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A few months ago, we at Burn Media HQ discovered a curious new courier service in our neighbourhood: you can tweet to get a grilled cheese sandwich delivered straight to you face. Needless to say, it sparked our interest as much it did our appetite.
It turned out that the Grilled Cheese Club is run by local entrepreneur, Simon Hartley, as a trial service fitting into his bigger vision of a cheap, efficient on-demand courier service in South Africa. It’s now taken form as WumDrop — an interesting startup that’s been making the rounds in local media as well as impressive investors’ portfolios.
Born out of a local diaper subscription company called WumWum, WumDrop is kind of like an Uber for pick-ups and deliveries. “We’re a weird stray dog hybrid, bleeding between the cracks of big players like Mr D, Aramex, and Uber,” Hartley tells Ventureburn. It’s bringing the sharing economy to pick-ups and deliveries.
WumDrop co-founders Simon Hartley and Roy Borole, launched the on-demand courier service back in May 2014. It was conceived out of the shortfalls of the current services on offer. “We weren’t happy with the quality of the off the shelf courier/ delivery companies that we could afford, so we resolved to buy our own vehicles to fulfill orders,” Hartley explains.
Apart from helping run WumWum, Hartley has a strong background in media, having worked at 2OceansVibe for over four years, while Borole co-founded Dream Mobile and is the former managing partner of CableKiosk. They didn’t have the money or the expertise when it came to buying their own fleet of couriers to make WumWum as efficient as they wanted.
“We hit upon the bring your own car-revenue share model that Uber and Butlers Pizza use, and decided to go in that direction for deliveries,” Hartley tells Ventureburn. “It didn’t take us long to make the connection that if we had that system in place, we could fulfil for any number of people, not just ourselves.” And — as its tagline reads — just like that, WumDrop was born.
Carrying people’s goods and the prominent Where’s Wally colour scheme of red and white stripes, WumDrop’s on-demand service now lets you send anything to anyone over small distances in a small amount of time, for small money via mobile app, website, or ecommerce checkout.
Here’s a picture of WumDrop’s first group of drivers in their uniforms, with Borole and Hartley in the middle:
As mentioned above, the company is steadily making a name for itself, making the rounds in the media, participating in pitch competitions such as Seedstars, IBM’s Smartcamp and Get in the Ring. It was at the latter where the founders got second place and stole the hearts of Justin Stanford, Founder of 4Di Capital.
MTN also then went on to name WumDrop as the Best South African Android app of 2014. The team does note that the WumDrop app is still in beta.
Together with Stanford, the startup has over the past few months scooped up a group of renowned industry veterans as investors — namely Hans Spielthenner, Sara Lopes Moutinho, Wayne Gosling and Dan Guasco. An impressive portfolio for such a young company.
Other than having to dig into their own pockets initially, WumDrop has so far raised R750 000 in seed funding and hopes to increase that number past the R1-million mark.
In terms of gathering revenue, the startup charges users R7 per kilometer with a minimum charge of R35. As an example, Hartley explains, if the distance between your pick up and drop off points is 5km or below, you’ll be charged R35. If it’s above 5km, you’ll be charged the rounded down distance in kilometres multiplied by R7.
WumDrop takes 30% of that final fare, and the driver takes 70%. A deal that would seem as an obvious choice getting drivers on board, though WumDrop notes that getting enough courriers to meet the demand is their biggest challenge so far.
The company is launching in Cape Town after which it plans to plant small rings in the Winelands, the West Coast, and beyond. “The strategy is to get each ring to maximum saturation, and expand the circle incrementally,” explain Hartley. “We’ll rinse and repeat for Johannesburg and Durban, starting in Sandton before the end of the year.”
So from diapers to grilled cheese sandwiches, we now sit with the quirky yet hopeful WumDrop and its crew of red and white striped couriers taking on the streets of Cape Town and soon, the rest of SA.