The whole point of delivery startup Shyp is to replace the hassles of shipping–the rummaging around for packaging materials, the boxing items up, the driving, parking, and waiting in line–with a smartphone app. Snap a photo of the item you need to ship with your phone’s camera, and the phone summons a Shyp “Hero” to take away your stuff. The company then packs it at one of its warehouses and gets it on its way via a carrier that can deliver it at a reasonable price.
Simple? No, of course not: It’s just that the company masks the complexity from the consumer. And as it begins to roll out more widely, in every new city it encounters a new puzzle to solve.
That was certainly true in Los Angeles, Shyp’s fourth market, which it began beta-testing a month ago. “We knew going in it was going to be a unique challenge,” says Andrew Wyatt, the company’s head of operations (and its first employee). “Tons of Angelenos talked about the traffic, the traffic, the traffic, the traffic.”
Before launching, Shyp sent an advance team to figure out how to deal with all that congestion and still get Heroes to customer doorsteps within the promised 20 minutes. But “three days into beta, we realized it was even worse than we predicted,” Wyatt says.
Now the company is ending the beta period and making Shyp L.A. official. But the service it’s offering reflects a number of tweaks it implemented during the test period. For instance, it divvied up its area of coverage into three demand centers after learning more about actual travel times and the volume of business in different areas. (People in Venice are particularly heavy Shyp customers.) That lets it keep Heroes queued up in the locations where they’re most needed.
In addition, Shyp began implementing efficiency measures it can also use in other cities. If Heroes are picking up more items than Shyp’s warehouse staffers can box up, the company’s satellite drivers will chip in with packing to help minimize overload. It also programmed its cardboard-cutting machines for one-button production of custom packing materials for popular items–such as Apple’s Thunderbolt display, an oft-Shypped device that took 45 minutes to pack the old way and just five minutes with the new materials.
Shyp now uses a laser scanner to measure and weigh items, which sounds considerably more advanced than the tape measure still in use at my local post office. “It helps us push the upper bounds of what we can do,” says Wyatt.
Overall, the ramp-up in L.A. has gone three times faster than in any previous Shyp market, Wyatt reports. An invitation-required promotion called Shyp Gold–which lets you ship anything to any location in the U.S. for $1–has played a big role in drumming up excitement for the service.
Now the company is announcing its next market: Chicago. It expects to launch there sometime this summer, with a beta period of a few weeks. It says it’s seriously considering offering Shyp Gold to Chicagoans. And it’s about to send an advance team to the Windy City to help it understand how the logistical challenge there differs from the ones it’s already tackled in San Francisco, New York City, Miami, and Los Angeles.