eShip Wants to Make Logistics a Breeze

Posted on February 4th, 2015
Grow Technology

eShip wants to make logistics a breeze

In 2013, Emile McLennan (then aged 18) needed to transport his motorbike from Durban to Cape Town, but all the admin of finding a suitable company and having to call to compare quotes did not make sense to McLennan.

He felt that as a consumer offering his business, companies should be the ones doing all  the ground work.

That thought sparked an idea for an online logistics marketplace.

A year later, the young Cape Town-based techpreneur launched his startup, eShip – an online portal that connects ordinary people who need things shipped with the local transporters who have the space in their trucks.

Interested customers post a free listing on eShip’s website, interested transport companies will then respond with bids (quotes) to “win” the business. Users accept the bid that meet their requirements like price, delivery time, and they can also judge transporters based on the reviews of the company on the eShip platform.

Now, 19-year-old McLennen has already raised R1-million in investment from the reality series Dragon’s Den South Africa, the entrepreneur television series where startups pitch for funding from investors.

McLennan explains the story behind the platform and what’s next for eShip.

Emile McLennan.

eShip was born, out of a need to simply and optimise African logistics. From my first business I had exposure to a lot of logistics businesses and it was that I saw that their vehicles hardly ever operate at full capacity.

I thought that a marketplace would be the best solution to this problem as it serves both parties. By allowing transporters to fill their trucks that aren’t already running at full capacity or those on empty back-hauls, eShip allows shippers to receive lower than normal shipping prices and transporters to receive additional revenue and run at maximum capacity.

You pay 50% of the fee up-front through the eShip platform. The transporter delivers the goods, you pay the remaining 50% to the transport company directly.

My biggest hurdle thus far has been education. A lot of transport companies rely on very outdated methods to manage their jobs. Most only use email and telephone. Thus, we spend a lot of time in bringing these companies on board and onto the ‘cloud’ so to speak. It has been quite a paradigm shift for them to change from their old methods and  them on board our platform.

The start-up ecosystem in SA has never been more vibrant but with that said it is still in it’s infancy stage. There are a lot of people working on a lot of cool things but there are major skills shortages especially in the IT sector, lack of proper access to funding and legal hurdles that must all still be overcome if we’re going to really see the startup ecosystem in South Africa flourish and if we want to have any hopes of Silicon Cape rivaling Silicon Valley and Tel Aviv in the future.

“Have a plan but start as soon as possible.”

In two years time I envision eShip to be a household name in South Africa, your first and only point of call when you think of moving something, irrespective of size.

I also see an entrepreneur community of owner-drivers forming around eShip, similar to what has happened with Uber and eBay to an extent, where independent transporters are earning a living through work done through eShip’s platform.

My advice to entrepreneurs is to just start. Many people wait for a lot of different things to fall into place in their “grand vision” of things, which is probably never going to happen. Have a plan but start as soon as possible. Things are going to change in any case so you must be prepared to adapt your vision to overcome challenges. Planning can only get so far, there is no substitute for the grind.

This only partly applies to me but true nonetheless, get a technical co-founder. Most companies cannot afford to hire a developer from the onset and if you can, there is a 110% chance your developer fees are going to be more than what you budgeted for. Get a good developer to help you and give him equity.