This feature story is an outcome of infoDev, a multi-donor program administered by the World Bank Group, with a focus on entrepreneurs in developing economies.
This story was originally published on March 7, 2018.
Since its launch in 2015, Sendy has quickly grown into one of Africa’s top start-ups to watch and garnered attention from several investors. To date, the company has raised over $3 million in equity funding and has begun planning its expansion. Sendy’s platform works similarly to a taxi dispatch app, but focuses on moving packages instead of people.
It started as “a fun project”
Three years ago, many Nairobi residents kept a long list of their favorite motorcycle taxis, or boda bodas.Sendy’s original app would show you where boda drivers were located around the city and provide you with their numbers.
In 2014, Sendy founders Meshack Alloys, Don Okoth, and Evanson Biwott decided to enter PivotEast, a mobile start-up competition sponsored by infoDev. At the time, they thought, “If we win the transport category of PivotEast, then we’ll consider doing this. If we don’t, then that was a fun project for two months.” They won.
The Sendy team knew Malaika Judd through mLab East Africa (now known as the iHub), an infoDev-supported innovation hub in Nairobi, and convinced her to join as the fourth co-founder.
From Digital Phonebook to Last-Mile Logistics
Before Sendy, Alloys, Okoth, and Biwott had built a tracking system for a bus company, which sent an SMS alert to business owners when their package had arrived at its destination. For example, a passenger bus from Nairobi to Mombasa would also carry packages in its cargo space, but recipients would have to wait at the bus park. This system made it easier to inform clients that the bus had arrived.
“These intra-city bus companies were making more money from moving packages than they do from moving people,” Judd explained.
After the bus company launched the SMS system, their customers were appreciated the service, but were willing to pay even more to have the packages delivered to their office.
Judd explains, “Given the time and cost of getting to [downtown] and back, ultimately it was cheaper to pay for a last-mile delivery service.”
As the team hammered out the details of their business plan, they reflected on this experience and realized that they had overlooked the package delivery market.
From personal experience, they knew about the inherent risks of theft, so their first pivot was to focus on building Kenya’s most trusted platform for all types of deliveries.
Judd explained their current business model, “We work with partners, which means we don’t own any assets. We don't pay salaries to any drivers. We connect drivers with vehicles to people who want to do deliveries. And for facilitating that connection, we take a 20% commission on every delivery.”