If you live in an apartment community, chances are you order deliveries to the front office out of fear that they might get stolen. Some apartments have on-site lockers, but these are often infrequently emptied out and filled to the rim with packages.
These obstacles put the burden on the apartment complex’s staff, who are forced to take time to deal with package logistics rather than managing repairs and other duties within the property. And with global e-commerce potentially reaching $4.5 trillion by 2021, the onslaught of packages isn’t stopping any time soon.
“It’s really chewing up their staff time for leasing,” says James D. Grady, Founder and CEO of HelloPackage. “Instead of being in the leasing business, they got in the package business.”
Grady, who has experience growing early-stage companies in Silicon Valley, connected with friends in the multi-family property management space to find out more about their pain points. But it was during his time at Georgia Tech’s Flashpoint accelerator when he honed in on one major problem — package logistics.
Grady and his team moved forward with HelloPackage, a hardware and software solution that allows carriers to easily scan a package, alert the resident, and place it anywhere in the proprietary plug-and-play shelf in the apartment complex’s package room.
While lockers may function well in a single-family home, they aren’t space-efficient for a large complex. A small envelope can tie up a large locker for 48 hours in traditional units, creating an “overflow mismatch” of volume and size.
The technology behind HelloPackage’s open shelving system allows the software to keep track of the package upon scanning by using weight sensors, smart cameras and machine learning. The shelving design was inspired by Amazon’s warehouse design.
“We looked at every technology known to mankind with our design firm for about four months and decided that nothing escapes weight, unless you’re in space,” says Grady.
For example, let’s say the carrier comes in with 100 packages, scans each at the station in under one second, and places it on the open shelving. The package or envelope’s weight is measured down to 20 grams (the weight of 10 envelopes with nothing in them) and up to 165 pounds. The software syncs the person’s name with the exact weight of their specific package so if the package gets moved around, the unit will track it.
The package owner receives an automatic alert via mobile app, email or text and a one-time code to open the door. Once they open the unit, the system lets them know where the package is, and even sends a photo so they can find it in under 30 seconds.
“The biggest idea here is that we’re actually building a package management system platform. We’re trying to tie together all of the players, which would be the carriers, the retailers, the apartment owners, and the residents, into an electronic platform to speed everything up for everybody.”
The SaaS startup ran large-scale beta pilots with two apartment complex owners with 100+ communities each across the country to validate the model. They charge the complex a fee that the owner can choose to roll into rent as a luxury amenity. If the package remains in the room for more than 48 hours, the resident is charged a late fee.
They also offer reverse logistics to help residents return packages by dropping them off in the package room for a small convenience fee. The driver is notified that there are packages for pickup through a display on the screen.
Grady shares that he sees HelloPackage’s technology easily expanding into student housing, office buildings, hotels, convention centers and more. So far they have closed two separate seed funding rounds of $1.4 million and $1 million, and count Daniel J. Sullivan, retired CEO of FedEx Ground, as an investor.
Grady has just opened their third seed round, this time for $2 million, in time for their presentation at Venture Atlanta. The funding will go towards ramping up expansion of their pilots, marketing and onboarding more prospective customers.
“We put a lot of energy around keeping people’s packages safe. We have multiple layers of physical and electronic security in the room that has machine learning computer vision built into it so we can get smarter and smarter and smarter about anybody that wants to do harm,” says Grady.
“We try to keep the staff out of the loop because every time they get involved, they’re not leasing apartments.”