I interviewed David Vuylsteke who discussed Crowd-Sourced Delivery, an innovative business concept using the new sharing economy to provide delivery services.
It’s nice to speak with you today, David. Today I’m looking forward to hearing an interesting topic. You want to talk about crowd-sourced delivery. Before we start, can you provide a brief background of yourself?
Right. I’m an entrepreneur. I am 42 and I have been an entrepreneur for 42 years. I started very young, a bicycle club, whatever; anywhere I could do a new business, I would do it. Basically, 20 years ago I started Salomon Light, I’m a sound engineer. I’ve been doing concerts for musicians, and I’ve been also touring all around the world. In 2001 I built a webshop, so I sold Salomon Light equipment. A few years later PiggyBee came.
That’s interesting. Can you define or explain what crowd-sourced delivery is?
I’ll tell you a story. I was coming back from South Africa. I had this super cream, and the cream was empty. I didn’t have any cream left, so I asked my wife if we knew anyone who was coming back from South Africa, maybe some family there or whatever. No, no one was coming back. I said, “Damn, there are so many people landing in airports every day. Why wouldn’t we connect people traveling with the people who need something shipped?” and that’s how it came, the idea. Shortly, we set up a platform which is called PiggyBee—you can visit it at PiggeBee.com—where we connect people, people who want to get things or ship things with people on the move, with people traveling. That’s the idea.
How can you do this effectively?
Right, it’s pretty new. We came first on the market. Some guys tried it before. When we started in 2012, the people were talking about a sharing economy, so we’re talking about the beginning of Airbnb. As we came, we saw one or two more competitors around. The business is really pretty new, and I think all this sharing economy, the people have to get interested into the sharing economy, so I would say it’s a pretty tough road for now. We just launched the Web site and said, “Okay, let’s see how it goes.” Many people have been asking for things to be shipped, and many people have been sharing their trips. Now we have to put all these people together, which is a hard job, but we’ll get to it, I hope. Maybe we will get to it, and if we don’t, one of the competitors will do a big logistics business out of it.
How is this different from a freight courier? I know there are some freight forwarders that sometimes have a courier service where if you’re a traveler, you can get a free flight if you carry some products on your luggage.
I would say the idea here is that instead of using professional people—I mean, everyone’s traveling, but if we think that everyone can transport something from someone. We’ve been doing it before; we’ve been doing it for cousins, for brothers, for family, so why, with the technology, why wouldn't we do it for people instead of companies and corporations?
That’s interesting. Why do you think there’s a need for this in the market?
Well, still to prove. Of course, we have launched other things. Of course we have to find the market to do business and to incur money so we can go out with the business, of course. Just like my own trip with my family in South Africa, we need this kind of service. We need to send stuff to the family, and we don’t want to pay so big amounts to help each other. People have confirmed the need for the service, so we’re slowly forming some kind of club. The other thing we have to find, the right formula to make it run and scale.
About sharing, the sharing economy and with new technology, how do you see that developing in the near future?
I’m a strong believer. To my business, the package business, I always say it’s not because David has a nice idea; people really use the service. People are buying more and more into sharing economy. It’s cheaper, it might be nicer. If you rent some kind of B-and-B in New York, you can find a nice apartment right in the middle of the city for a pretty decent price. I think all the people are will jump into the sharing economy. It’s not that there would be no choice. Secondly, of course, the crisis. We have a hard time to get nice, decent salaries, so more and more people are becoming freelancers. More and more people, they want to be taxi drivers with Uber; they want to be a hotel with Airbnb or they want to be a courier service with PiggyBee.
What’s the benefit if you want to carry someone’s things in your luggage? What’s the benefit for you?
Right, we’re now, of course, thinking about that, and as we launched, we said—we have no strappings, so we have no investors—we said, “Let’s just launch and see what happens.” As a traveler, you get some kind of reward. If you bring me something, I will pick you up at the airport, for example. I will offer you a drink, or maybe you will ask for some cash, and I will give you some cash to bring me something. Now, as a company, as PiggyBee, of course there are many ideas. A lot of competitors, they’re taking some commission on their courier service. Let’s say you transport something from someone and you ask $50. Well, PiggyBee will take $5 or $10, for example. We’re in the business, we’re very early to find some decent business models. That’s why, also, we’re working on sever different projects parallel to PiggyBee.
What would you say about working with logistics companies? Would that be a possibility?
Right, our business is small, competition is pretty small…no one is looking at this for now. Whenever we can scale, we have many thousands of users, I guess we can sit at the table with, let’s say, UPS, DHL, whoever, because I think it’s a good point for them to also jump into the sharing economy. I have really nothing against big corporations, because I think they can, we’ve seen that in the past. I think it’s a win-win situation for both of us.
This sounds exciting. I look forward to following how this develops. How do you plan on getting more people to sign up on your site?
Right. As we launch globally—that’s the new idea. I’m currently working on the new project, which is called PiggyBee Express. You’ll get the point; I’ll hold the explanation. With PiggyBee Express, we said, “Okay, let’s do the opposite. Let’s start locally and we will do shipping locally from local shops.” Instead of using courier services from local shops, anybody will be a driver. Instead of aiming for the global Web site, we’re trying the local Web site. I’m in Brussels; the idea would be to start in Brussels, scale, then who knows? We could go to Paris, and then we could do packages from Brussels to Paris. That’s how we see the scaling. I admit, one of my mistakes was to, I wanted to start global, but you don’t start global; you start locally. I have good expectation to go back to the global model whenever we scale with this express model.
That sounds great. Thanks for sharing today. What is your Web site address?
PiggyBee.com; that’s the global Web site. I can talk about PiggyBee.be, which is in Belgium. We will launch probably two weeks from now. PiggyBee.com for the global, PiggyBee.be for the local business.
And you also have Facebook and Twitter, other places to follow?
Of course. Lots of fans on Facebook, lots of followers on Twitters, many people from the sharing economy because that’s our business also, yeah.
About David Vuylsteke
Founder at PiggyBee | Web entrepreneur