As e-commerce fulfillment becomes increasingly important, funding for technology and startups that can help companies meet that need is also ramping up.
Much of the fresh activity is focused on finding solutions for last-mile and specialized at-home package delivery, as well as on-demand technology for pricing and freight booking.
The latest action is from parcel storage systems provider Fetch Package Inc., which has raised $3 million in seed funding, led by Silverton Partners, to expand systems for handling e-commerce package delivery to apartment buildings. The capital will also be used to further develop their software platform and enable additional delivery services such as hassle-free package returns and dry cleaning.
Fetch, a Dallas-based startup, accepts packages at local warehouses, then provides scheduled, door-to-door delivery with residents. This solves the problem for the property and provides residents with a convenient and time-saving service. With Fetch, properties can be package-free in 30 days with no upfront cost.
“The e-commerce explosion has flooded apartment buildings with packages, and the industry is looking for a way to get out of the package business,” Michael Patton, founder and CEO of Fetch, said. “The current alternatives are short-term fixes, so we started Fetch to provide a complete and permanent solution to the package problem. The only way to truly solve the problem is provide a high-touch, personalized resident service with exceptional customer service.”
The competitive sector has also given rise to new solutions from established players like UPS and Amazon.com.
UPS launched a pilot program with Latch smart access devices to allow in-building deliveries to multi-unit homes in New York City, and the idea could serve to reduce package theft. The service is meant to provide increased security and convenience for residents who are not at home to receive their packages. Latch’s smart access devices enables UPS drivers to provide more consistent customer service and complete more deliveries on the first attempt.
Amazon, already a leader in the logistics space, just launched a program to help entrepreneurs build their own companies delivering Amazon packages, while serving as a solution to the “last mile” challenge. Under the initiative, successful owners can earn as much as $300,000 in annual profit operating a fleet of up to 40 delivery vehicles, with Amazon taking an active role in helping interested entrepreneurs start, set up and manage their own delivery business.
Dave Clark, Amazon’s senior vice president of worldwide operations, said, “Customer demand is higher than ever and we have a need to build more capacity. As we evaluated how to support our growth, we went back to our roots to share the opportunity with small-and-medium-sized businesses. We are going to empower new, small businesses to form in order to take advantage of the growing opportunity in e-commerce package delivery.”
Elsewhere in the logistics sector, Flowspace, a startup that provides on-demand warehousing and fulfillment services, recently raised $2.2 million for expansion. The new round of investment closed in June and was led by Moment Ventures of Palo Alto, Calif. The round also included investment from 1984 Ventures and Y Combinator. Founded in 2017, the company has previously raised $1.2 million in seed funding.
“This additional capital will enable us to scale our business as we head into the second half of the year, a crunch-time period for retailers and e-commerce companies that are fine-tuning their warehousing and fulfillment strategies for the holiday selling season,” Flowspace co-founder and CEO Ben Eachus said. “Over the past year, we’ve seen tremendous growth, especially from small- and mid-sized businesses that feel shut-out by on-demand warehouse providers that are singularly focused on large enterprises.”
Last month, Freightos WebCargo and Lufthansa Cargo unveiled instant air cargo ebooking for 1,000 forwarders that can now look up contracted rates, assess capacity and book cargo in real-time.
Freightos WebCargo noted that while e-commerce sales drove a 9 percent growth in air freight demand in 2017, manual air freight management and sales continued to cost the industry billions annually in changing fees, untapped capacity, and manual labor. This contributes to the average air cargo transit time of six days, while the flight itself is just hours.
With digital connectivity introduced by Freightos WebCargo and Lufthansa Cargo’s application programming interface (API) services, forwarders to instantly view their contracted price online and secure air freight capacity. This will be expanded globally in coming months, beginning with a rollout in major European markets.
“Everyone’s talking about air cargo digitization, but for most it’s just talk. It’s fantastic to partner with a forward-looking airline like Lufthansa Cargo for this quantum leap in cargo booking,” Zvi Schreiber, CEO of Freightos, said. “The result of on-demand booking is that goods will move faster, with up to a day shaved off transit time, and tens of dollars saved per shipment.”