Why we led Shippit's Seed round back in 2017, and why we've continued to invest through to Series B.
18 Dec 2020 · 5 min read
Earlier this month, Shippit announced a A$30 million Series B led by New York-headquartered venture capital fund, Tiger Global. This brings the company's total funding to A$41 million since 2017, commencing with the Seed round led by Tidal Ventures (branded as AddVenture Fund at the time).
Let's travel back in time for a minute and look at the opportunity from the perspective of our 2017 investment notes.
We shared a belief with many investors that e-commerce would be the long-term retail transaction method of choice for consumers. The purchase convenience of any time, anywhere, along with the unlimited choice and price comparison consumers have online was always going to outshine a physical store.
It was our view that both the logistics infrastructure and the overall experience for the Retailer and the Consumer were broken. The average NPS for delivery experience in Australia hovered around -35, so we clearly weren't the only ones with this view. The broken state of this market looked like a classic technology opportunity to us.
Our thesis: changing customer expectations & innovation that disrupts legacy systems and improves supply chain inefficiencies will power the growth in e-commerce globally
William On and Rob Hango-Zada
Cliché, but this continues to be a question we ask ourselves for each new opportunity: can the founders do what it takes to persevere. What we recognised in Rob and Will as founders from our very first meeting was their uniquely complementary skills, their unhinged enthusiasm for the challenge, and most of all, their ability and willingness to listen and learn from others.
The Seed round was all about investing in Rob and Will as founders to see if they could execute a basic and repeatable promise and experience to retailers. They nailed it.
Shippit continues to demonstrate one of the best can-do cultures we have seen.
Fast forward to Series A. We examine how the company created a moat surrounding its product and opportunity set, the key to it cementing a credible position within the market.
As a 'SaaS as a Network' business, the size of the marketplace (or network) was critical to underpinning demand for the software. To achieve material growth in the network in the early days it was critical to build demand volume that would provide for a critical mass of suppliers (carriers). Winning large volume Retailers to underwrite the ability for the business to attract carriers on the platform was key. The business focused on winning key logos early, whilst simultaneously creating brand association & awareness through content-led programs like the Rocketeers of Retail.
This volume also enabled the company to prove out its carrier selection algorithm, an automated assessment of the "right carrier x right delivery type x right price" (think of this as the logistic industry’s version of Google’s quality score!). Shippit began to provide Retailers with an aggregated view of their deliveries and started directing volumes to carriers a Retailer may never have used before. The improved performance off the back of these initiatives formed the foundation for a trusting relationship between Shippit and the Retailer.
Shippit offered Retailers transparency. The delivery of that promise (no pun intended...) built a small flywheel in its volume momentum that has underpinned the business’ growth to date.
Building a sustainable competitive advantage through the delivery insights provides benefits beyond their customers, but also the parcel recipient.
Shippit is able to intelligently route parcels for e-commerce retailers and in turn provide superior quality, performance and rates.
We talk a lot about product-led-growth ("PLG") within the virtual four walls of Tidal. We see this as a critical capability for a startup to achieve superior unit economics and significant operational leverage.
Shippit’s ability to unlock the value of PLG in the last 12 months played a critical role in the success of its Series B.
Things at Shippit were growing exceptionally well from the end of 2019 into early 2020, but we still had to ask ourselves all the normal questions when COVID hit: 'How will we be impacted? Do we need to cut costs? How will we keep staff safe? How will we change the way we sell when we can’t meet anyone?'.
Rob, Will, the entire leadership team and staff stepped up and made some tough calls – they reduced the workforce by 20% and cut expenditure on non-core projects. Most importantly, Rob and Will sat back and asked the question:
What does this give us the opportunity to do and can we make changes for the better for our business, staff and our customers?
The actions they implemented in response have led to achieving some of the best growth SaaS operating metric's we have seen in any market. John Curtius from Tiger Global agrees with us, having been quoted in the AFR saying, "Shippit has some of the best metrics we've seen for a company raising at this stage".
We took a deep-dive with the team on the positioning of Shippit’s value prop for each of its customers segments. The end result: Enterprise and SMB segments now have fundamentally different messaging and value propositions, which drive more efficient marketing spend and higher customer satisfaction & stickiness.
The most significant change was the process of structuring their inbound funnel to support high volumes. Introducing more self-serve capabilities allowed the shift from pre-sales to post sign-up product qualified leads that were either pure low-touch or assisted by a Customer Success function. This materially impacted their ability to acquire customers efficiently at scale. This transition (which is in continual refinement) came to fruition when the explosion in demand during lockdown serviced the step-change in growth with limited headcount expansion.
By capturing leads after a customer had experienced firsthand the value of the platform, Shippit was able to bypass the need to "sell the dream" and focus on an exceptional customer experience and revenue expansion, thereby unlocking the strategic value of PLG
We’ve now invested in Shippit at Seed, Series A, Series A extension, and Series B, and we know we’ll keep going. We are in the early days of mass consumer adoption of e-commerce and we believe these founders and this business has what it takes to build a significant enterprise. We congratulate them on the journey so far and look forward to the challenges ahead.
We have strong conviction that there will be a number of winners in the e-commerce tooling space – in other words, the businesses that provide the picks and shovels to Retailers that help them build and deliver great experiences for their customers (other examples span product search, payments, inventory management and so on). Post-transaction, logistics for the fulfillment of the order is a critical component to ensure an e-commerce experience has comparable or improved benefits over traditional shopping. Shippit is advancing towards this ambitious goal within Australia and South East Asia. If you're a visionary founder who is ready to make waves, please reach out via our website.
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