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Image credit: URB-E

URB-E’s collapsible containers haul in $5m Series A funding from UBS, AgFunder

March 3, 2021

URB-E, a US on-demand delivery platform built around proprietary vehicles, has raised $5 million in a Series A round led by Swiss financial services giant UBS.

AgFunder was among the other investors to take part in the raise. [Disclosure: AgFunder is AFN‘s parent company.]

The Los Angeles-based startup simultaneously announced the appointment of serial entrepreneur Charles Jolley as its CEO. Jolley has sold not one, but two companies to Facebook – where he also served for a time as head of platform and Android products.

He originally got involved with URB-E as an investor.

“From the start, I saw URB-E’s potential to completely change how we think about local delivery,” Jolley says.

“On average, customers are moving from one package a week to one or two a day, and more delivery trucks — even electric vehicles at five times the cost of [URB-E] — clearly aren’t the right solution. Our network-based solution shrinks down containers and logistics for congested spaces to provide the most efficient option to meet the huge growth in last-mile delivery.”

URB-E was founded in 2013 by chief technology officer Sven Etzelsberger, chief strategy officer Perter Lee, and former chief creative officer Grant Delgatty, who left the company in 2018. 

Initially, they set their sights on the individual consumer market. The team sought funding via Indiegogo in 2014, and soon developed a range of foldable electric bikes and scooters. From 2017, these could be powered by a detachable battery designed by the startup which featured USB slots and AC sockets, allowing busy commuters to zip to work as well as charge their phones, laptops, and other devices.

In the years since then, the e-bike and e-scooter landscape has changed a lot; in many countries the vehicles have been banned or restricted, while in others, sharing apps like Lime and Bird have come to dominate the market.

URB-E has taken that time to completely reinvent itself.

Etzelsberger and Lee shifted their focus to the booming demand for ‘last-mile’ logistics and on-demand delivery solutions, precipitated by the growth of e-commerce.

The team’s new solution is a “compact container delivery network that’s replacing trucks with bikes,” in its own words.

Setting aside its e-scooter past (for now), URB-E’s new delivery system features collapsible, roll-on-roll-off containers that can be attached to customized bicycles.

Each of these trailers can replace one typical, petrol-powered delivery van, the startup claims – resulting in 100% less emissions per load. They also save on space, with up to 20 of the foldable containers fitting in a single parking space.

URB-E has deployed around 1,800 of its pedal-powered container systems and, via partnerships with third-party logistics companies and online retailers, it has already moved more than 100,000 packages in New York City.

“Existing delivery solutions focus on putting more vehicles on the roads of our cities. URB-E is learning from the shipping world and containerizing to make pedal power more efficient than trucks,” Etzelsberger says.

“URB-E’s containers are better for couriers, companies, traffic, parking, and the environment.”

The startup said it will use the Series A funds to scale up its local delivery networks to meet demand from existing clients, as well as exploring deployments in additional cities.

“For us, the pain of last-mile delivery was clear because of our investment in e-grocery solutions in congested urban areas, such as Jüsto in Mexico City. We wanted to support an environmentally clean solution, in a massive market, growing at double digits that would increase the convenience of home delivery of groceries,” says AgFunder partner Manuel Gonzalez.

“We are convinced that URB-E can unlock a huge market for both distributors and logistics.”

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