How many of us have had to make numerous calls, and negotiate with a number of providers to move just a single crate of goods from one place to another? The lack of a structured and reliable logistics service for goods transport is a problem all too common in the UAE, and given its ambitions to leverage technology in mobility, the burden falls on new-age upstarts to simplify goods transport systems. One such enterprise is Yalla Pickup, a platform that helps you order pickup trucks to move good consignments, and in July, the company managed to secure AED1 million in funding from The Box, a provider of self-storage and goods transport services in the UAE. This is the first funding round for the startup, which was one of the 10 graduating startups in the Sheraa (Sharjah Entrepreneurship Center) accelerator program’s inaugural batch.
“I felt that the days of large trucks painting their contact numbers [on the trucks] are a thing of the past, and Yalla Pickup could fill the gap by connecting these service providers with people who need them,” says Elie El Tom, founder and CEO, Yalla Pickup. Catering to both individual and business customers, Yalla Pickup’s smartphone app or website helps users book the nearest truck suitable to transport large-sized valuable goods from the comfort of their office or home. Moreover, the tech platform also provides users the ability to track, follow up, and stay updated till the last mile of delivery.
With such services on offer, the startup believes that the funding comes in recognition of the significant traction the solution has gained since its launch in 2016- Yalla Pickup says it has over 50 business and over 300 individual customers with adoption growing by 200% month-on-month since January 2017. El Tom adds that the funds would help Yalla Pickup “recruit staff for onboarding more vendors, [and] cater to the high demand of our clients and exceed their expectations.” Based on feedback received from some early clients, the team also wants to invest in the technology, and “release a second version of the app and web portal.”
What also makes Yalla Pickup’s growth interesting is the crowded market in which they operate. The GCC is a ripe market for logistics tech startups and the “Uber for trucks” model is also a popular route taken by most businesses. “What differentiates us from other players in the field is the fact that our platform is specifically tailored for businesses,” says El Tom, explaining what sets them apart. “With Yalla Pickup, businesses can create an account and track history of all their transactions. Using our backend, we are offering our clients an end-to-end fleet management portal, which allows businesses to track their deliveries, generate invoices, delivery notes and payables to clients and vendors. This will save them a lot of time and resources as they can now filter their orders and reconcile their accounts in an efficient manner.”
While any money is good money for upstarts at early stages, Yalla Pickup has also managed to align with investors who understand their industry well. A chance meeting with the founder of The Box (Wadih Haddad) led both entrepreneurs to realize that their vision and mission were aligned. “Our strategic partnership with The Box allowed them to offer their clients an easy and smart way to order a pickup truck. Most of their clients using storage facilities are businesses that require transporting goods in and out of the store and clients requesting moving services,” notes El Tom. “On the other hand, Yalla Pickup has immensely benefited from this partnership; we are currently using their resources to offer unique experiences to our clients as we are now supported by a team with over 10 years of experience in customer happiness and logistics.”
When it comes to partnerships, Yalla Pickup has been lucky not once, but twice. They were among the top 10 finalists selected for Sheraa’s inaugural accelerator program, and El Tom is extremely grateful for that phase of their growth. “Being chosen as one of the graduates of Sheraa’s first accelerator program was a critical moment in Yalla Pickup’s trajectory,” he says. “Meeting like-minded people, decoding a problem with the help of mentors, getting ready access to customers, and being constantly motivated by a group of young visionaries who believe in you and the idea breathes life into the business. To top this all, I presented my startup to H.H. Dr. Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah on the accelerator showcase day. It is not often that a new entrepreneur gets these opportunities, but Sheraa has been an exciting avenue that has opened many doors of opportunities.”
Elie El Tom, founder and CEO, Yalla Pickup
What would be your three top tips for the region's startups to pitch and clinch funding for their ventures?
“Raising capital is a project by itself, where you only get one chance with an investor to make it or break it. As such, my top three tips would be: [First], start building a rapport with potential investors at the outset. Attend events, connect via LinkedIn, network etc. [Second], take the pitch deck very, very seriously. As if your life depends on it. Take online courses to learn what to include, how to present, and what body language to have while delivering the pitch, amongst others. Remember that you only have one chance. As Guy Kawasaki puts it, ‘A pitch deck to an investor is like an interview for someone looking for a job.’ Be very prepared. [Finally], embrace rejections and keep moving; sometimes it is just that the timing was not right. Don’t take it personally and keep going in the direction of your success.”