Thursday, 26 June 2008

BT Phonebox = ByBox

I recently met Stuart Miller co-founder and CEO of ByBox who have recently been named as the fastest growing technology company in the UK according to Deloitte Fast50 – they have delivered five year compound growth of 15,274% and currently turnover £26m. They keep winning prizes…last week they won the IFW Award for Innovation and Miller was named Oxfordshire Business Person of the Year.

ByBox is not a ‘technology’ company in the established sense. Founded in the US in 2000, it won a contract with Royal Mail in 2002 and soon went onto acquire the field support operations of Hays plc. ByBox now has a network of 18,000 dropboxes in the UK plus a through-the-night distribution network delivering 20 million items a year into the dropboxes. In the past it was predominantly used for mobile engineers. But it now faces a great opportunity in the consumer space with a service that is very much a product of the internet revolution.

Apparently nearly 12% of all internet orders – around 10m items pa - cannot be delivered because the purchaser is out and/or they need a signature. This creates significant extra cost for the supplier and huge inconvenience to the customer. The simple solution is to direct your parcel to the nearest ByBox and you can then pick it up yourself having been supplied with the access information by text message.

I guess the ‘quirky’ bit of this that fired my imagination is when Stuart told me that they had just done a deal with BT to convert some of its phone-box estate to a hybrid dropbox/phone box. The photo should self-explanatory. So your nearest collection point is your nearest phonebox. Not only that but it’s a neat solution for BT which you has to maintain all these phone boxes which few people now use because everyone’s got a mobile phone.

I really warm to this concept. A neat solution to a major problem in a market (sales via the internet) which is set for continued high growth whatever the economic environment.

ByBox is currently privately owned with no VC or PE involvement. They are considering a funding round in about 12 months' time to be used for continued expansion in Europe (they have already deployed successfully a dropbox network in France from retained earnings) as well as to accelerate the UK consumer solution (there are lots of phone boxes to convert!).

I wish Miller and ByBox well.

No comments: