Andres Sampka is the CEO and co-founder of Parcelsea, an Estonian last-mile delivery startup that develops smart mailboxes that help accept and deliver parcels securely and contact-free. We talk to Andres about Parcelsea’s current traction, the origins of the idea, as well as the Estonia and some of the reasons why its ecosystem has blossomed.
Andres, tell us about yourself. How did you end up in the startup world?
The first time I truly felt I wanted to launch a company was probably when I studied in Sweden at Chalmers University of Technology. I saw how my buddies Risto and Kevin (now working on their third startup, High Mobility) built their first startup out of a dormitory. I however understood that I wanted to learn more business skills and the numbers behind it prior to launching anything. Back in 2009-2010 the startup scene was not as active as it is today.
And what were you doing previous to ParcelSea?
After receiving my master’s degree from Chalmers, I joined Ernst & Young as business advisory consultant. Worked with many retail companies and a few government-held companies in their organisation restructurings, process improvements and market research. After 2 years I wanted to follow my drive to learn more about the automotive industry but also on lean management. For that reason, I joined Toyota Motor Europe, where I spent 3.5 years working with various car model cost simulations, as well as quality and cost improvement projects in the supply chain.
After Toyota I moved back to Estonia and started working in parallel in Bosch and Siemens but also consulting Cleveron – the last mile click & collect automation solutions provider. I was hired by Cleveron to help to improve operations as they had an early success with a pilot with the global retail giant Walmart. Fast forward 3 years and I was responsible for the production, quality, sourcing & purchasing, logistics and pre-development engineering teams.
It was in Cleveron where I met my future Parcelsea co-founders. And when Covid hit the world we started looking at the last mile challenge from the perspective of “how can we enable convenient last mile home deliveries and pickups that the households would actually like to use?”. So after leaving Cleveron we launched Parcelsea to disrupt the last mile for consumers, retailers and shipping carriers.
Is it all rosy in the Estonian startup ecosystem as it would seem, or could something be better?
The Estonian startup ecosystem is truly as supportive and vibrant as it is presented. It is relatively easy to reach out to experienced founders who have gone through the valley of death in their journeys and ask for advice in solving any of the challenges on the table. We have been lucky to be backed by amazing VCs like Superangel and United Angels (now Specialist VC), who have listened to us, given us support when needed and connected us with the right people at the right time.
As with every ecosystem, it gets better and better in time if there are more success stories and ex-founders investing into new startups not only with money but also with their time. It is up to every founder for themselves to reach out and act if there is something they feel is not working and if there is someone out there who could help them. The help is always a phone call away.
What are some of the reasons why Estonia is excelling so much at startups?
There are many reasons. To name a few:
1) Education is generally valued as something that helps to put ideas into practice. Now more than ever, starting from elementary schools, kids have specialised classes in coding, robotics, arts & other practical knowledge that help ambitious students to work on their ideas whenever they get the ambition to start with their first enterprise.
2) As a small nation we want to show to the “big countries” that we can disrupt industries worldwide. I guess watching Finnish TV in the 80s and 90s showed us the true gap between where we were as a society and the standards we wanted to have. The “chase for the ideal” mindset has not disappeared yet. As in sports – participation only is not enough to improve and become an Olympic champion.
3) The talents from various areas have started to come back to home to help the next generations. We do not just want to copy Silicon Valley here in Estonia but want to build something truly unique in the world as a mindset rather than a cult restricted by the Bay Area.
What motivated you to look into personal lockers? What trends, numbers did you find in your research?
E-commerce is booming. E-GDP is already at circa 6% of all GDP in Europe. About 25% of all sales are made online.
According to DPD’s e-commerce survey, 90% of all e-shoppers prefer home deliveries. But about 15-20% of deliveries fail due to the shopper not being available to meet the courier. In our estimations, every year 750 million parcels are returned to terminals in Europe at their first delivery attempt. It’s a huge pain and waste to solve.
The popular alternatives, like parcel terminals in shopping malls, are just a mid-stop in the evolution of the last mile. Our mission is to consolidate parcels and items delivered and picked up closer to homes – where the items are consumed. Importantly – home deliveries have 3-10x lower carbon footprint per delivery compared to the alternative solutions today: driving personal cars somewhere to collect parcels physically.
On top of the physical network, we are building a service platform to offer household services like laundry, dry cleaning & maintenance services without the need to leave the house. Our customers can just leave items to the box and wait until they’re delivered washed, ironed, or maintained.
What traction have you achieved so far?
By the end of the month, 700 customers from Estonia and Germany. We’re working on 20% month over month growth to validate the product-market-acquisition fit.
Who uses ParcelSea?
Our typical archetype is a male between 35-60 years old, living in a private or detached house. They have a family and busy schedule around work, family and hobbies. They’ve got little time to worry about shopping, housework and hate commuting for chores. Our product and service is being used for accepting contactless e-order deliveries as well as groceries for the family.
What we see is that typically, in the household, women buy groceries & everything the family needs (clothes, kids accessories etc). Men buy more technology, sports equipment for themselves and tools, items for the house maintenance.
Have you discovered anything interesting or unusual from the habits of users and their use of the product?
Our parcel box is also used by many SMEs, for both taking in admin goods, but also for sending out sales orders, product prototypes etc worldwide. One of the heavy users is a moving company who uses the box for keys handover and considers to wash all the heavy duty clothing via the Parcelsea parcel box service platform.
What’s next for ParcelSea?
We are actively adding on more services on the Parcelsea platform that can help to remove the need for physical shopping and driving around for non-value added reasons. For more convenient user experience we are developing a user app that enables better remote monitoring of the box but also makes services ordering simpler. In parallel we are working on the second generation parcel box, finer tuned to our customer’s feedback & future trends.
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