Ordering items online has fast become the way people shop – be it for groceries, electronics or clothes. Yet many people, particularly those who work, find it difficult to make themselves available to take delivery of ordered items – especially when merchants can’t always give exact times or don’t stick to them. Sam Jarvis, himself frustrated by this, got in touch with his college roommate Greg Beszant and convinced him to leave his job and come in board to co-found HubBox. We spoke to them for the story…

Can you tell us about the HubBox solution?

(Sam) HubBox solves the problem of missed parcel deliveries. We have a growing network of over 175 Collect Point in London based in dry cleaners, pharmacies and local shops. We accept parcel deliveries for online shoppers who are tired of waiting at home all day, missing the courier or queuing up at the depot on a Saturday – a truly miserable experience, especially when you forget your ID!

And where are you based? Have you always been here?

Greg – We are currently based in Wandsworth Town guarded by our HubBox team dog Ralph! We started out in Balham but quickly outgrow the space we were sharing with a PR agency. Prior to HubBox I was working in Zurich running a large recruitment team. Sam then persuaded me to pack my bags and come back to London to start HubBox. It was quite a change.

Sam – I was working in London in Fund management. Less travel than Greg, but still a big change!

Who do you see as your target audience? Did you see this particular gap?

Sam – It’s simple: missed deliveries and the frustration of inconvenient fulfillment options. Shoppers in the UK spend more money online that any other European nation. We also miss more deliveries per order than any other country surveyed. So whilst the UK consumer appreciates the convenience of online shopping, the same cannot be said for delivery convenience.

Greg – We want to right this imbalance. Offer a simple, convenient and guaranteed delivery service via local businesses across the UK.

What makes your business unique and gives you that competitive edge?

Greg – We allow users to shop absolutely anywhere and pick up from their very own local shop. There are no ‘participating online shops’ as it’s a completely universal system. We are marrying the convenience of online shopping with the convenience of hassle free collection. You pick up at a time that suits you, not the courier.

And how long have you been working on HubBox?

Sam – We’ve been working full time on the project since April 2015 and closed our seed round of investment in July. Since then we’ve grown faster than imagined and now have a team of 7 looking after over 175 Collect Points. We’re now talking to retailers to offer HubBox to their customers and embarking on our next funding round. Hopefully 2016 will be a breakout year for us.

You mentioned your investment rounds – can you tell us more about how you are funding the project?

Greg – We funded the MVP ourselves. We didn’t want to head into our seed round without any proof of concept or delivery. This was a good decision, we had accumulated a good amount of evidence that the business could be successful and that critically, we could execute the plan.

We targeted all types of investors and headed to every Office Hours going. It was tough; the scrutiny was, obviously, very high. However, in the main we were very well received and raised all the finance we wanted a couple of months going and closed the round. True to say we had a few beers that day! Fund raising is not for the feint hearted!

Is this your first startup venture?

Sam – I launched a community website while at university. We advertised a host of local services like takeaway menu’s and sharing student accommodation lets. I slightly cringe at some of the decisions made back then but valuable lessons were learned. I tell friends that it was like Facebook and Just Eat combined – the only difference? My website failed completely!

How did the idea for HubBox come about? What drives you to keep going?

Sam – The business itself was borne out of our personal frustrations of repeatedly missing deliveries. There wasn’t anyone we surveyed who didn’t share this frustration acutely. The numbers were so compelling once we’d done our research.

I was getting everything delivered to work and then they stopped accepting personal parcels. I literally had no way of receiving online shopping. That really kicked me into gear! It’s hard to find a problem that genuinely needs solving. We’re passionate because we know there is a big problem to solve and we believe we can execute a great solution.

HubBox website

Tell us about your respective work backgrounds and how you came to be running your own business?

Greg – My role in Zurich was European Head for a multi-national recruitment business when Sam called me from London with the initial blueprint for HubBox. He’d just resigned from a role in fund management in London after realising that if the business was going to be successful, it needed full-time attention. A huge understatement – as in just a short space of time it now needs the full time attention of 7 of us.

Do either of you have any hobbies? Do these influence you in any way in your business?

Greg – Not really, both of us are avid football fans – and as a long time Crystal Palace supporter, I suppose it’s helped with the rollercoaster ride of the startup world!

Do you have any role models who inspire you and shape your decisions?

Sam – Both of our lead investors are massive inspirations. They are both self-starters, who have been incredibly successful in their respective fields. We are lucky that they are on hand whenever we need for a second opinion and when it comes to the challenge of building a business, they’ve seen it all.

Can you think of a particular event that sparked the idea for HubBox?

Sam – I had bought my wife a piece of artwork for our first wedding anniversary (paper being the tradition). To ensure I received it, I had it delivered to the office. When I was lugging it on the tube, a fellow passenger impolitely expressed how much I was inconveniencing his journey with such a large package. Whilst he was being unreasonable, it resonated. Why was I having to go to these lengths to ensure I received my delivery? It was ridiculous!

Tell us how your partnership came about

Greg – Sam and I lived together at Loughborough University for 3 years around 10 years ago. After university we remained friends but both went our separate ways in our respective careers until last April. Sam called me to talk through the investor deck and initial HubBox presentation the next time I was in London. We met in the Alma in Wandsworth (opposite our current offices) and after a several beers and several hours of conversation, I was ready to quit my job in Zurich, return to London and build the business with him!

Tell us about the most exciting moment to date in running this business

Greg – For me, there’s been several – but the highlight to date has to be winning our first award, Creative Industries Business of the Year at the West London Business Awards. To be nominated for an award after just a few months, let alone win, was a big achievement and one we’re proud of after all the hard work put in by everyone involved.

What about the toughest moment?

Sam – Certainly the toughest time we’ve had so far is ensuring our technology kept pace with the growth of the business. I’m sure nearly every tech startup will say the same, but in our early months it was a struggle to keep the wheels on. We did, but there were some late nights and some very frank conversations with our development team.

Have you made any bad decisions along the way? What were the lessons in these?

Greg – The most memorable “bad decision” was a large flyering campaign we undertook in our first few months. We designed a flyer to mimic the Royal Mail “Sorry We Missed You” note that appears through letterboxes whenever a parcel delivery is missed. We hoped this would attract the attention of the right audience and get people thinking about HubBox in the future.

Rather than being inundated with new users, we received several confused calls from people asking where they could pick up the parcel they have missed! I think we tried to be a bit too clever with our marketing!

Tell us about your goal for HubBox and where you see the business going in the next few years

HubBox’s goal is to be the biggest Click & Collect network in the UK by the end of 2018, integrated at thousands of retailer checkouts to offer our service to millions of online shoppers. The way people are getting parcels delivered is changing for the better and we want to play a major role in making customers’ and retailers’ lives easier.

And finally, what would be the one bit of advice that you would offer to someone considering a startup?

Sam – Get as much real feedback from your customers and partners as you can. Don’t be afraid or shy to ask and receive it. Sometimes it will be bad, but bad feedback is actually much more valuable than good feedback.