Introducing Shiptheory: the startup seeking to solve ecommerce shipping problems. Founded in 2014 and a with a team of 14, is on a mission to automate shipping processes to improve efficiency.

Here to answer our 10 questions is James Mikkelson (pictured right), Shiptheory Co-founder.

1 – In your own words – what do you do?

Shiptheory is a shipping management platform that integrates the software retailers use to sell with the carriers they use to ship. The Shiptheory platform automates the shipping process, removing friction and eliminating human error. At the heart of Shiptheory is an intelligent shipping rules engine that takes the decision making and labelling process away from the retailers, allowing them to focus on other areas of their business that can’t be automated.

2 – What’s the most exciting thing about what you’re doing?

Ecommerce shipping is not a simple problem to solve, even more so at scale and if you are shipping crossborder. Shipping has traditionally been looked at as nothing more than a necessity of online shopping, something that happens as a result of an online sale. This is not how we look at it. 70% of online shoppers will not return to an online store if they are disappointed by what happens after they checkout. The deep integration we have between sales channels and carriers enable us to really wow the end user after checkout.

We’re an automation-first company, so we approach every problem by asking the question ‘how can we solve this without involving the retailer?’. We’re only able to do this thanks to the relationships we’ve built with world class shippers such as Royal Mail, FedEx, DPD, etc – we’re able solve problems before they ever land on the retailers table.

The really exciting part in all of this is that how retailers think about shipping is changing, it’s become much less of an afterthought and instead an opportunity for competitive advantage. If retailers we’re still stuck creating shipping labels manually, copy-pasting tracking numbers and chasing packages, they’d never have the time to think strategically about how shipping can help them grow, rather than choke them as they do.

3 – What are you most proud of so far?

When we hear how many hours of manual work we’ve automated out of someone’s working day, we’re incredibly proud. This has never changed, we knew early on we could remove mundane, repetitive tasks from people’s day, but it never gets old hearing about it.

There was also a moment a few years back where we noticed that Shiptheory had started appearing on job adverts as a prerequisite skill and knew then that we were having a real impact.

4 – What have you found most difficult about being a startup?

Understanding opportunity cost. We grew quickly and in doing so you move so fast from opportunity to opportunity that you don’t always stop to look at where you’re heading and can lose sight of the bigger picture. Being able to focus on your long-term organisational goals almost feels like a luxury early on that you can’t afford, but as you grow you realise you can’t afford not to focus on the long-term.

5 – What would you do differently if you started now?

We’d probably look at external funding if we started over. It is less of an issue now that we’ve grown, but for the first few years, being bootstrapped is really hard, especially when the majority of your competition has deeper pockets. Not taking external funding has allowed us to build the company and product without diverging from our values and vision, but there is definitely a velocity tradeoff.

6 – Where do you think you’ll be in 12 months?

The pandemic has rocketed demand on ecommerce forward by 5 or 6 years and forever changed consumer behaviour. The technology behind ecommerce and logistics has adapted incredibly quickly to keep up with the demand and will only continue to adapt. We’re at a point of hypergrowth and are scaling the team quickly, the future is looking bright.

7 – What tools/people/services/organisations from the cluster have helped you most?

There are plenty of companies that make the life of a tech company in the region easier and have helped us, like Stephenson Law, Desklodge, Loom Digital and Accelerate Agency. Beyond that, our customers have helped us immensely. We build Shiptheory collaboratively with the retailers that use our platform and while we have customers all over the world, there are some in the region that have helped us shape the platform into what it is now. I think it’s important to recognise those customers, such as Open24Seven, MINIRIGS, Clifton Coffee, Wiper & True and Roast Kings.

8 – What’s the best thing about the Bristol & Bath tech cluster?

The tech scene in the South West is really vibrant and diverse. We’re lucky to have some really great tech companies that do a lot for the tech landscape in terms of knowledge transfer and networking opportunities, companies like Brightpearl and Just Eat. I’ve not seen many cities with such a lively and diverse presence. We’ve also been seeing more and more applications for development roles from candidates that have taken the leap while furloughed to retrain using one of the really good training and bootcamp companies, such iO Academy in Bath and DevelopMe_ in Bristol.

9 – Who will you be nominating for a SPARKie next year?

It’s a hard one, there are so many great people leading the charge. Paul Wickers of Huggg stands out for me, though. Paul has built huggg from the ground up, building an impressive network in such a short amount of time. Recognised by Forbes, partnered with some of the UKs biggest brands, and underneath it all, the product encourages appreciating and delighting others. I can’t wait to see where Paul takes it.

10 – Where can we find out more about you?

You can find out more about what we do on Shiptheory’s website, and can read more about the people that make it all possible on our team page. You can also find us on Twitter, Facebook and Linkedin.