Shypmate, which is part of Y Combinator’s Winter 2016 batch, is a quick, low-cost international shipping solution that relies on everyday people to transport items from the U.S. to Ghana and Nigeria.
Why Ghana and Nigeria? The founding team has members from both Ghana and Nigeria — two African markets they’re familiar with and have a need for this kind of service, Shypmate co-founder Perry Ogwuche told TechCrunch. On average, it takes shoppers in Nigeria about five weeks to receive packages from the U.S., Shypmate says. It’s also a very costly process.
In Shypmate’s test with DHL shipping a $50 pair of shoes to Ghana, it took about a week and cost $250, Ogwuche said. With Shypmate, the cost of shipping is just $25. Shypmate guarantees deliveries within 5-10 days after receiving the item from the retailer, but has been averaging deliveries of just three to five days. Secondly, people in Nigeria and Ghana don’t have access to a lot of the items in the U.S. because some stores, like H&M and Zara, for example, won’t ship to those countries.
“Hundreds and hundreds of other stores in the U.S. that people really want to get stuff from just won’t deliver to those countries,” Ogwuche said. “So what people end up doing is trying to do the same thing we’re trying to solve. They try to find someone who’s coming down or find a relative, and they ship it to a relative and the relative holds onto it for months [until they come to Ghana or Nigeria]. It’s already happening in a very inefficient way and at a very low scale.”
For shoppers in Ghana and Nigeria, all they need to do is send Shypmate a link to whatever it is that they want to purchase. Shypmate then takes care of the entire process, from purchase to delivery. Some initial fears that might come to mind for travelers could be, “But what if I end up carrying something illegal?” Shypmate gets that question a lot, and it’s not going to happen, Ogwuche said.
“These items are not coming from people,” Ogwuche said. “We don’t deliver stuff that isn’t purchased through Shypmate. Items that travelers take come from trusted e-commerce stores, like Amazon or Zara or eBay, or any of those online stores. They come directly from them.”
Here’s how it works for people in the U.S.: Let’s say you’re planning a trip to Ghana or Nigeria, and you have some extra space in your luggage. You would go to Shypmate and sign up as a traveler, share your flight information, and provide the best address for you to receive the item. Before you’re approved, Shypmate conducts a background check.
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