Transport solutions for tomorrow
An interview with Stella Schieffer, founder of Polyport GmbH, a startup aiming to make transportation smarter and more efficient. In autumn 2012, Polyport will launch its first product, BringBee, a pick-up service for IKEA Switzerland.
Who are you and what is your project?
My name is Stella Schieffer. I am 24, a graduate of MIT and ETHZ and a Transportation Planner. My startup is called PolyPort, which aims to make transportation smarter and more efficient.
Which problem does PolyPort solve and how will it sustain itself?
PolyPort solves a number or problems: in recent years, gasoline prices have risen by about 30%; transport accounts for approximately 35% of all CO2 emissions; and increasing transportation creates additional congestion and noise. In spite of those trends, on average 70% of all transport capacities remain unused.
Through PolyPort, we are able to enhance quality of life from a sound, emmissions and sustainability standpoint, and also increase overall transport capacities, by enabling customers with parcels to ship to connect with transporters traveling along their regular or spontaneous routes. Through our collaborative marketplace, we match sending needs with available transport capacities. Once suitable transporters are identified, the sender can securely communicate with the transporter via the platform to finalize the transaction. After a successful delivery, the sender and transporter can stay connected through their transport networks and award each other peer ratings to monitor the reliability and quality of the transports. The transporter earns money for every delivery and thus also has an economic incentive to share his free space.
Our first product, BringBee, will be launched in a few months, and will make shopping traffic to IKEA more sustainable.
Our business model is to take transaction fees for every delivery being made. In return, we take care of the development, quality and security of the marketplace, we handle the payments, and provide a transport insurance for every transaction.
Why did you start PolyPort?
I am a transport geek, I care a lot about the environment and I am fascinated by collaborative consumption. I realized while studying that we could optimize transportation using web and mobile applications in a way we could not do before. By creating a peer-to-peer platform like PolyPort, we can avoid unnecessary travel and tap into existing transport capacities.
How has the HUB contributed to PolyPort’s development?
The HUB is a beautiful space that is nice and comfy to work in. It is a representative space that is also great meet people when you cannot really afford your own office. Also, the HUB is a channel to get your word out and present what you are doing via their channels to a greater audience. The HUB community is very good in the very early phase of a project or whenever you are brainstorming, trying to get feedback and trying to define your product and features.
What has been the biggest challenge so far?
The biggest challenge for me has been finding the right team members to help get PolyPort off the ground and running.
How can others help you take PolyPort to the next level?
People can support PolyPort by using the program once it is live and giving honest feedback. If you like it, please spread the word!
If you want to be more involved, I would welcome your help at events at IKEA during the launch phase. If you want to know more, feel free to get in touch with me (firstname.lastname@example.org)
What’s your biggest learning you want to share with the world?
In the end, it’s all up to you and what you make out of it. So, don’t sit around waiting for help or advice, just get going, be passionate, and let no one stop you.
Interview by: Kate Karius, September 2012