The key thing is, we can’t have 100,000 marketplaces set up by transport companies, but rather 100,000 transport companies using the marketplace. The logistics firms are the key ingredient as of course they are the ones fulfilling the orders.
Inhabitat: What is your vision of the future of logistics and shipping?
Matthams: Shiply! However, I do also see a lot more movement from road to rail and other modes as pressure mounts on government also to reduce CO2. I also see a shift towards even more time-sensitive and demanding customers. One-hour delivery time slots (as opposed to 9-5 windows) will become the norm, and within the e-commerce space we can expect delivery in metropolitan areas within minutes of ordering, not days.
Inhabitat: You have received numerous awards as a young entrepreneur. Have you found that promotion of your company is a big part of taking green logistics forward?
Matthams: Definitely. Shiply is not a household brand yet, so as a company we are continually striving to get our message out there and educate the consumer about the green benefits of Shiply. So looking back at the awards to date, we certainly see the massive advantages they have brought us and moving forward understand the importance of such promotion. Prestigious awards from the likes of Shell, BT and The Dutch Postcode Lottery have provided us with great exposure that money can’t buy. For example, when I won the Shell Young Entrepreneur of the Year, I was scheduled in for a national interview on Radio 5 Live the very next day. From there we got coverage on BBC Working Lunch, The Independent, Financial Times and Evening Standard, among others.