Fetchr gets $11 million from NEA to bring a normal delivery experience to emerging markets
What if, a couple days after ordering a new pair of sneakers from Amazon, you got a phone call. "Hey, where are you, we have your shoes, and want to deliver the to you, we just don't know where you are." Then, imagine if you will that you had then guide that delivery person to your location, mainly by citing recognizable landmarks.
This is actually how the delivery process works in many emerging markets, in particular, the Middle East and other parts of Asia.
Delivery startup Fetchr is trying to use mobile technology and GPS to update the often frustrating and unreliable fulfillment and delivery systems, starting in emerging markets such as the United Arab Emirites, Bahrain, and Saudi Arabia. And with $11 million in Series A funding — the largest for a Middle East-based startup — has an opportunity to change the existing, broken delivery process.
"In the U.S. you have addresses... For Americans and people not in emerging markets, it's hard to understand that in these place, there are no addresses," said Fetchr co-founder Joy Ajlouny. "For packages, you give a name, and a phone number. They deliver it with a driver using a piece of paper and a pencil to record information while you give directions, staying on the phone until they get to the physical address."
"Sometimes you get the package and sometimes you don't," she said.
So Fetchr uses a mobile phone's GPS to locate delivery recipients. "We thought, why don't you use your cell phone number as your physical address, and instead of delivering a package to an address that doesn't exist, why don't we deliver to your cell phone," Ajlouny said. "We wanted to bring technology and elements of what it feels like to deliver with technology to a region of the world that doesn't understand that."
A better delivery system in emerging markets has the added benefit of potentially increasing the amount of online shopping activity for a part of the world that has the potential to be a $16 billion industry in the region according to Fetchr CEO and co-founder Idriss Al Rifai. Also, many retailers are trying to make headway in these new markets because of the saturation of e-commerce shopping in the U.S., and the potential to add new customers across the globe.
"E-commerce does not exist without a great solution for shipping," aid Ajlouny. She added that the lack of a physical address problem is one that also affect the potential for the e-commerce market to grow in places like China, Russia, and Brazil.
"If you can't find the customer, you cannot complete the transaction," said Al Rifai. Al Rifai, who has worked for MarkaVIP and the Boston Consulting Group in the Middle East, found the e-commerce fulfillment process to be a hassle, and connected with retail entrepreneur Ajlouny, who had previously founded Moda Operandi-acquired BONFAIRE. Running her e-commerce site, Ajlouny had seen the other side of the address complication, having seen one item after another being returned from Dubai, Saudi Arabia, or Kuwait because the delivery company couldn't find the address/customer.
For Al Rifai, using a customer-centric technology to have your packages found you made sense in the Middle East, and has the potential to have a utility in other emerging markets.
Fetchr's $11 million Series A funding round was led by New Enterprise Associates, and included Delta Partners, Dhabi Holdings, Roland Berger, and 500 Startups.
As co-founder Ajlouny said, "We are trying to create the opposite emotion of frustration and anger."
"We are at the right place, at the right time, with the right product, because you cannot talk about e-commerce unless you solve the problem of logistics. We know there is an issue, and we are the solution," Ajlouny added.
Updated: This post has been updated to reflect that the total raised increased from $10m to $11m.