One of the consequences of the pandemic was undoubtedly the explosion of e-commerce and this has made it more evident than ever what the competitive advantage of companies like Amazon or Zalando is: why buy elsewhere if a product is present on these marketplaces? Delivery times, tracking, returns, everything is easier with the technologies developed by the tech giants and have now become a quality standard. Today dozens of startups around the world are developing management software to support companies in the management of shipments, in an otherwise unequal competition. Goshippo and Easypost (United States), Metapack (England) and Sendcloud (Holland) are the ones that are the most popular, together with the Italian ShippyPro, born in 2017 from the personal experience of the Florentine Francesco Borghi, at the time 24, who, unlike many competitors, immediately developed one global technology and today operates in 36 countries, integrating 175 couriers and offering an option to all those small shops that want to scale their business. “Our challenge – says Borghi – is to make all companies Amazon competitors”.
ShippyPro recently closed its first round: $ 5 million from the American private equity fund Five Elms Capital, for a valuation that according to Dealroom fluctuates around 20 million dollars. It had already been a while that investors from all over the world, especially the USA and UK, but some also from Italy, were wooing the startup, and when last July Borghi considered the product-market fit phase over, he decided to close the round. “We have only collected now, after four years, because we have had a good turnover since the beginning and we did not need it before. Now we needed the funds for sales and marketing and to scale the company ”. Five Elms is not exactly the type of venture capital generally chosen for a Serie A, but “more a partner: we needed someone very strong on Saas and enterprise and who would help us with the development plan in the United States“, says Borghi, which bluntly says: “Europe is a local market”. This does not mean that ShippyPro will leave Florence, where 30 percent of the 55 employees of the company, set to rise to 75 by the end of the year. “Everything remains in Italy – assures Borghi – Above all we want to keep development here, while sales and marketing are obviously distributed. Southern Europe has very high unemployment and a weak ecosystem, but it is also full of talents and here we have all the necessary tools to attract them ”. In California they certainly have more experience, but “we think we can bring hungry people on board”.
While it is true that the pandemic has given a strong acceleration to the growth of ShippyPro, it is also true that it has put a strain on it. “It was a difficult period because the requests were growing much more than before, even though we were already going well – recalls Borghi – We defended ourselves, we never had problems, but it was a trench for 4 months, without Saturdays and Sundays and working at least 12 hours a day “.
“The most important thing I have learned in recent years – says Borghi – is that if you are not solving a need you are not doing your job well”. ShippyPro was born to solve a personal problem. In 2016 Borghi took care of shipments for the family business, which distributes souvenirs all over the world. Computer expert and with a degree in economics, Borghi immediately created a system to simplify his work, developing an all-analog solution which he then resells to the artisans of Florence dealing with tourists with small bags. The buy now, ship later it works and in six months brings about fifty shops on board. Borghi develops a platform to scale the business, but once online he discovers that this only attracts individuals, not companies. Then go for a plugin for eBay and here are the companies. They love the platform, but want to use their own couriers, with whom they have more advantageous deals. And this is how Borghi decides to bet everything on management. “Only technology lasts over time”.
Founded in 2017 together with Lorenzo Rogai (26 years old), the following year ShippyPro is already able to close partnerships with top international couriers and in two years it conquers brands such as CDiscount, Calzedonia, and Diesel. All without too much fuss and without feeling like a startup: “We wanted to build a company with a capital A and in 2017 startups weren’t seen as projects with very high potential, so it was more of a threat and so we took the classic path”.
Today ShippyPro offers an integrated system for the management of shipments, from the collection of goods to the (automated) choice of the best courier, from the production of the documentation for the shipment to the labels up to the communications (always automated) to the customer and courier, and from tracking to returns. Many of these activities are still carried out by hand in small companies. “One of the most important things that I have understood in doing the company is that you cannot do things alone: you have to think about creating a super team of ten people in six months even before leaving and structuring the company to work as a team. since day one “. Without ever forgetting the problem that you are trying to solve: “Sometimes it happens to go off topic: when you start making money you tend to no longer ask yourself why you are providing a certain service, but why is the thing that keeps you going”.
The next step? Meanwhile, they are around a hundred hires are expected within a year, a little further probably a round B and in the meantime we need to start thinking about which road to continue. Exit or IPO? Borghi does not want to expose himself, but when he talks about a “universal solution to simplify life for all those involved in e-commerce” we seem to understand that he leans towards the second hypothesis.
Look at the ShippyPro tab on the Startup Database.