Mitchell Nikitin of Via.Delivery.
Tell us about yourself?
I am on a mission to transform the shipping and delivery markets.
I am is the founder and CEO at Via.Delivery, the company enabling pure play and direct to consumer online merchants to compete with giants, such as Amazon, by offering Buy Online, Pick Up Anywhere (BOPA) experiences.
Drawing on executive leadership experience in logistics, e-commerce, retail and IT, we are is leading Via.Delivery’s efforts to build the world’s largest alternative delivery network.
In addition to being an advocate for logistics efficiency, I am passionate about helping startups monetize and I serve as a mentor for Alchemist Accelerator. I am also an ex-racecar driver.
What do you think is the single biggest misconception people have when it comes to startups?
People (including entrepreneurs) often think that the technology they elaborate should/can go before they see the real demand for it. A lot of them create a product not caring about the market approval, and ultimately fail with that.
That’s why custdevs, demos and MVPs are so important – you can check beforehand if your product will be popular/bought/demanded.
What lessons has being an entrepreneur taught you?
– There is a difference between persistency and stubbornness as you can keep being persistent trying to achieve your goal / solve a problem by applying different approaches while keeping using only one tool even if it doesn’t work or shows unsatisfactory results shows you are rather stubborn and rigid in that sense – Company culture that it promotes oftentimes means more than its product and is really essential
If you could go back in time to when you first started your business, what piece of advice would you give yourself?
Think bigger and look for trends in the constantly changing environment.
Back to 2009-2013 when I was a CEO of A-Motion Logistics, we have received a lot of requests for developing delivery for e-commerce.
Since it was not our core activity (we were organizing intercity delivery so there was no match with e-commerce logistics), I didn’t pay enough attention to the matter and decided not to go to this segment but now everybody can see logistics for e-commerce as a hot and hard topic.
A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to balance their work and personal lives. How have you found that?
I try: – Not to work in the period from 3 PM till 6-7 PM and work from 7 to 10 PM instead; – Not to work on Saturdays; – Not to work in the first part of the day on Sundays; I find this way far more productive. It allows me to switch easily and and sometimes even find better solutions.
Give us a bit of an insight into the influences behind the company?
Me (Mitchell) and Olga (co-founder & CPO) started as a meal kit delivery company 5 years ago before Via.Delivery evolved into what it is today.
One of the most frequent pieces of feedback from our clients was that it was not always convenient to ship meals directly to residential addresses as clients were not always at home.
Our customers asked us if we could instead drop our parcels inside local grocery stores or convenience stores nearby so that they could pick-up their meal kits in a way that fits their lifestyle.
We decided to try that and launched a 1000 store grocery chain called Vkusvill. The initial results were quite successful – we immediately saw more than 24% of our customers choose this new Buy Online Pick-Up In Store option.
Additionally, the grocery chains were excited to receive this added foot traffic. We tracked more than 50% conversion rate of extra foot traffic to extra sales.
I also leveraged my prior experience of being a CEO and founder of a logistics company (A-Motion Logistics Solutions) for 6 years before that and realized we could further innovate on the logistics end of this operation.
Some groceries, convenience stores, pharmacies also have their own sophisticated logistics infrastructure built out – including distribution centres as well as trucks and transportation assets.
Our next idea was to explore if we could piggyback off of their existing distribution network and create a compelling and cost effective shipping option for us.
We tested this idea with a retailer called X5 retail group and this idea was successful as well as we were able to cut shipping costs by as much as 40% as compared to traditional carrier options.
From that point forward, we decided to become the leading provider to offer D2C brands a BOPA shipping option.
What do you think is your magic sauce? What sets you apart from the competitors?
We are a SaaS digital carrier that: 1. Gives D2C brands super-competitive delivery rates;
2. Gives online retailers 35k+ of pick-up locations in various alternative locations across the US;
3. Gives D2C clients seamless widgets, plugins, and smooth & enhanced customer experience. The website experience remains untouched;
4. Offers online merchants solution to the problem of failed delivery attempts, porch piracy, and peak seasons;
How have you found sales so far? Do you have any lessons you could pass on to other founders in the same market as you just starting out?
As a growth-stage company, a handful of leads come to us via the intros our advisors, investors, and current clients make for us.
Additionally, we acquire leads through direct sales, namely, email and call outreach.
What do you consider are the main strengths of operating your business in California over other states in the US?
Great networking opportunities. Access to venture capital. Working hustle that motivates you to move forward faster. Sun.
What (if any) are the weaknesses of operating your business within California?
Obviously, it’s high taxes that are imposed on entrepreneurship (especially, when entrepreneurs are selling their businesses) Salaries are also high that adds problems for hiring; In California there are really great specialists but they will cost a company a lot as well – always a relevant trade-off
We are currently suffering through a cost of living crisis. With California already being one of the most expensive states to live in, how has this impacted your business?
We call it a cost of “expensive sun” with sun meaning not only the weather but also opportunities that California gives for a business compare to any other state.
As for me, you can always pay less living somewhere else but you will get less opportunities there accordingly.
If you want to create something big, you will always pay more for it at the beginning; I believe you should maximize your opportunities, not minimize cost of living.
It is no secret that California is the birthplace of innovation. But that also makes it incredibly competitive. How have you found the competitive environment of California?
I believe, these days markets are global for at least nationwide, e. g. we are a nationwide company from day #1.
The environment is competitive not only in California but in the whole world.
At the same time, if you are creating something really new instead of replicating, then any environment is not a problem for you and will feel little competition in that segment.
Otherwise, if you’re replicating an idea, you might face high competitiveness anywhere.
Have you considered moving your company to another state? If so, which state and why?
No. We are a venture-backed startup meaning California and SF Bay Area are probably the best for us from a founder perspective; and not only because of VC concentration but because of atmosphere of hustle and concentration of smart people.
Where do you see your business in the next 5 years?
We are now building the new segment of BOPA, and we expect that in 5 years this alternative will be by default used by most of online retailers in the US; as a business we expect to dominate in this segment.
And finally, if people want to get involved and learn more about your business, how should they do that?
I have a LinkedIn page where I share his business insights about the company and the industry.
Moreover, there is a public page of Via.Delivery on LinkedIn as well with regular industry insights, related curious statistics, company news, announcements and recommendations that one can follow.
There are frequent press releases and publications on Via.Delivery in popular industry media (https://via.delivery/press_about_us) and the company blog on the website (https://via.delivery/blog).
Follow Via.Delivery on Twitter or Linkedin.