Gophr's Seb Robert On Surviving Covid, UberRush And The Cost of Living Crisis

Gophr has grown where other delivery businesses - including one backed by a Silicin Valley titan - failed.

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Gophr has grown where other delivery businesses - including one backed by a Silicin Valley titan - failed.


Gophr's Seb Robert On Surviving Covid, UberRush And The Cost of Living Crisis

Gophr has grown where other delivery businesses - including one backed by a Silicin Valley titan - failed.

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Gophr's Seb Robert On Surviving Covid, UberRush And The Cost of Living Crisis

Seb Robert, CEO and founder of Gophr, explains how the seeming nightmare of Covid restrictions fuelled the delivery business' expansion countrywide, as well as a £4m funding round.

Describe the business in a nutshell

At Gophr, we are looking to reimagine same day and last-mile delivery to make it work better for everyone involved. That means making it more efficient for businesses, more convenient for their
customers, and more profitable for couriers.

The delivery business, particularly last-mile, is still a people business. We created a platform that enables each courier to perform ‘better’, because better couriers deliver better outcomes.

We work across a range of sectors - transferring our knowledge from one industry to another. So if you see a Gophr courier on the road - they could be delivering anything from groceries to building supplies to essential medicine. We’ve got it all covered.

And our client partners list keeps on growing. Screwfix, Need It For Tonight, HelloFresh, Co-op, Asda, Phlo Pharmacy, Yoox Net-a-Porter, and Snappy Shopper are just a handful of the businesses that we work with.

Tell us why you decided to start Gophr

Basically, I was fed up with crap experiences. I found it so difficult to find a good, reliable courier so decided to take on a fundamentally broken system to develop something better.

The thing was that I had no experience in the world of delivery. My background was in music and media. So I had to get to work on researching – from the perspective of the client, the courier and the customer - talking to as many people as I possibly could. What I discovered convinced me that I could build something special that could work for everyone.

The other business idea I had around the same time was a marketplace for trainers but eBay would have eventually gobbled it up. Meanwhile, Gophr is still going strong 8 years later!

Gophr delivery

How is it possible to improve the ‘last mile’ of the delivery process – what does that involve?

I think often the doorstep experience is overlooked.

But it needs to be led by the couriers that you employ. The growth of home delivery has made couriers as important and trustworthy as postmen and postwomen, especially in terms of that local community.

If you are a regular “user” of couriers then you are likely to see the same person every day. That builds up a relationship.

Your couriers’ ‘doorstep experience’ with customers at homes and businesses is crucial as it ensures they stay engaged and happy with their job.

It also means people and firms continue to receive the packages and deliveries they rely on from couriers they know and trust. Plus, if you match the right couriers with the right work, then you are going to see a better experience for all parties.

How did the business develop and how have you coped with fast growth?

Originally Gophr serviced the SME market, but when everything hit the fan with the pandemic, and the sector dried up overnight. At the same time, demand from larger enterprise clients increased, so we needed to adapt and scale nationwide for them - fast.

We’ve significantly increased our volumes over the last few years, and what started out as a massive pandemic headache, has in fact driven our expansion across the UK. We now operate in London, Bristol, Manchester, Birmingham, Glasgow, Edinburgh, Leeds and Liverpool.

This growth has meant we have had to mature fast. I think we are operating as a proper business now.

Can you explain a little about market conditions in your industry?

Let’s be real - it’s f*cking tough out there at the moment. Some big names who grew massively during the pandemic are having a bad time of it. That’s why for us, it was so important to diversify across sectors to help futureproof.

We also learnt from past experiences - be agile. Be transparent. And perhaps most importantly - understand your customers.

Why did you need VC funding and how would you describe the experience of raising funds?

We raised a seed round of £150k, then £350k and around 5 years after that we did another £500k before doing our Series A of £4m at the start of 2021.

Not insignificant amounts of money but peanuts compared to some of the companies who we’ve competed against over the years. It got us going though, and its taught us to be financially disciplined and resourceful.

For a while we’ve felt a bit like we were doing something wrong given so many operators in this space were raising tens if not hundreds of millions but the vast majority of those are no longer around they tended to throw money at the problem in order to grow fast without realising that they were often sowing the seeds of their own destruction. Margins are so tight you kind of have to have really solid, watertight foundations.

What has been your biggest challenge since starting the business?

Where to begin? Sometimes the biggest challenge was just keeping the business alive. We managed to time our launch to coincide with the advent of UberRush - which was practically the same idea.

That caused panic. But we survived….and they didn’t!

The impact of Covid on supply chains has also kept us honest. That’s been a barrel of laughs. And you just have to look at the sector at the moment to see how tough it is.


What major bumps in the road have you had and how have you overcome them?

Covid. UberRush. Cost of Living Crisis. All the sh*t. All the fans. But the fact is that we never panicked. We didn’t rush into any hasty decisions

We did our homework and focused on where we could grow and make a discernible difference. We looked at every possible part of the business, every stakeholder, and every place where we could
add value. So have that laser focus, don’t rush and make sure you are all set.

What was your biggest mistake?

Probably being a bit too wide-eyed and naïve. However, without that approach, we probably never would’ve started Gophr

How do you aim to attract and retain good people?

Basically don’t be a d*ckhead. That seems to do the trick. Look after your people and value them, and you will get the best out of them.

What does the future hold for Gophr? 

That would be telling but we want to grow our platform, to provide businesses, consumers and couriers with the best possible experience.

What is your best advice to would-be entrepreneurs?

The window of opportunity for your great business idea is wider than you think. Don’t rush into it before you are set. And do your homework!

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Gophr's Seb Robert On Surviving Covid, UberRush And The Cost of Living Crisis

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