COVID-19 has changed the world. From shifting opinions on remote working to social distancing rules, there have been both winners and losers in the world of business and sustainable last-mile delivery company Airmee are standing tall amongst the winners.
A sustainability-minded logistics startup that partners with e-commerce merchants and courier services to make efficient deliveries in urban areas, Airmee deploys advanced tech to track same-day and on-demand deliveries to your door - complete transparency. Airmee delivers for everything from pharmacies, fashion, children products, food to interior design. Some of the largest online merchants include Apotea, Babyshop, Lyko and Matsmart.
The Nordic startup is backed by Alfvén & Didrikson (who led a €3.7 million round last year), J12 Ventures (who led the latest €4 million round), Creades, Spotify investor Felix Hagnö’s investment company Trift and Izettle founders Jacob De Geer and Magnus Nilsson.
Behind Airmee’s amazing service is a technical team on the bleeding edge of programming. We sat down with Alexander Korling, Airmee’s Head of Engineering to discuss Airmee, leading technical teams and running sprints while fully remote.
We’re Proving Ourselves to the Market
Alexander, who previously worked at Klarna, moved into a team of 11 engineers who had brought the Airmee platform forward leaps and bounds. Between optimising thousands of deliveries in the geographical area they serve, managing a fleet of sustainable vehicles and working hard on first-class customer experience on the app and web platforms, the engineering function of Airmee - which Alexander was brought in to lead - is the tip of the Airmee spear.
“Airmee is at a point where we're experiencing hyper-growth and focusing on taking the lead in the last-mile delivery market. This involves everything from scaling the platform and increasing the efficiency of our operations. The engineering function is absolutely key to all of that.”
With more people relying on services like same-day delivery to get their goods safely and effectively, the timing was right for Airmee in a market that was ripe for disruption.
“Let's think about the traditional delivery experience: you get your delivery at some point within the next few days. Whereas we inform the customer that they will receive their delivery tonight between five a ten pm. The customer can even follow the courier in real-time on their own phone and know exactly on the minute when it will arrive.”
Serving both ends of the logistics chain, Alexander and his team are also working on providing a platform for retailers. The platform allows retailers to manage their logistics in an efficient and consumer-oriented manner. Airmee thereby enables retailers to perfect the post-purchase experience of their customers.
“So we're really, really focused on the needs of the end-customer with the goal of providing a perfect delivery experience, as well as providing transparency and flexibility to the retailers as well.”
COVID Shifted the Paradigm
Traditionally, the options for sending and receiving goods in Sweden have been limited: use awkward logistic firms deploying legacy tech, or pick your packages up from the grocery store. COVID demanded a third option as demand for safer, less exposed shipping and receiving methods skyrocketed.
“People want deliveries to their door. They want to decide when it will arrive, track it in real-time and have the flexibility of changing the delivery time. Modern logistics is about adapting to the daily lives of consumers and not the other way around.”
But with increased demand, comes challenges. Sorting speed, fleet management and changing distribution setups are ever-changing challenges which Alexander and his team work to continue to provide scalable technology solutions for - all while working completely remote.
You Have to Feel Like You’re Part of Something
Alexander, who moved from his position as Engineering Manager at Klarna five months ago, joined Airmee at the height of COVID-19. As a result, he faced the difficult task of building out his team culture while operating remotely.
“We are a fully remote team with some members living in different countries in Europe. This actually made the transition easier as the company already had a lot of infrastructures set up to support this.”
Regardless, the physical boundaries still pose challenges to the small engineering function Alexander leads. With both an iOS app, an Android app, front-end, back-end, and data science - Alexander faces the very real possibility of siloing when he really can’t afford anyone feeling isolated. Breaking down those silios has become one of Alexander’s most important tasks. His solution? Changing the culture the team has around communication.
“We’re trying to achieve communication with higher bandwidth. Text is nice for quick asynchronous exchanges, but it's got an inherent negative bias, which makes it a bit riskier if you need to have a serious discussion about some architecture for example.”
When you’re working in a start-up changes come thick and fast. You need to be reactive and ready to discuss something that you thought was set in stone. As a result, communication is key. For Alexander, it’s a case of taking a step back and providing clear channels for communication and, most importantly, providing his team with a focus - a northern star.
“Everyone needs to feel like they're part of something. So I'm focusing a lot on the little things that make a big difference. In the one on ones that I do I always check in and see how are you doing? Are you feeling isolated? Psychological safety is the foundation of strong working relationships and trust.”
Breaking Down Silos
With an engineering function that covers front end, back end, IOS, android and data science, Alexander has to work hard on adapting sprints, retrospectives and development meetings to promote collaboration. With just one sprint a week, Alexander is able to get things moving quickly, which suits the company's current rate of growth. The sprints and refinements run Wednesday to Wednesday,
“It doesn't make sense to start a sprint on a Monday when everyone comes in from the weekend and you've cleared your mental cache. It's better to do it midweek, where everyone's got everything fully loaded.”
Crucially these refinements are done in states which address the different problems the team is trying to solve. With that, you get involvement and interactions between both mobile developers and back end developers, for example, because they’re focusing on the actual thing that needs to be solved rather than their speciality.
“We don't care so much about the specific details about the implementation, as we do on the outcome, which is our focus. And we do that so you have overlap between front end and back end data science and front end and so on, since our data science team is heavily involved in generating these routes for the deliveries, and that in turn is presented to our dispatchers. So I'm trying to get a lot of interactions between the different units in engineering.”
The Future and Airmee
With data-driven solutions disrupting a very traditional industry and better experiences for both retailers and customers, we’re excited to see Airmee scale with engineering at the very core of their product.