Part 2, interview and chat with Brandon, now published.
Brandon Gobel riding his Bullitt on Milwaukee Avenue in Logan Square.
While reading my friend Mikael’s Copenhagenize blog, I saw a video featuring a guy in Chicago who delivers goods around town on a Larry vs. Harry Bullitt (a Danish Long John-style cargo bike).
Chicago? Cargo bike? I had to know more.
The courier is Brandon Gobel, a former tractor and semi-truck driver in Ukrainian Village; the video was created by Zipments. Brandon rides a John Player Spezial Bullitt from Splendid Cycles – Chicago has its own dealer – and uses Zipments to find courier jobs.
Based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Zipments describes themselves as a marketplace for goods that need delivery. It can be anything going anywhere. They have an easy to use iPhone app for anyone who becomes a courier, and a simple website for people to post jobs.
I got in touch with Laura Pecherski, the Director of Sales and Marketing at Zipments, as well as Brandon the Chicago-based courier, to talk about their roles in the local delivery business. This article comes in two parts. First, read my interview with Zipments; then Wednesday read my interview and chat with Brandon.
Who is the target market for shippers? Is it architects with blueprints, and lawyers with court documents, or someone else?
Right now, our target market for shippers are small businesses who want to give their customers access to a delivery option. We’re seeing a lot of interest in food delivery so bakeries, delis, coffee shops and grocery stores are a few industries we’re targeting. In addition, the era of the milk man has returned. Zipments also provides a delivery platform for innovative businesses who deliver produce or other perishables to your front door.
With that said, other industries use Zipments to move documents, small packages (like promotional items from their printer) and even heavy items like furniture.
Is any vehicle allowed for messengering? Like, car, bus, bike, feet, tricycle, skateboard…
As long as your method of transportation is suitable to perform the job, couriers can use any method of transportation they would like. Jobs moving small items just a few blocks away can be done on foot but larger items might require a car or van.
Anyone on any mode of transportation can become a courier with Zipments. Photo by Drew Baker.
How many couriers do you have signed up in Chicago? (What percent use a bike and what percent use cars or other modes?)
We have 80 couriers registered in the Chicago area as of August 1, 2011. We don’t track the type of transportation they use, because that could change from job to job depending on the requirements. In the past few jobs completed in Chicago, we have heard of several bike couriers, a cargo bike courier and even a long-boarder. We think densely populated cities like Chicago will have more bike couriers than suburban delivery situations.
What was the inspiration when creating Zipments? What is the company’s mission?
Garrick’s wife Laura (a different Laura) was ready to head back into the workforce and she had a desire for flexible work; this got him, a mobile app developer, thinking, “wouldn’t it be great for Laura to have a site to go on each day to look for jobs in her area to do in her spare time?” A few months later, Zipments was born.
Our mission is to create the world’s largest logistics network, mobilizing a workforce of hard working people to complete the last mile of home delivery.
The company’s cofounders have a background in mobile application development with their company Crayon Interface. They are Garrick Pohl, CEO, and Elliot Nelson & Travis Brack, development team.
What’s the longest distance a package has traveled so far? (in Chicago, and nationwide)
So far, the longest completed delivery was from Grand Rapids, Michigan to Chicago, Illinois. Last week, someone posted a delivery of decals from Nashville, Tennessee, to Prince George, Virginia. While no one bid on that specific job, as Zipments gets more participation from travelers and truck drivers, this long distance delivery situation will be more common.
Do you make exclusive agreements with couriers? Can a bike messenger simultaneously work for a traditional messenger company?
We do not make exclusive agreements with couriers. In fact, we think Zipments is a way to optimize your current courier routes right now. So, you can pick up a few extra jobs in your downtime during the day.
[Couriers are paid 24 hours after completing the job.]
What are the company’s expansion plans? You mentioned on the phone that you are focusing on growing the Chicago market.
Currently, Zipments.com is functional anywhere in the U.S.. However, in order to build the supply of couriers and the delivery jobs, we are planning to focus on growing specific major cities before the end of the year. Basically, we will create a street team in each city to recruit couriers and find businesses/individuals who want to use Zipments for delivery.
How does Zipments see itself and its work fitting into Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s goals to balance the transportation system more in favor of bicycling, walking, and transit?
Zipments specifically promotes courier companies who seek ways to reduce traffic congestion by utilizing bicycle and pedestrian delivery services in urban centers. Additionally, Zipments seeks to reduce vehicle traffic in suburban settings by encouraging commuters to serve as part-time couriers and promoting “dual purpose” trips. That is, to encourage people who are already traveling by car to consider serving as couriers to help reduce the number of large commercial delivery vehicles on roadways throughout the U.S.
[End of interview]
I believe Zipments has created a pioneering service that will attract new people to use the service provided by bike messengers: fast, point-to-point small-package delivery. It will achieve this because of its simple interface and process that lowers the barrier for people to contact and employ bike-based delivery workers. Zipments incorporates many aspects of the shopping web, namely feedback and being able to pay with a credit card, that users will find familiar. These elements are not something many bike messenger companies have adopted – many don’t have websites and those that do lack modern contact and ordering features. It’s entirely possible for traditional bike messenger companies to adopt Zipments as its dispatch system, or to use it to find additional runs for their staff.
Stay tuned for Wednesday’s interview and chat with a Chicago cargo bike business that uses Zipments.
How it works
You type in the description of the package to be picked up, a time and place for pickup, and a time and place for delivery. The map will verify your input and show you their geographic location. You then set a target price that is shown to bidders. They can bid lower, higher, or the same. This is not an auction: you, the shipper, gets to pick the winning bidder after reviewing each courier’s feedback and bio.
This screenshot shows how a job appears on the courier’s iPhone. The courier can ask more questions to the user. Zipments is not a personal shopping service, but as you can read in the job, people have begun to use it like such.
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