Topship goes from being an Instagram enterprise to a YCombinator firm

“Our overarching objective is to make delivery out and in of Africa as simple as reserving an Uber or Airbnb,” Moses Enenwali, founder and CEO of Topship, a Nigerian logistics startup digitising Africa’s delivery expertise, instructed TechCabal over a name. 

That’s an formidable assertion from an organization that was working solely on Instagram simply 18 months in the past. 

On January 14, the corporate introduced that it obtained into the 2022 Winter Batch of Y Combinator (YC) and has up to date its LinkedIn profile title to incorporate “(YC W22)”—a signature id tag for YC firms. 

YC brings validation to firms it backs and, apart from, the accelerator’s regular $125K funding—now $500K—the programme exposes startups to international consideration, high-level strategic recommendation, and a lifetime of high-networth connections. 

However how did an Instagram enterprise pivot into changing into a tech startup after which get into YC, the world’s greatest accelerator programme with a 1.5% acceptance charge? 

For Enenwali, it’s the end result of years of toiling as an worker and months of aggressive legwork as a founder. 

The journey started in 2014 after Enenwali returned to Nigeria from the UK and went straight into the busy world of consulting at Ernst & Younger, the place he would work for nearly a yr and a half earlier than shifting on to Africa Courier Categorical (ACE), a Lagos-based logistics enterprise based by a co-founder of Jumia and Lidya, Tunde Kehinde. At ACE, Enenwali was a senior consumer supervisor. 

Although the position was his first skilled job in logistics, it wasn’t his first expertise within the sector. Again in college, Enenwali had run a aspect enterprise known as Timewall Firm, the place he imported and distributed espresso beans sourced from Plateau State, Nigeria, within the UK. 

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After ACE, he joined one other logistics startup Sendbox, a YC-backed Nigerian firm that gives deliveries for e-commerce and social commerce sellers domestically and internationally. Enenwali spent over 4 years at Sendbox and wore a variety of hats together with progress, product, and partnerships. By the point he give up to deal with constructing Topship, he was already absolutely uncovered to the fragmented nature of delivery to and from Africa.  

“I spoke  to lots of people and realised that not a single particular person has had a pleasant delivery expertise [to and fro Africa]. The complaints have been majorly round transparency, loss or harm of orders, problem of accessing delivery providers, ridiculous pricing, and heavy customs duties,” stated Enenwali.

So, in June 2020, Enenwali began Topship as a one-man store, opened an Instagram account and began serving to individuals to maneuver parcels domestically. Then he began reaching out to retailers delivery inside and past Africa. He’d additionally go to retailers bodily to prospect them. 

COVID disrupted a variety of issues and logistics was one of many industries that took the heaviest blow. So, leveraging on this hole to provide individuals good delivery offers was Enenwali’s trump card. 

“It was a troublesome enterprise however not an unattainable one,” he stated.

Changing into a tech startup

Topship continued to realize traction underneath the radar; happy prospects referred their buddies and acquaintances to this new Instagram platform serving to of us to ship seamlessly. 

This continued till March final yr when Enenwali had a transparent grasp of the enterprise’s use case and thought he might construct a Flexport for Africans. However to be Africa’s Flexport, Topship needed to be a full know-how firm, so Enenwali determined to construct software program that handles the end-to-end course of. The corporate then raised $300K pre-seed, introduced in Junaid Babatunde as co-founder and CTO, and constructed a small group that might speed up its digital transformation.

Topship now has an internet app that permits retailers and people to guide a door-to-door cargo. It has additionally prolonged its delivery choices from solely parcels to incorporate cargos and freight to and from anyplace on this planet.

Since launching, Enenwali stated the corporate has onboarded over 1,800 customers, and 700 of them are energetic companies which were vetted and verified. These companies commonly use Topship for his or her native and worldwide cargo. The remaining customers are principally particular person customers who solely do one-time delivery, or ship at intervals. Enenwali additionally talked about that the corporate has accomplished 7,000 shipments and is presently sustaining a 100% year-on-year progress charge. 

On income, Enenwali stated the corporate has 3 sources of earnings: it sells delivery insurance coverage to its customers; expenses a markup charge on each transaction; and likewise expenses for clearing customs when relevant.

Topship isn’t the one African tech startup attempting to digitise the delivery expertise: there are a few them together with Kenyan’s Sote, Nigerian MVX, OnePort 365, the CEO’s former employer Sendbox, and extra. However Enenwali doesn’t see them as rivals; to him they’re potential companions. He believes this legacy sector is one large damaged big that might take an entire village to repair. So, all people constructing in that house is contributing to the underlying infrastructure wanted for mass adoption.

“We’re not competing towards any startup as a result of, belief me, no person has all of it discovered. We’re all competing towards the present conventional system of shifting items to and from Africa,” Enenweli stated when requested about competitors. “We’re presently constructing an infrastructure and, as soon as we’re carried out, tech startups which can be attempting to resolve the identical drawback would be capable to plug into what we’ve constructed and serve their customers.”

The Topship group understands that to carry their large plan to fruition, it has to interact a variety of third events at each cease within the worth chain. There’s a variety of handbook heavy lifting happening behind the scenes that must be dealt with by companions. Enenwali confirmed that to create a reliable end-to-end seamless expertise, they’ve partnered with a variety of stakeholders the world over and, now, its customers can ship globally. 

Although the corporate retains experimenting and arriving at totally different iterations of its answer, the CEO believes that if Flexport can do it, Topship, too, can. 

Flexport, the San Francisco-based delivery big, was a part of the YC 2014 Winter Batch and went on to boost $20 million after commencement. In 2020, it generated $1.7 billion in income.

It’s apparent Topship is absolutely going all-in on its adoption of the Flexport mannequin; it’s already a tech-enabled enterprise and in YC, similar to Flexport. However will it scale and lift $20 million? Solely time will inform. In the meantime, what’s sure is Enenwali’s ardour and confidence about fixing the damaged delivery chain for Africans. 

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