Former ButcherBox execs leverage meat shipment expertise into new D2C startup

As ButcherBox’s former head of logistics, Juan Meisel knows how to get perishable items from A to Z, and now he wants to do the same for Grip, a perishable shipping company he is bringing out of stealth mode with $2 million pre-seed funding.

Dubbed a “smart logistics engine,” Grip’s technology sits on top of customers’ existing order management systems and manages the shipment process using real-time network conditions, like weather events and temperature, carrier on-time delivery and box performance.

Founder Juan Meisel told TechCrunch that other shipping software uses “flat shipping logic and business rules for shipments, aka, the same amount of packaging, refrigerant, carrier, etc., each time for the same routes.”

Instead, Grip adjusts its shipping recommendations dynamically based on what’s going on in the shipping network. This way, businesses can use that data to proactively hold orders, let customers know of potential delays and identify areas for improvement.

Meisel got the idea for Grip while he was head of logistics at ButcherBox, where he had also been trying to solve the challenge of shipping perishable items, while also reducing the damage rate and improving margins, all while operating in conditions that seemed to change minute by minute.

“I was always looking for that piece of software that could help us do this internally,” Meisel said. “I failed to find something, but at the same time, I also started advising some companies on the side that would find me on LinkedIn. They got their ButcherBox in the mail and were trying to ship anything from frozen milk to chocolate, flowers and pharmaceuticals.”

While advising those other companies, he realized that there needed to be software to help e-commerce companies improve the way they ship and increase the customer experience. So he came upon the idea of Grip and launched a company a few months ago, joining with Jimmy Cooper, ButcherBox’s former head of data.

Customers are onboarded and can begin shipping in a matter of hours, and Grip makes money via monthly SaaS fees based on the size of the company and the complexity of integration, Meisel said. In this short period of time, the company has processed hundreds of thousands of orders and customers have seen a 25% reduction in failure rates and 30% reduction in shipping costs, Meisel said.

Grip is coming into a market that is not only growing fast, but has also attracted interest by other startups and investors. It’s a big market — U.S. food and beverage e-commerce sales are expected to be around $80 billion by the end of 2022, up 20.7% from just under $65 billion last year, according to Insider Intelligence. Those sales are forecasted to nearly double by 2026.

Over the past year, we’ve seen several startups also raise venture-backed capital to solve similar logistics issues, particularly around food waste as direct-to-consumer subscription meal kits gained popularity. For example, Alima is building out produce logistics in Mexico, while Full Harvest is tackling the B2B produce supply chain.

Grip’s $2 million pre-seed round was backed by Soma Capital, Western Technology Investment and a group of individual investors.

Though ButcherBox itself was bootstrapped, Meisel said he decided to go after venture capital for Grip largely in part because “developing technologies is expensive.” To develop the right technology and the right data processing system to add value to customers quickly required some institutional funding and industry investors.

“We’re running what we call ‘fast innovation cycles,’ which means that we go from idea to product to feedback very fast,” he added. “We basically have an idea, launch a product, work very, very closely with the customer to get feedback on that product and then we go back to the idea of how we can keep improving that product. Therefore, we’re using the money to develop technology to grow fast innovation cycles and to keep adding value to investors.”

The company currently has six employees, and Grip will also add to that team to develop new features and user experience as it relates to reducing waste and improving customer experience.

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