This French startup is trying to take away one of Amazon’s crucial advantages over small businesses (AMZN)

amazon warehouse worker fulfilment centreLogistics. It’s pretty freaking important.Pablo Blazquez Dominguez/Getty Images

LONDON — Amazon is a juggernaut. It is bigger than Wal-Mart, and tens of millions of people subscribe to its Amazon Prime premium service.

And this huge size helps reinforce its dominance, allowing it to offer a huge selection of items at cheap prices. Even if smaller businesses can compete with its product range in narrow fields, it’s hard to keep up with it in other areas — like delivery, where the Seattle company offers relatively speedy free delivery, free one-day delivery for its Prime subscribers, and even one-hour delivery on certain items.

Wing, a French logistics startup, is trying to tackle this. It offers a delivery service to small and medium businesses, helping them to compete on similar footing to Amazon, and counts luxury brand Chanel, premium speaker company Devialet, and glasses company Bailey Nelson as customers.

“Amazon and the other industry leaders have set an incredible pace in the logistics industry in the past few years, accustoming customers to fast and cheap delivery,” cofounder Edouard Caraco told Business Insider. “Our aim is to allow SMB’s [small and medium businesses] to compete with these standards and turn their logistics into a competitive advantage.”

Wing doesn’t actually own its own logistics network — keeping it small

Wing first launched in France in December 2015 and expanded into Britain in February 2016, with its British operation managed by cofounders Edouard Caraco and Tim Linyer. The startup has shipped more than 100,000 parcels for 200 clients — and December 2016 was its busiest month yet, Caraco says. Around a third of parcels and clients are currently in the UK.

Unlike delivery companies like Hermes and DHL, Wing doesn’t actually own its own logistics network. Instead, it just takes advantage of economies of scale to negotiate a better deal with existing logistics networks and takes a fee — allowing it to stay lean. Across both countries, it has 28 staff — 8 in London, and 20 in France.

From the merchant’s perspective, it handles everything — collecting and packing the items, getting them a good price, and providing a dashboard to manage the deliveries. It offers standard, express, and one-hour deliveries — letting them compete with the likes of Amazon Prime Now, Amazon’s one-hour delivery service. (It also manages returns, picking up the items directly from the customers.)

A small boutique clothes shop might struggle with the logistics and cost of organising same-day delivery itself, or working directly with a major courier, but Wing does all that heavy lifting for them.

In short: It’s a clever middle man that inserts itself into the delivery process and takes a tidy cut for itself for its trouble.

There is significant expansion planned for 2017

Right now, Wing is available in Paris and Bordeaux in France, and in the UK it is in London and Brighton — which it launched in January 2017.

Wing UK startupTim Linyer (left) and Edouard Caraco.Wing

It has further expansion planned, including more French and British cities, and possibly Spain “before the end of 2017.”

The firm is in the process of raising a Series A funding round, after €1.2 million in earlier seed funding, and also has partnerships with larger e-commerce sites in the works, says Caraco, who previously worked for Amazon in its marketplace department.

“We are working hand in hand with e-leaders to help them solve their urban logistics challenges (returns, same-day, ship from store). We are currently in beta testing with very large retailers and e-commerce websites and will officially launch these services by end of Q1 2017!”

The lack of its own infrastructure makes it vulnerable and dependent on its partners — but it also keeps costs low. By the end of the year, Caraco expects the UK business to be profitable, and Wing’s French arm is aiming for profitability by the third quarter of 2017.

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