After what I’m told has been a successful six-month trial in Paris — racking up “hundreds of thousands of deliveries” — Stuart, the on-demand delivery app and platform, is seeing its official launch today. In addition to the French capital city, the service has had a shorter private test in London and is also opening its doors in Barcelona.
Founded in 2015 by Clement Benoit (who previously founded and until recently was CEO of restaurant delivery service Resto-In), and Benjamin Chemla (co-founder and previously CEO of Citycake.fr, which Resto-In acquired in late 2014), Stuart is aiming to disrupt last-mile logistics with better technology and a fleet of couriers to enable merchants to offer customers same-hour delivery.
It does this through the Stuart web and mobile app — which is suited to more casual use of the B2B last-mile delivery service and an effective way to quickly on-board new customers — and via an API that means small e-commerce sites and chains can build a white-labeled version of the service into their existing offerings.
The idea is to bridge the gap between local online to offline commerce, a market that is seeing a plethora of on-demand delivery startups open up shop in major cities, with various, though overlapping models. These include consumer facing apps that offer to ‘buy and deliver anything’, such as Jinn in London or Postmates in the U.S., or ones that focus on a single vertical like restaurant food delivery. Stuart, on the other hand is aimed at businesses.
In fact, the startup might be best thought of as Amazon Prime Now for local stores and merchants. But unlike Amazon it doesn’t have to contend with delivering goods from out of town warehouses or logistics hubs but is solely focusing on the last-mile and delivering goods from within a city. Also of note, the startup offers multiple modes of transportation, from pushbikes, motorbikes to vans, so it can delivery different size packages.
Co-founder Benjamin Chemla says that there are two main challenges to operating Stuart: perfecting the technology — such as the algorithms that make the last-mile delivery service run on time and as efficiently as possible — and supply chain management. The latter includes the recruitment and retention of enough couriers (but, presumably, not too many) to match supply with demand.
“The couriers are really happy to work with our platform because it’s not just food,” he says. “Throughout the day, from 9 in the morning till midnight, we have many different goods to deliver, and this is how we manage churn”.
The point Chemla is making is that food delivery startups — specifically those that deliver hot food, such as Deliveroo — have very particular peak times (ie lunch and dinner) and therefore have the added challenge of meeting that demand whilst also sending self-employed couriers enough work outside of those hours to ensure they stay loyal to the platform.
With that said, in addition to other types of merchants, Stuart is also working with restaurants who want to offer takeout for delivery. I understand, for example, this includes a trial currently running with Pizza Hut in Paris, and Sushi Shop in London. That means the startup can potentially pick up some of the slack left by Delivery Hero’s now shuttered Valk Fleet or Delivery Cube, which recently “paused” operations.
Meanwhile, Stuart’s business model seems more subtle than other on-demand delivery startups, too. It is paying couriers per delivery and charging merchants on a per delivery formula that calculates cost based on mode of transport and distance. This I’m told ensures that each job is able to pay its own way in its own right, rather than something reliant on a set number of deliveries per hour per courier (see Jinn’s recent numbers, for further context).
All of which is likely to be attractive to Stuart’s impressive list of backers. In November I broke the news that the yet to launch startup had raised €22 million in a round led by GeoPost, the delivery subsidiary of Le Groupe La Poste. The company’s other investors include J.D. Blanc (Allociné), J.A. Granjon (Vente-privee.com) and O. Mathiot (PriceMinister).