When Juan Meisel moved from Colombia to Massachusetts, he sought out Mike Salguero, the founder of ButcherBox, a Boston-based meat home delivery business. Meisel quickly found himself working in the marketing department before eventually moving over to logistics, where he led the key department for about five years.
Prior to that, Meisel launched an e-commerce company in Colombia. Between the two stops, he learned a key lesson about any direct-to-consumer (DTC) business: Logistics is hard. As ButcherBox grew, Meisel quickly started to see “these opportunities in logistics.”
During his tenure, ButcherBox went from almost no revenue to $500 million for a company that was completely bootstrapped, Meisel told Modern Shipper.
“For us, it was essential to deliver that box of frozen meat with no errors,” he said. “Through my years at ButcherBox, I was always looking for that piece of software [that runs logistics]. I couldn’t find one that did perishable items. I saw that everyone [moving perishable items] had the same issues.”
So Meisel did what an entrepreneur does: He built it.
On Thursday, Meisel’s new venture, Grip, emerged from stealth mode and announced a $2 million pre-seed funding round backed by Soma Capital, Western Technology Investment and several angel investors. The funding will be used to build out Grip’s software platform, which Meisel said helps businesses moving perishable items, from meat to flowers, reduce shipping errors and limit waste.
“There was a clear gap in the market for software that could handle the ever-changing shipping conditions that perishable e-commerce brands experience,” Meisel said. “We built Grip to help brands focus on perfecting their actual product(s) and take the headache out of the shipping aspect.”
Working with co-founder and chief product officer Jimmy Cooper, who came to Grip from ButcherBox, the company has been operational for a few months with select customers. Meisel said its software has been used to move “a few hundred thousand” boxes so far.
According to Meisel, the big issue in moving perishable items the final mile is all the uncertainty presented by congestion, weather and unreliable delivery providers.
“Products can’t be out on the street [for] four or five days,” he said. “It’s not a big deal to get a T-shirt late because, at the end of the day, you can still wear it. But the highest damage rate is in perishable shipping. They have the highest shipping costs, so it’s a good segment to optimize because that’s where the failure is for companies. If they open a box and it’s a box of damaged flowers, that’s likely going to destroy that customer relationship.”
Grip, he said, will look at what happened to the shipment, identify the risk factors and help the shipper get the shipment right.
“The whole platform is built under the premise that just because you shipped something yesterday this way, it doesn’t mean you can do it that way today,” Meisel said. “It’s very dynamic based on what that market is currently.”
With a name derived from the concept of shippers “getting a grip on their deliveries,” Grip is targeting meal kits, online grocery, pet food, flowers, specialty foods (frozen pizza, seafood, pastries, ice cream, etc.), winery and the pharmaceutical space. Meisel said beta customers have found the platform reduces failure rates by 25% and cuts shipping costs 30%.
Grip functions as a tech platform that sits on top of customer order management systems to automate perishable e-commerce shipments, including data such as service, refrigerant quantity, packaging and shipping facility selection based on real-time network conditions such as temperature through the journey, carrier on-time delivery and box performance.
Weather data is also monitored so shippers can proactively reroute or hold orders as needed. Using this data, they can also reach out to customers about any potential delays before a shipment is actually delayed.
On-time delivery, transit time, failure rates and customer feedback are also collected.
With the new funding, Meisel said the platform will continue to evolve.
“I had firsthand experience in how to build the platform, but ultimately it is our customers that are building the platform,” he said.
Users of the platform pay a monthly technology subscription fee that varies based on company size and usage.