Drones, Driverless Cars and Bell Bottom Jeans


One of the benefits of being forty-something is that I’ve lived long enough to appreciate the expression “the more things change the more they stay the same.”  After all, in my lifetime I’ve witnessed the rise and fall in popularity of bell bottom jeans…twice. 

When I began fundraising for my first start up in the early 2000’s the most common question I received was “What if Microsoft enters your market?”  Again during our fundraising campaigns in 2007 and 2008, one of the most common questions was “What if Google enters your market?” 

There will always be interest in what the big guys are doing and there’s no greater evidence for that than in our industry – same day delivery.  Whether it’sAmazon’s announcement of utilizing drones or Google’s development in driverless cars, there’s no end to the imagination around how delivery of our items will be performed in the future.   

Investors are forward thinking and they work hard to mitigate risks.  However, in this world were we now consume news in 160 character increments, there is often an overconsumption of headlines without a clear understanding of what is real versus what is perception.  Certainly any news coming out of Google, Amazon or any number companies tackling local delivery is worth tracking.  But spending too much time watching others can lead to us losing focus on executing our own plans.

Am I concerned that drones will soon replace human couriers for package delivery?  Not at all.  I think drones will have a positive impact on agriculture and public safety well before we see the skies filled with delivery drones.  [As part of our public safety announcement regarding the dangers of delivery drones, we distributed the following earlier this year.  We felt the public had the right to know!]

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Am I concerned that driverless cars will soon replace couriers for package delivery?  Nope!  I think driverless cars will find their place in the public transportation sector (moving people) far sooner than moving packages.

As a start up company, with limited resources at our disposal, the Zipments team focuses on the near-term horizon, which for us covers the next three to seven years.  So what innovative breakthrough are we betting on?…certainly nothing to do with automated machines on the roads and in the skies.  We believe a digital network that connects an opt-in, crowd-sourced labor pool of couriers will enable us to access idle capacity of both human and equipment capital to provide the most flexible logistics system available for local delivery.

There are several reasons as to why we are placing our bets in this area…far too many to list here.  However, one of the basic reasons goes back to that same expression of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” 

We believe the most effective solution for serving the rising demand for faster delivery of everything requires us to go back to the same model that has been in effect since the beginning of commerce and human history.  That is, to pay someone a fair wage to move something from point A to point B.  However, what we are fundamentally changing is WHO performs the service, how that person is identified, monitored and rated…and how we set that person up for ongoing success as a courier.  

With the rapid proliferation of smart phone usage in recent years, we are now at a point where we can manage a fluid, mobile digital network like never before.  Which means we can now identify, within seconds, the RIGHT resource (both courier and equipment) for every delivery request that comes through our network.  

It is our belief that the traditional hub and spoke model for distributing packages requires significant upgrades in order for it to support a local delivery system where packages are delivered within hours at a cost acceptable to consumers.  Identifying the optimum courier for each delivery is the key to building out a successful logistics platform.

What we at Zipments define as “the optimum courier” involves a bit of our “secret sauce” so I won’t go into details about that in this post!  Needless to say, we are hard at work scaling what we believe is the best solution for serving a rapidly growing demand for faster delivery of everything. 

That said, we don’t have a crystal ball…and we certainly don’t have the development budgets of Amazon and Google….so if and when driverless cars and drones become the best solution for local delivery, I’m certain they will be very efficient in delivering my new pair of bell bottom jeans.  And if that time comes within the next three years, we’ll simply change our business model to then train thousands of Zipments couriers to become certified remote drone pilots!

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