When it comes to innovation, the global shipping industry has been a little too stationary in the past few decades. But a new class of US-based entrepreneurs is now taking steps to haul it into the 21st century.
“The shipping industry really hasn’t innovated since FedEx came along in the 1970s with its expedited mail,” says Kevin Gibbon, co-founder of Shyp. He knows a thing or two about sending packages: Gibbon was once an online salesman but frustrations with the process of shipping led him to leave that career behind. “Packing and shipping were the hardest parts of my business,” he says. “It was really time-consuming and I wanted to solve that.”
The Vancouver native started Shyp in 2013 in San Francisco; the service has since expanded to New York, Miami and Los Angeles. With Shyp, customers take a photo on their smartphone of unpackaged goods and Shyp collects, professionally packs and sends the parcel with a standard carrier at the best rate to anywhere in the world. It thus eliminates the time-consuming and costly processes of packaging the object you want to send and shopping around for the best provider.
Meanwhile, one-year-old start-up Roadie offers a neighbour-to-neighbour shipping service that prides itself on eliminating packaging altogether and removing the need for a shipping truck. Users (so-called “Roadies”) connect via the mobile app and deliver a package based on a route they are already driving. The neighbourly service comes with perks as well: Roadie offers roadside assistance, fuel incentives and even tax deductions.
Where platforms such as Shyp and Roadie leave off, the service Doorman, currently only available in San Francisco, makes sure home deliveries are never missed. Users’ packages are sent to Doorman’s depot and delivered during a scheduled window between 18.00 and midnight, seven days a week.
Q&A- Laurence Kemball-Cook
CEO and founder, Pavegen
Pavegen produces paving tiles that convert the energy of footsteps into electrical power, offering a renewable-energy source for cities.
What was your eureka moment?
While studying at university I realised wind and solar energy were ineffective in highly populated urban environments, where the energy demands are greatest. Passing through a busy Tube station it struck me that using footfall presented a big opportunity for renewable energy.
How much electricity can footsteps create?
Every time someone steps on a tile the surface flexes by 5mm, generating up to 7 watts of power. The energy is then stored in batteries. Six hours’ worth of runners’ footsteps over 25 metres of kinetic tiles can charge 1,880 mobile phones.
What’s your biggest achievement so far?
The world’s first-ever people-powered football pitch in Rio.
Will it be long before these tiles become ubiquitous?
The world’s electricity could originate purely from the collective power of communities but we need investment to reduce the production costs. pavegen.com
Band of brewers
Saké consumption in Japan has been in decline for four decades but two friends, Masa Takeshita (pictured, far left) and Nao Kohara (left), thought the national tipple deserved better. They decided to make saké from scratch and asked people to chip in with labour and donations.Takeshita’s parents own a small 150-year-old brewery in Kakeya village, Shimane prefecture. The Takeshita clan agreed to the pair’s proposal for a 3,000-bottle batch of junmai-shu – fermented from water and rice only – and to feed anyone who showed up to help.
The turnout was a surprise: 120 people travelled to Kakeya. Kakeya junmai-shu went on sale in March. “The reason people loved it was that it was in a remote part of Japan,” says Kohara. “It wasn’t just the saké; it was also the chance to experience the lifestyle and serenity of rural Japan.”