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SME Profile: Shutl

London-based SME Shutl has just been acquired by eBay. Shutl raised £10M from investors and their COO is an INSEAD MBA. Find out why they are keen to hire MBAs exclusively on BB!

Thu Oct 24 2013

Online giant’s eBay have just acquired London-based startup Shutl – a company founded by former CEO of and run by an INSEAD MBA. Shutl raised a total of $8.69M form UK Angels alongside Hummingbird Ventures, UPS Strategic Enterprise Fund, and Notion Capital.

The startup is an innovative young London-based SME that aspires to be the PayPal of deliveries. Appalled by the current retail delivery service in the UK, Shutl offers a delivery service with a difference.

Although competitors have cropped up in the last twelve months, Shutl is considered unique because it offers customers who buy products online a specific, one-hour time window for delivery to your home.

We spoke to the COO, Sean Cornwell, who studied an MBA at INSEAD - one of the best b-schools in Europe. Before Shutl, Sean worked for tech giants Google and credits his MBA for helping him break into the industry.

Sean has ambitions to branch out into the US and they currently deliver to 80 per cent of the UK. Find out why Shutl thinks MBAs are a great hire!

Why did you decide to study an MBA?

I got to a point after working for different startups for four or five years: I could work for another startup but I realized something was missing. At the time I realized that there was only one company I wanted to work for: Google. In 2003, they were the company to work for - especially globally in technology, and to do that in Europe I needed and MBA.

I joined INSEAD with the express intention of working in Google and after the MBA, I did.

What does the company do and what are its core/flagship products?

It is a technology company, but not a logistics business. It’s about giving the consumers what they want, when they want it. So any online purchase that they want, we bring that to them at the most convenient time.

At the moment, delivery experience is governed by the delivery companies. So you get something delivered to you when it’s convenient to the delivery company. They tell you it’s going to come on this day, please stay at home from between 9am to 5pm. That sucks as a consumer proposition.

Shutl inverts this and you specify the one-hour time window that you want this delivered to.

How does Shutl have such quick delivery times?

We are a marketplace for the spare capacity within local carriers, and we aggregate all that spare capacity. When you go and buy something online from one of these retailers, what happens is that one of the couriers in our network will go to the store of that retailer that is nearest to the consumer that has the item in stock.

They will pick it up and bring it to you and that’s how we can do it so quickly: because we are shortening the delivery distance between where you physically are as a consumer, your location, and the nearest store. No warehousing is involved.

What makes Shutl different to what has come before, and the competition now?

They all have slightly different approaches. Shutl has been at this problem and doing this for four years now and these other businesses have all only come up in the last twelve months.

The last 12 months in the US this space has become very excited and busy, but Shutl is the only business globally which has got same day delivery working at scale.

Eighty per cent of the UK population can get a Shutl delivery, and we are soon going to be launching in the United States and very quickly will have a pretty expansive footprint within the US.

How many people are in the business now, and how many MBAs do you employ?

About 45: 10 in San Francisco, 35 here in London.

Myself and at least 2 in the US are MBAs: a local head of sales and the US country manager.

How many customers do you have in the UK so far?

We have around 30 retailers in the UK, and we are going live with some retailers in the US in the next month or two.

We have been growing very rapidly and have raised £10 million to date in equity capital funding.

At the moment we cover 80% of the UK down to towns of around 100,000 people.

You asked Usain Bolt if he was interested in 1% of the company, is he an investor now?

He is not… he did not take us up on the fantastic offer that we made, foolish man that he is! But that was funny, everyone picked up on that: it worked very well.

What are the plans for the future for Shutl?

The vision is simpleand it is to become the local delivery service to connect eCommerce at the local level. Just as Fedex and UPS are known as the overnight shipping company or the international shipping company, so Shutl are building the ground around local delivery.

UPS and Geopost have invested in you - how do they see Shutl fitting in with what they are doing, obviously the business models are completely different?

I think they are watching and learning, as many strategic investors do.

Not necessarily just retail, our vision is around local delivery and all the forms that this may take.

Why are you preferably looking for someone with an MBA, what skills would they bring to the table?

MBAs have a wider business perspective; they tend to have the analytical and structured thinking. They typically have worked in environments where they have seen at scale an organization build a marketing function, so you know it’s not so much the MBA per se but it’s the signal that it sends and what it says about that person.

Why would Shutl be a good place for someone with an MBA to come on board?

It’s an extremely fast growing startup, extremely ambitious; it’s a space that’s changing the delivery experience at the moment, which is appalling from the consumer experience. It’s one of the standout pieces of online eCommerce that is broken and that needs fixing, and there is a really significant opportunity here to build a multi-billion dollar business around local-delivery. We could be the PayPal for delivery.

What is the office culture like at Shutl?

It has a lot of classic startup elements that you would expect. It is very fluid and dynamic, yet laid back and with a hardworking culture. It’s quite engineering driven, it’s opinionated and frank so everyone expresses an opinion which is good and healthy, and how it should be. It’s also a fun place to work overall. We get on well with each other.

Would you consider people without previous industry experience?

Yes, it’s all about people’s attitudes and passion.

On an ad-hoc basis we are always open to internships.

Any advice for people wanting to go into the digital industry after an MBA?

Have a clear idea of the kinds of businesses and sectors that you are interested in and network. Talk to lots of people: that’s probably the best way to the find the best opportunity.