One of the structural challenges in the UAE, and most parts of the Middle East, is the lack of a clear postal code, address and post box for many areas. For the emerging e-commerce startups in the the region, it has been a everyday struggle to deliver a package to the customer when there is no formal delivery address. By allowing users to geolocate the pick-up and drop-off points for their packages, Dubai-based delivery startup Fetchr has provided an innovative solution to this issue, allowing packages to be delivered from one phone to another, so to speak.
“Our common frustration with the antiquated logistics industry in the region and our passion to disrupt it brought us together,” says Joy Ajlouny, the Palestinian-American businesswoman who joined Arab entrepreneur Idriss Al Rifai, CEO and founder of Fetchr, in 2014. In 2012, Al Rifai launched Fetchr, after developing and optimizing a last mile delivery solution, with an initial funding of $1.2 million. Similar to Uber, Fetchr is an app that uses a smartphone’s GPS location as an address and deliver packages to the location of receiver’s mobile phone.
“Our technology connects our tasks and drivers, based on an algorithm that defines the most optimal way to take a new request into account without disrupting drivers’ routes. All GPS locations from customers are also integrated into the cloud, allowing us to provide transparency and precise time of arrival for the driver,” says Al Rifai. “On the consumer end, we have developed a native mobile apps in both Android and iOS.”
Increased accuracy and speed of delivery
An e-commerce industry professional for over 20 years, Ajlouny, who owned luxury e-commerce platform Bonfaire in San Francisco a few years ago, says a chance meeting with Al Rifai in Silicon Valley led to her joining the startup. “I met Idriss when he was pitching his idea to solve the “no address” problem in the MENA region in Silicon Valley. This resonated with me immediately as I faced similar challenges with shipping to the Middle East region with my previous company,” says Ajlouny, co-founder and creative director of Fetchr.
“We had several buyers from the Middle East purchasing our products online but I was highly frustrated by the long transit times to get our packages to customers and finally face a high return rate because the drivers could not find the addresses!”
Their patented technology has increased both the accuracy and speed of delivery in a part of the world where having something delivered can be a frustrating experience. “The MENA region is a unique market and tackling logistic challenges here is very different from any other region. The first problem is to get an accurate delivery address from customers, and ensuring that customers are available during the delivery date and time that they committed to, as they are always on the go. Our technology tackles both the problem,” says Al Rifai.
Fetchr is called the next desert unicorn. It expects to close its Series B funding in the next two months. Ajlouny and Al Rifai raised their first round of funding from New Enterprise Associates, the largest VC firm in the world, in 2015. “We raised $11 million in our Series A round. In fact, we are the first company in the region to be backed by a top tier Silicon Valley VC,” says Ajlouny adding that the funds have been channeled toward launching new products and improving its existing products, while expanding to new markets.
“We’re currently in the final stage of closing our Series B round and excited about the potential growth and markets that we will expand into moving forward.” They declined to specify an amount.