Photo: Professional Images/@ProfImages

After finding himself frustrated with the poor service offered by courier services, Gophr founder Seb Robert began developing a new business model to bring transparency and efficiency to the sector. When he’s not busy innovating the courier sector, Seb is a foodie with a passion for sneakers.

Designed from the ground up for customers and couriers alike, Gophr is about great value, efficiency, speed and peace of mind. Founded in 2014, the London courier startup is a same-day service that delivers across the UK and is working towards making physical packages as simple, easy and precise to send as email.

Why and how was Gophr started?

I’d always had a bit of a nightmare with couriers both personally and professionally, and the more I researched the space I realised that it was not just a problem being felt by customers, but also by couriers and – quite surprisingly – by courier companies too.

So we set out to build a platform that would enable business customers to book professional couriers directly, automating disinter-mediating, optimising and balancing supply and demand efficiently. Given the highly varied nature of the work we knew it was going to be very complex problem to solve (most operators at existing companies told us it was impossible!) however we felt that building a tech platform that could solve these problems by playing to everyone’s strengths would be a compelling proposition. Here we are three years later having made a lot of progress, with some fantastic clients and a lot still left to do!

What have been the biggest success factors?

There have been a few but the one that jumps to mind is the time that we were once told we were likely to be a complete disaster. The central idea behind Gophr from the beginning was to enable couriers and customers to deal with each other directly whilst providing complete transparency on both sides. We were told that couriers dealing with customers was a terrible idea and we should expect to fail.

Thankfully this has proved wrong. Some very experienced couriers who’ve worked at other companies do find it odd at first, however, over time they generally grow to love it as it gives them more flexibility in how they work and generally tends to speed work up. We believe that this approach is a big reason as to why we are so highly rated by our customers.

What are the biggest challenges you have faced launching and running Gophr?

All of it’s been pretty hard! Anyone who’s experienced it will tell you that trying to build a two-sided marketplace is hard. Trying to build a two (sometimes three!) sided on-demand delivery marketplace without having the financial resources to ensure you always have the supply side present for work was incredibly tough. That said, I wouldn’t take that experience back. It meant that we all had to think very hard about what we could do to make a proposition equally compelling for our couriers, not just the customer. It also forces you to build a much more sustainable business in the long run.

Which do you think is most important: the right market, the right product, or the right team?

The most important of all is the right problem. From there the market is easy to ascertain and the product will reveal itself over time as you get deeper and deeper into solving that problem. If you have a compelling problem to solve then finding the right team who want to help you solve it and stick with it all the way isn’t too much of an issue either!

Final words for those chasing the startup dream

Be prepared for the grind. Competition can be fierce. Highs and lows can come at you on a daily (sometimes hourly!) basis. And things tend to move more slowly than you’d sometimes like.

Having said all that, you’ll learn at an accelerated pace and will build working relationships that will stand you in good stead for the rest of your life. Just make sure you do your research up front, plot your course from there and be open to having to take ever so slight detours along the way. Don’t believe everything you hear, and don’t go against your form.