Ventureburn chats with Simon Hartley on WumDrop’s R1m-plus investment [Q&A]

On the back of raising over R1-million and winning the prestigious MTN’s Best Enterprise App and Best Overall App of 2015, Ventureburn sits down with WumDrop co-founder Simon Hartley (pictured above with ‘anonymous’ developer) to catch up with what the trendy, on-demand courier and delivery startup is up to.

Hartley co-founded WumDrop together with Roy Borole in May 2014. Since then, the South African startup has achieved fast growth and prompted other players like the Tencent-backed Picup to enter the market, both seeking to disrupt the local courier industry and beyond.

Today, WumDrop has secured an investment of just over R1-million, with the bulk coming from angel investor Ernst Hertzog from Action Heroes Ventures and the startup’s existing investors, including Hans Spielthenner, Sara Lopes Moutinho, Justin Stanford, Rob Stokes, Wayne Gosling, Daniel Guasco and Vinny Lingham.

Read more: From diapers to grilled cheese: WumDrop’s curious on-demand courier service takes on SA

Interestingly, while both co-founders are non-technical, the startup has still managed to build a world-class platform, beating out the likes of DStv and the Naspers-backed Money for Jam (M4JAM) at the MTN App of the Year Awards.

In the interview, we chat to Hartley about WumDrop’s inception and the success of its employee equity policy to attract talented developers. Hartley also hints at some of the on-demand courier and delivery startup’s up-coming features and where the company sees itself in the future.

Ventureburn: What made you guys stand out from the competitors in the MTN App of the Year Awards?

Simon Hartley: I think it was Roy’s dancing during the pitch. I don’t know what made us stand out in terms of build quality and so on, because we were competing with the likes DStv, M4JAM and those kinds of cronies.

Obviously they have crazy budgets compared to ours. They have extremely competent developers. They have UI and UX consultants, while Roy and I scribble on glass windows with koki.

VB: And that’s an interesting point you raised when we approached you about the news; you guys are both non-technical co-founders. Generally, the belief is that a startup needs at least one technical co-founder.

SH: It’s a double-edged sword. On the one hand, the strength is that you are quite stubborn and big-headed about the problem that you’re trying to solve. We feel like our product is not nearly finished. It’s really scratchy at some parts, like signing in on the iOS app. We find frustrating things like that because neither of us can build anything.

We have limited money and a limited amount of competent developers, in terms of their limited hours.

Read more: WumDrop debuts iPhone app, teases with up-coming features

The strength is that we’re big-headed in what we’re trying to solve, which means when somebody says “This is hard”, we go “Well, that’s the whole point of what we’re trying to do.” Nobody pays for a problem that’s easy to solve. People pay for something that’s hard. We’re really good at operations, especially when it comes to customer service.

For the full interview with Simon Hartley, have a listen to the podcast above.

Me and Roy are very good at customer service. We bend over backwards to please our customers. We spend money on them and try and make them happy. Somehow, we’ve managed to get to the point despite not having any technical experience ourselves. We’ve lucked out by surrounding ourselves with developers that we do have.

VB: Another thing that makes WumDrop unique is that you give out equity to some of your employees.

SH: Well, we don’t have money to pay them what they deserve to be paid. They spend as many hours on this thing as we do, so they deserve to have part of it. I think it’s a no-brainer.

This is our first company. We’re willing to give away part of it to get the job done. I think it would be hugely naive to say “We don’t want to give away any part of our company because we’re trying to protect equity for the long term.” What are you actually protecting if you can’t get the job done?

I think it’s an awesome way to get people like developers on board. The guys that we do have are not really in it for the money. It’s a great by-product to be able to go to Zanzibar and not really worry about price, or go to Woolworths and not look at how much you’re putting in your basket. But what these guys want to do is build something, get kudos from their peers and solve problems.

VB: What problem is WumDrop trying to solve?

SH: The problem that we’re trying to solve is that last-mile delivery in Africa and the Middle East sucks. It sucks for a few reasons: one, because mapping data is terrible. A lot of the data on Google Maps is incorrect. We’re getting to the point where we’re building a composite database of our own.

WumDrop office

Here’s that koki-scribbling Hartley mentioned.
Our plan is we’re not going to be delivering to addresses. Essentially, we’re just going to be delivering to people. There’s great cellular coverage in Africa and the Middle East. That we hope is going to increase accuracy a big deal because it will allow for dynamic targets. You won’t be delivering to a static address because the goal of delivery is to give it to a human being.

Read more: WeChat set to launch on-demand courier service in SA

The vast majority of our business comes from businesses who want to send stuff to customers. An entity that will do something like that is an ecommerce store. The second highest — in terms of revenue but not volume — is business to business. For example, a factory or a furniture company is sending something to a different branch.

VB: Let’s talk about WumDrop’s latest investment.

SH: So we did a budget analysis at the beginning of the year and saw that with our sales goals, we’re just shy of half-a-million rand for March next year, which is when we hope to break-even.

We wanted to raise some cash to cover that. Because that’s going to cover our sales, we wanted to double that number in case we all got struck by pneumonia or swine flu or something. We want the business to have a lifeline in case that anything bad happened.

We also wanted to accelerate development pretty radically. We wanted to some extra R300 000 to get some extra developers on board. We’ve done that, and just raised over a R1-million at a valuation of R7-million.

VB: What can we expect from WumDrop within the next year?

SH: We hear all your complaints about UI and we thank you for your love for us. We do appreciate it. We plan to have a fixed UI and crush the South African market in terms of on-demand deliveries.

We aim to be cash positive month-on-month and expect to have Durban up-and-running with a large client. We expect to have Port Elizabeth up-and-running. Bloemfontein, we’re not really sure if we’re gonna get to you, but you guys have a waterfront so you’ll be fine.

Once we have those major territories we can connect them in the same workflow the likes of Ship has, in order for you to send anything in the country via our platform. Once that is done, we’re going to create an excellent suite of on-demand software that anybody can use for any on-demand business.

Jacques Coetzee: Staff Reporter


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