Meet Doorman: The Startup That Is Reinventing Package Delivery

A Fatberry Founder Interview. Written by Greg Muender.

|| Written for The Berry Farm, a Medium Publication for stories about startups. ||

It’s 7 AM on a Saturday.

Zander Adell, a former Technical Director at Pixar Animation Studios, is awakened by a knock on the front door. He stumbles out of bed, and greets the delivery man who has a package for him. This is both good news and bad news. As it relates to the former, he finally has his package that he’s repeatedly missed, despite multiple delivery attempts over the last week. And as for the latter — it’s 7 AM on a Saturday.

It’s at about this point that Zander accepts that the final leg of the delivery infrastructure, aptly called the last mile, is fundamentally broken. Packages are getting delivered at times when it’s inconvenient for the recipient, or when they are absent altogether. Zander sets out on his journey as CEO & cofounder of Doorman.

During our chat, he’s quick to point out that the system is built to deliver at a time when most people are at work, away from their homes. Compounded millions of times daily, logistics companies such as FedEx, UPS, USPS, and DHL make valiant attempts to complete the shipment, but a significant percentage of deliveries are made in vain because no recipient will ultimately be present.

“It’s kind of a hack” says Zander. He’s describing how the introduction and assimilation of e-commerce has overwhelmed a system that was never designed for it. He makes that the analogy that it’s akin to the early days of the web — we piggy backed off phone lines to get dial-up connection, but it was never meant to be a long term solution. With the introduction of broadband, things got a lot better for everyone. To continue the analogy, Doorman is the broadband of its space.

Fed up with FedEx and upset with UPS, Zander set out to fix the problem. He rented a storage unit at Affordable Storage Solutions, contingent that they could accept packages on his behalf. He told some friends that they should use his storage unit as their shipping address, and that he would hand deliver the packages at a time convenient for them. Eventually, some crazy friends trusted him to do so, although we are both unsure of the value of the items that were ultimately sent. (Probably socks, not diamond rings.)

It’s somewhere through our interview that I decide to pull out my skeptical make-believe-investor hat. I’m going to ask the hard question of, “Why should the end user have to pay for this, why is it fair that they take the financial burden on?”

Zander beats me to it. Although the service is modestly priced — just $3.99 per package, or unlimited deliveries for $19 — this is just an interim solution. The team understands that they have to reach a certain size before meaningful conversations can take place with logistics companies and online retailers. At a certain point, there are millions of dollars to recapture for the commercial side of the coin; logistics companies save the expense of multiple delivery attempts and retailers are able to ease the shipping concerns of wavering shoppers who are concerned about delivery.

There is even a business play here. When Zander worked at Pixar, there were small armies of staff delivering packages to the hundreds of employees. Most of the packages were personal deliveries, probably from residents who were tired of missing deliveries when they weren't at home.

This mass-scale misuse is probably what recently prompted PG&E to change it’s policy to disallow personal deliveries. They aren’t trying to be jerks, they just are being careful of how their internal systems are utilized.

Zander thinks there is an opportunity for Doorman to work with these large companies and create a solution where everyone wins — the company saves costs, the employees are happy and productive, and Doorman capitalized on an opportunity to make it all work.

Download the app, use promo code “FATBERRY” and you’ll get your first two deliveries for free. There were many more topics covered in our chat, see the full talk here:

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Show Notes