Aussie logistics-tech startup Shippit has raised $30 million in Series B funding, topping off a turbulent year that’s seen everything from lay-offs, to re-hiring, to triple-digit growth.
Founded in 2014 by long-time uni mates William On and Rob Hango-Zada, Shippit provides a delivery fulfilment platform, with an algorithmic matchmaking service designed to choose the best carrier for the job.
It was built to help online retailers streamline their delivery operations and communicate with customers. In 2020, for many businesses, that’s suddenly become integral to their very survival.
The funding round was led by US investment firm Tiger Global, and comes as a significant addition to the $11 million the startup has raised previously.
It also comes at the end of a topsy turvy 10 months for Shippit, as well as for the retailers it serves.
As the pandemic hit Australia back in March, Shippit started seeing an increase in churn among its clients. For the most part, On puts this down to a number of them going out of business.
“That spike got us scared,” he tells SmartCompany.
The startup focused on automation and trimming down its operations to be as lean as possible, which meant letting go of about 20% of its workforce — about 20 people — primarily in the sales teams.
It was “a really difficult decision”, says On, and proved to be the wrong one; it wasn’t long before the boom in e-commerce really hit, and demand from both small businesses and the big end of town — think Big W and Temple & Webster — started to soar.
“If we’d had a crystal ball, maybe the outcome would have been different,” he says.
Shippit had automated a lot of its sales processes, but the co-founders managed to re-hire most of the workers they had laid off, re-skilling them into a different sales approach. The business has also now added about 50 more people to its team.
Pre-covid, the startup was seeing revenue growth of about 100%, year-on-year. A spike in demand between March and July meant revenues tripled during the 2019/20 financial year, pushing the startup to profitability for the first time.
Now, the team is doubling down on hiring and pushing into the Asian markets, in a bid to further capitalise on this momentum.
All in, On expects to onboard another 50 or so people within the next six to 12 months.
“This e-commerce thing isn’t going away,” he says.
“And customer experience is super important now.”
Lessons in resilience
On calls 2020 a year of “weird times and hypergrowth”. It hasn’t been an easy year to run any kind of business — even one operating in a growth sector.
But the Shippit co-founder has learnt some lessons along the way.
First of all, he says it’s all too easy to get caught up in face-value numbers. At the beginning of the year, all the economic forecasts looked pretty dire and “retail was getting smashed”, he says.
However, e-commerce was one of few sectors still growing, and perhaps if he’d been thinking more long-term, he would have done a few things differently.
“Keep an eye on the floor and an eye on the horizon,” he advises.
On also suggests leaders carve out time to do deep work, rather than spending all day in virtual meetings. He blocks out three hours most mornings “to really think”, he explains.
“Zoom fatigue is a real thing,” he adds.
“Being able to focus on the work at hand so you can make clear and specific decisions, that would be a super important piece of advice I would have done earlier.”
Finally, On stresses the importance of mental wellbeing, both for founders and their team members.
There’s a lot to be said for checking in on each other, and for encouraging people to take time out, to go for a walk or to exercise. It’s a compassionate approach, and it’s the way to get the best out of people.
“It’s having that balance of work, family and health,” he explains.
“That resilience within the team and that adaptability, and the leadership we’ve got. It all comes down to having the right people in the camp.”