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Shipping Made Easy: Fetchr Circumvents Logistical Challenges With GPS-Equipped App

You're reading Entrepreneur Middle East, an international franchise of Entrepreneur Media.

Dealing with delivery packages is a headache. From sending off your parcel, to waiting for a courier to actually arrive on time, to directing the driver to your location- we’ve all had these types of frustrating moments. First world problem or not, there has to be an easier way to do this. In a region where directions are a major hassle since addresses are often too difficult to locate (or in some cases, may not exist at all), Fetchr has found its window of opportunity. In fact, the startup has gained such impressive traction that in June of this year, the endeavor raised US$11 million in Series A funding. The round was led by New Enterprise Associates (NEA)- it was the first time the U.S.-based global venture capital firm invested in a Middle East-based startup. NEA was also joined by Mobily Ventures, Ben Narasin, Delta Partners Capital Limited, Dhabi Holdings, and TriplePoint Capital in this venture.

So what exactly does the Fetchr app do? Founder and CEO Idriss Al Rifai explains that the app aims to offer a better alternative to the delivery process with a tech solution. By downloading the app, the user can take a picture of what needs to be sent, integrate the GPS to pinpoint location, and then set a time for driver pick-up-all tracked in real-time via the iOS or Android app. Once it’s delivered, the sender gets a notification.  

Al Rifai adds that the startup is broadening its reach- letting customers receive packages via the Fetchr app, regardless of where it’s coming from: “The packages would all come to [the] Fetchr warehouse, and then be delivered via our app with the same level of transparency and predictability.” With its business model offering logistics services for B2C, B2B and P2P deliveries, they’ve had a great launch so far, and according to Al Rifai, they are demonstrating “double digit growth week on week” as of September.

Al Rifai and co-founder Joy Ajlouny got the idea for Fetchr through an interesting meeting when Al Rifai was passionately speaking at an event in Silicon Valley about solving the logistics problem of no fixed addresses in MENA and other emerging markets. The two entrepreneurs connected at that event, and they knew from their similar backgrounds that they could build and improve logistical solutions for retailers in emerging markets through technology. 

“[We] come from significant e-commerce backgrounds, so we understand what keeps retailers up at night. From a top-level point of view, the development process started with solving problems that retailers face everyday.” During the development process, making the service better, fast and more transparent were what Al Rifai called the “three key dimensions in this business.”

Currently, the app operates in UAE, KSA, and Bahrain, and the enterprise is preparing to launch in other countries with customized services for international shipping, small businesses, social commerce, startups, bricks and clicks, and environment-controlled deliveries for businesses in the F&B and pharmaceutical sectors. With white-label operations in other cities, “it allows us to leverage our technology for clients who are eager to keep their direct exposure to their customer.”

What about its marketing strategy- how is Fetchr getting the word out? I noticed that in terms of online marketing, video content has been working well for the business. With a subject such as logistics –not always the most marketable sector- Fetchr’s concept is simplified through the startup’s videos. The brand concept messaging is clear and easy enough for an interested layperson to understand, and potentially see it as an attractive alternative to established shipping methods. 

What’s next for the co-founders? With the funding received, they have what Al Rifai calls “an aggressive expansion plan” to implement, with KSA at the top of their list. They also plan on outsourcing more drivers for faster delivery. Developing international logistics partnerships for global deliveries via the app is also in the process, as they already have existing relationships with inbound freight and cargo companies. “We want to change habits, make delivery and shipping as easy as shopping, one tap away from sending or receiving anything,” explains Al Rifai. “Now that we are validated by some of the most prestigious investors in Silicon Valley and in the region, the goal is to scale and reach more people in different countries with our technology.” 

IDRISS AL RIFAI

Silicon Valley vs. MENA’s entrepreneurial ecosystem

“Silicon Valley is an advanced system that economies around the world are trying to replicate. Nobody has managed to replicate it as the Valley has a unique blend of attributes: talent, infrastructure, funding, and access to a large market and plenty of exits [through] which money has been reinjected in the whole ecosystem. The MENA region is at its infancy stage. However, we see very encouraging signs of development of the ecosystem; new VCs and incubators are growing, exits such as the one from Talabat. Talent is also scarce especially in technology, with Amman and Dubai being the only hubs for tech. The biggest issues I find is still the lack of an appetite from investors for VC type of mentality that implies both risk-taking and agreeing on not taking control over the company you are backing. It will need some time to be fully accepted by the mainstream investors.” 

FETCHR'S TOP TIPS FOR PERFECTING YOUR INVESTMENT PITCH

“Early stage challenges were plentiful; it’s difficult to raise money and attract people when all you have is a PowerPoint deck and your faith that you can make it happen. You need to be surrounded by investors that can help you, and a team that is moved by your vision to change things. There are two lessons that I found critical. First, always raise more money than what you think you need. Money goes fast, and even if you sleep on couches and do not get a salary for a year, you will always end up spending more than you thought. Second, surround yourself with people that are here for the long run. Working with Omar Yaghmour [Fetchr’s General Manager] has been a blessing, and his dedication and hard work is one of the key reasons of why we are here today.” 

1. Start your venture outreach eight months before you need investment.
2. Under promise and over deliver.
3. Seek funds locally and seek Series A globally.
4. Be ready to have all of your answers backed by documentation. 

MEET THE FETCHR TEAM

IDRISS AL RIFAI Founder and CEO Al Rifai’s passion lies in improving the MENA retail market with tech and customer-centric services. In 2012, he founded MENA360- the now rebranded Fetchr. He previously worked for MarkaVIP and the Boston Consulting Group.

JOY AJLOUNY Co-founder and Director of Business Development & Partnerships, Joy Ajlouny’s background is in e-commerce. She founded Bonfaire, a VC-backed discovery platform for luxury footwear and accessories that was acquired in 2013 by Mode Operandi. She has also acted as a strategic advisor to fashion startups, VC firms, and fashion publications.