Interview: Piggybee takes the sting out of delivery costs through sharing

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Have you ever been shopping abroad, only to find some incredible, once-in-a-lifetime purchase that you had to turn down because there was no way to get it home? Or do you balk at the cost of sending packages to your relatives overseas? If this sounds familiar then you need to check out Piggybee, a neat sharing economy site that sees everyday people ferrying mail to places near and far.

We came across the company while searching for interesting sharing firms like Liftshare, and we were instantly impressed by Piggybee’s eco-friendly focus and ingenious concept. The idea is simple but fiendishly clever, and starts by running a search for people travelling to wherever you want your item to be delivered. The site throws back a list of registered and approved volunteers who are travelling at the same time, and who are willing to ferry your parcel or letter in exchange for a reward.

Rewards can be a free ride from thee courier’s destination airport, accomodation during their stay, a city tour or day trip, a few drinks, a free dinner, cash or anything else. It’s a goodwill system that sees people helping each other out selflessly in exchange for more-thoughtful forms of compensation, and it’s also social, which is another trait Liftshare absolutely subscribes to.

So, we caught up with the company’s founder David Vuylsteke to get the story behind Piggybee, and to gain his personal take on the booming sharing economy at large.

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Vuylsteke explains that the notion came to him in 2012, when he saw that the sharing economy was rising. He saw a way to use technology to offer a global delivery service that disrupted the old-fashioned logistics of the mail industry today. Thus, Piggybee was created to connect people who needed items shipped or received.

He continues, “On one side, people will post what they need transported. Whether they want to get a shirt from Australia, some phone from China or a special perfume from France. It might even be the house keys you forgot in a hotel room. On the other side, people will share where they’re going to. Our system simply connects the ones looking for something to be shipped with our travellers on this route. Practical details are arranged using email and remains at both users’ discretion.”

Although there is a reward scheme is in play, Vuylsteke reveals that many users ask for no compensation – which is indicative of many people who are active adopters of the sharing economy. It is a sector in which goodwill runs hot, and where the only compensation needed is knowing you’ve helped someone in need. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with taking a reward of course and there have been some truyl incredible stories attached to this system so far.

“One of the latest rewards is to party,” Vuylsteke reveals. “This free party has been offered to a traveller who helped a Spanish NGO send laptops to people in need in Cali, Columbia, and as of last year, one of our traveller got a diving lessons in Bali, Indonesia as he brought chocolate to our craving expat user.”

These are just two examples of how Piggybee has brought strangers together through a common goal – the delivery of goods, but in a wider context the service has the potential to drastically reducing the number of packages being shipped via air freight and other emissions-heavy transport methods. Security is also paramount at the firm, which moderates all new posts on the site, while running deeper checks on users who agree to deliveries.

With that in mind, we ask Vuylsteke to paint us a picture of the model sharing economy user – as it’s clear that it takes a certain kind of outward, naturally social individual to use sites like Piggybee and indeed, Liftshare. “Especially in Europe – people are always afraid of changing habits or by anything new. But as time passes the socially outward, (those who take selfies etc.) will show the path to other users. My best example might be Facebook. If I told you in 2004 to post on the Internet your holiday pictures to your complete friendlist, you would have said I was crazy. Today, everyone is using Facebook.”

He’s got a point of course, because while stigma around internet privacy and exposing yourself on social platforms is clearly creeping back into our headlines – not to mention everyday discussion, more and more of us are showing the world what we’re doing online. Either way, these are interesting times for the sharing economy and its swelling userbase. We suggest to Vuylsteke that perhaps we’re going back to the days of neighbourly contact – the old image of the person next door borrowing a cup of sugar, and while he agrees, he places the economic crisis as a key catalyst.

“The story is we’re going through an horrific economy crisis,” he stresses. “If you – as I am, not rich, buying power decreases every day. On the other hand, today’s available technology, – from mobile to geolocation is simply fantastic. It is natural that people are looking for more economical solutions. With online profiles and ratings, users now rather trust individuals than larger organisations they don’t believe in any more.”

That definitely sounds familiar, but we’re thankful that the sharing firms we have been speaking with on the blog this year are taking control and helping our funds stretch further once more. The sands are shifting in the world of collaboration and consumption, that much is clear.

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