The idea for Gepek, a Croatian startup that aims to tap the sharing economy for same-day deliveries, came about because a brother and sister wanted to help their mother access her medication quickly.
One Friday afternoon, Carla and Dario Ferreri’s mother had arrived at a seaside village for a holiday when she realized she forgot her blood pressure medication. Because it was a weekend and she was in a rural area, their mom was looking at a three-day delivery window for her meds. So her kids called a friend who called a friend-of-a-friend who was driving in that direction, and before the day was out, their mother was in possession of her medication.
After that, the Ferreris — both of whom had worked in the fields of IT management and logistics for more than 15 years — decided to build a delivery business based on the sharing economy. They founded the company in April 2020 with the belief that a decentralized, blockchain-based logistics infrastructure could make supply chain systems more manageable and resilient by allowing individuals to help one another.
Gepek now claims to have a large enough network of carpoolers to provide on-demand package delivery at any hour, typically within 30 minutes to a few hours of a user’s request, and at lower rates than express delivery by conventional post. The startup, which is still raising a seed round, envisions itself pulling in revenue from transaction fees and partnerships with complementary services like insurance.
Gepek, which translates from Croatian to “trunk,” as in of a car, has more than 4,200 registered users in Croatia already and is expanding into the broader European market, with a goal to grow to 200,000 active users by the end of 2023, according to a company spokesperson. The startup has made deliveries to Austria, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Serbia and Slovenia without any advertising cost, instead relying on word of mouth.
“We will expand into central and Eastern Europe in Q1 next year, after the mobile app development,” Carla Ferreri told TechCrunch. “We plan to open local offices and already have partnerships with startup accelerators, blockchain companies, etc.”
One such partnership is with Auki Labs, a Hong Kong-based startup that builds a precise positioning engine for augmented reality experiences. While designed for virtual worlds, Auki Labs’ advanced peer-to-peer positioning protocols will allow Gepek to run on an alternative to GPS that does not require a satellite connection, the companies say.
While most delivery and ridesharing services today rely on GPS, Auki Labs CEO Nils Pihl argues that tried-and-true navigation system can actually create location accuracy challenges for senders, drivers and receivers. Peer-to-peer positioning, on the other hand, allows devices (like smartphones) to determine where they are relative to one another and identify the precise location. This allows for a package to be delivered not just to, say, an office building, but to a specific room within that building.
“It does not require a map of the building, and that is the beauty of it,” Pihl told TechCrunch. “There’s a single point of reference, placed somewhere in the entrance of the building in the form of a simple QR code. After scanning, you enter a shared [augmented reality] positioning space where both [the deliverer and the deliveree] can see each other’s phones. This allows us to have a successful last meter delivery by finding a person without communicating much with the people included in the process.”
In addition to upping its location accuracy game, Gepek is also in the process of implementing blockchain into its platform to provide increased security and real-time tracking data, according to the company. Gepek also said blockchain will enable crypto payment options and a tokenized reputation system.