Ask yourself the following questions:
Have you ever wanted to get your hands on something you could not find locally?
Have you ever needed to ship something but don’t want to pay the extortionate price?
Have you ever got back from abroad and realised you have left something at a hotel or a friend’s house - maybe a smartphone or a camera - that you really need to get your hands on?
Chances are you will have answered yes to at least one of these questions and this is why I set up PiggyBee.
Back in the 70's : with mum and
brothers waiting for dad at airport
Let me set the scene for you. My dad has been a business traveler for years and friends and family have always asked him to bring items back from wherever he was going.
A pair of jeans from the USA, a specific perfume from Europe, some exotic spices from Asia, rare books from South America. Just about anything from anywhere and my dad was always happy to oblige.
The images of my dad bringing back items from his travels have always stayed with me. I’m now a globetrotter myself – both for holidays and in my work as a sound engineer. I am also a business owner shipping equipment all around the planet through my sound and lighting webshop. All these different facets of my private and professional life began to make me think about a new and innovative business idea.
Working on a world music live show
in Louisiana as a sound engineer
The real Eureka moment came after I had returned to my home in Belgium from a trip in South Africa. I urgently needed to get something back, but didn’t know anyone heading from South Africa at that time. I thought this was a ridiculous situation – given that thousands of people land at airports every single day and thousands of other people need items to be transported and the internet could provide a readily accessible method of connecting these two parties. Should it not be possible to sort something out?
So, never one to shirk a challenge, I decided to solve the problem myself and PiggyBee was born. I put together a slideshow presentation and video to explain to people in the Belgian startup sector how I could bring together those who needed something transported with those willing to transport it. Some said it would never work (wrong), some said it was too dangerous (wrong again – some safeguards can be put in place) but most people loved the concept.
There were several interested parties but my cousin Sebastien was the first to jump in with both feet. Seb has his own web company (Ledimo) which is located in Johannesburg and together we have taken things forward.
The way it works is simple - in exchange for providing a courier service, travelers get either a reward (such as a meal or transport) or hard cash. Although this concept is relatively new, it ties in perfectly with peer to peer or sharing trends such as carpooling, couchsurfing, coworking, colunching, crowdfunding or ventures like Airbnb. Some call our service crowdshipping.
After meeting with legal experts to clearly define our terms and conditions, we launched a beta version of PiggyBee and positive feedback from users encouraged us to launch an improved multilingual version. Since then, we are proud to have connected literally hundreds of users.
PiggyBee provides a new way to carry objects across long and short distances and is both economically advantageous to those involved and has huge eco-friendly potential, thanks to cutting down on the carbon used in global delivery.
Surprisingly, before 2012, no one was talking about crowdsourced delivery - the only way to ship something was to pay courier services such as UPS or Fedex. There were attempts to try a different approach to the problem - some Indian guys tried something a few years ago and I had contact with one American who launched a large online community dedicated to crowdsource deliveries, but unfortunately he was hacked and quit. Delivery company DHL also had an occasional project asking people who were moving across a city to carry parcels.
But now crowdsourced delivery is a real trend – along with PiggyBee there are several other providers on the market and the sector is growing. However, what sets PiggyBee apart from the rest is its usability – we have a very simple but effective platform - along with the website’s multilingual capability, which breaks through the language barrier and enables people across the world to connect. The fact that PiggyBee has set been set up by a team with long-term business experience has also been instrumental in its growth – we know what our customer base wants and we are providing it, which is a recipe for success whatever business you are in!
In fact, over the last few months we have been helping many more people than ever before. This is not surprising given the phenomenal growth of the new sharing economy. However, the concept of parcel shipping through travelers still remains largely unknown to the general public (although as a recent example, US retail giant Wal-Mart has talked about crowdsourcing deliveries) but I’m convinced that we are at the beginning of something huge and I’m happy that PiggyBee is ahead of the game and showing how it can be done!
We’re working hard to improve the platform, with a key consideration being trust and security as this is vital for the success of any collaborative consumption venture, so we are currently looking at providing user profile and reputation facilities. You can never have zero risk – any online platform can be used by fraudsters and criminals – but at present we monitor every single transaction and are putting security measures in place for the future, which will include help and advice in regards to customs and tax regulations.
It looks like crowdsourced delivery in general, and Piggybee in particular, is here to stay!
Interested? Why not get involved in the future of delivery by sharing your next trip on the platform, or tell us what you need transporting and we’ll do our best to match you up with a traveler. Come and join the PiggyBee revolution!