Six-month-old Melbourne delivery startup Passel scores spot at global tech conference in Silicon Valley

Passel founder and chief executive Marshall Hughes

A six-month-old Melbourne startup that is building a platform for same-day deliveries has been invited to Founder Institute’s three-day global networking event in Silicon Valley.

Passel is building a crowd-sourced delivery platform that will enable everyday shoppers to make to make some extra cash on the way home.

The startup was founded in November 2016 and secured a $60,000 angel investment one month later from Gavan Stewart and Niels Van Hove.

While there are many other courier platforms and delivery startups in the market, Passel founder and chief executive Marshall Hughes believes there’s still space for new players because “no one is providing a delightful experience”.

Hughes, who’s spent the past two decades in freight and logistics, says there has been “an explosion” in home deliveries in Australia, which he says are attracting double-digit growth annually.

“Passel is a crowdsourced delivery service to help retailers gain more sales by providing inexpensive and convenient same-day home deliveries for their online orders,” Hughes tells StartupSmart.

The startup connects retailers with everyday people who are already near their store to “complete the final mile delivery”, says Hughes.

Passel delivery members receive a message when opportunities to deliver parcels arise and can complete these for a $10 gift card.

“Unlike drones, lockers, apps, couriers or any existing solution, Passel does not require fixed infrastructure or contracted drivers,” he says.

To help get his idea off the ground, Hughes completed a program with the Founder Institute’s Melbourne chapter, which hammered down his two years of “mucking around” into 16 50-odd hour weeks to help him decide: “are you going to be a founder or not?”.

Over the next three months, Hughes will be going through its graduate program where the “goal is to raise $300,000”. He hopes to secure this in time for the platform’s Melbourne-wide launch in August. Passel is currently only active in Frankston in Melbourne’s south-east and has more than 160 people signed up.

Luckily for Hughes, he’s secured a spot at Founder Institute’s bi-annual Silicon Valley conference this May, which selects 50 founders from the institute’s 200 chapters around the world to participate in a three-day event of intensive networking, mentoring and coaching.

Hughes hopes going to Silicon Valley will get him “bucket loads of leads for the seed round”.

At the conference, Hughes will be hearing from international tech entrepreneurs and experts, including Google developer advocate and former Microsoft executive Don Dodge, but he’s also looking forward to connecting with venture capitalists, angel investors and other founders.

“It’s also good to meet startups that are doing different things,” Hughes says.

Hughes believes meeting other founders is a great opportunity to learn and share insights because no matter how different the ventures may be, the path they take “isn’t too dissimilar”; most founders experience challenges like driving business-to-business sales and figuring out marketing, he says.

The big vision

While Passel’s platform is being designed to enable round-the-clock deliveries for omnichannel retailers, Hughes hopes to eventually expand this beyond the retail sector and shoppers.

“When I sat down and did my original plan I thought we’d already be Melbourne-wide,” he says.

“[I’ve had to learn] to be ambitious but not stupidly ambitious.”

Over the next 12 months, Hughes is hoping to roll out Passel to capital cities across Australia and after achieving this, will look at expanding into the US.

“The battle plan is to launch in August and get through Christmas and do Christmas really, really well … my goal next year was to do 300,000 deliveries, which is a small part of the overall market,” he says.

As he grows the platform, Hughes says the dedicated support of his strategic advisors, comprising Angel Cube’s Adrian Stone, Cameron Rambert, Barry Nguyen and Brin Hayden, as well as a “close mate” who has put in “significant time” into helping him, will be vital.

“It’s hard to do this thing on your own,” says Hughes.

“I have 20 years in freight and logistics so I’m pretty egotistical and thought I knew everything I needed to know but startups are a different ball game.

“My advisors have got really diverse backgrounds so when I put out, ‘this is what I think’, I’ve got five really different view points [coming back].”

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