Meet UniUni, Shein’s last-mile solution delivered by gig drivers
After we discuss e-commerce logistics, we consider an trade managed by entrenched gamers like Amazon, FedEx and nationwide postal programs. At the beginning of the pandemic in 2019, a courageous startup from Vancouver, BC determined to tackle the incumbents with a brand new mannequin — last-mile supply utilizing an Uber-esque community.
Through the pandemic, the corporate, UniUni, managed to develop its enterprise into the most important last-mile supply supplier for quick trend juggernaut Shein throughout North America. Its speedy progress drew traders’ consideration, and in the present day, UniUni introduced the closing of CAD$100 million ($70 million) for the primary tranche of its Collection B financing.
UniUni expects to lift three extra tranches for its Collection B spherical by the tip of 2023, the agency’s founder and CEO Peter Lu tells ClassyBuzz in an interview. Lu declines to reveal the goal quantity for all the spherical however says it will likely be a “substantial” quantity. Whereas the founder retains a good lip on the agency’s valuation, he says the purpose is to hit the $10 billion unicorn valuation by 2025.
UniUni’s early-day momentum was a results of luck and grit. When COVID-19 hit and saved tons of of hundreds of thousands of individuals at house, e-commerce gross sales soared, straining supply networks world wide. On the time, UniUni was an underdog within the aggressive restaurant supply race. A logistics agency that shipped e-commerce merchandise from China to Canada occurred upon one among its contract automobiles in Vancouver and requested if the corporate needed to assist drop off a couple of parcels within the neighborhood. UniUni stated sure, and earlier than lengthy, the one-off venture grew right into a long-term partnership.
From there, UniUni stumbled upon a brand new means of powering last-mile supply. Historically, on-line retailers lean on courier specific providers and postal networks to move items from warehouses to clients’ doorsteps. The problem with the mannequin, argues Lu, is that neither system is designed for the velocity or quantity of e-commerce. Shoppers both have to attend two weeks or pay a steep worth for quicker supply.
UniUni is providing what it claims to be quicker, cheaper last-mile options by means of its pool of gig drivers, or in Lu’s phrases, “crowdsourced drivers.” When its first shopper approached it off the road of Vancouver, UniUni already had an current community of contract drivers, so it didn’t take lengthy for it to determine the mannequin had sustainable unit economics. Naturally, the startup pivoted from delivering meals to e-commerce purchases.
“The last-mile supply market has imperfect competitors, which means there are limitations to entry,” says Lu, who studied laptop science at Shanghai Jiaotong College and moved to Canada 20 years in the past. “We thought there have been nonetheless alternatives on this area.”
Right this moment, UniUni boasts greater than 6,000 drivers throughout Canada and some hundred within the U.S., the place it not too long ago began working. It has an bold purpose to surpass 200,000 packages per day and generate $100 million in income in 2023. By the tip of this yr, the corporate goals to be worthwhile in Canada.
The founder is assured about his projections as he sees clear benefits in UniUni. For one, utilizing versatile staff somewhat than full-time workers tremendously reduces labor prices. In comparison with conventional courier providers, the startup has a a lot denser community of distribution amenities, which helps shorten its supply time. And since it’s platform-agnostic, UniUni can group orders from varied purchasers — be it Amazon, Shein or the up-and-coming app Temu — to work out essentially the most environment friendly supply route and schedule for drivers.
The setup, Lu says, means UniUni is ready to ship as quick as DHL however for lower than half its worth. The corporate helped Shein shorten its supply time from 10-14 days to simply 4 to 5 days, the founder claims.
Lastly, the startup’s community in China is indispensable to its early-day improvement. Within the e-commerce period, made-in-China items proceed to fill Western households, because of the rise of Chinese language e-commerce websites serving abroad customers and a streamlined cross-border logistics community that Chinese language corporations arrange over the previous decade. UniUni is working intently with a number of the largest cross-border logistics solution suppliers, akin to Yanwen Categorical and Zongteng Group, which each participated within the startup’s 50 million yuan ($7 million) Collection A funding spherical.
For its Collection B, UniUni centered on in search of monetary somewhat than strategic traders. The lineup included GrubMarket investor Celtic Home Enterprise Companions, BRV Aster, Freshwave Capital, Hat Trick Ventures and Imaginative and prescient Plus Capital. Proceeds from this new spherical will go towards its enlargement to main U.S. cities like Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Dallas and Miami. The corporate has a group of 250 workers, with a dozen of them within the U.S.
One should surprise how UniUni retains its prices low in a state like California, the place gig staff’ rights are underneath fixed legislative debate. Lu admits if drivers acquire full employment standing, the agency’s prices will improve. However he’s not too fearful concerning the affect of the potential regulation as a result of “we all know precisely what number of parcels we’re delivering per metropolis. It’s only a matter of once we break even. It could be three months earlier than, now it’ll simply need to be 4 months.”