Ngus Elfinston was working on a home removal business when he learned that a quarter of all vans and trucks drive empty because they are returning from work, and half the rest have only a few items on board and there is still plenty of room.
“It was during the recession, and at the same time I saw that people wanted to save money by moving their things, while transport providers like me wanted to make more money on existing jobs.”
It turned out to be a light bulb moment. The 39-year-old has created AnyVan, a technology platform that fits customers is looking to move goods, and transport service providers are already following this path: “saving miles and being able to offer cheaper prices to customers.”
In the early days of its founding, AnyVan adopted the slogan “we move anything, anywhere,” and, Elfinston laughs, “after two million moves, it’s safe to say that some people have tested our determination!”
AnyVan also transported an elephant with its guard and veterinarian across Ireland, a six-foot-tall cabinet engraved with the Kama Sutra, a yurt, a vivarium with living inhabitants, a giant penis statue, an ice cream van and what Elphinstone tenderly calls a “dungeon dungeon”. Most relocations are made by small firms and single traders – AnyVan now has 90,000 drivers and companies signed up.
It all started in 2009. “Creating a technology platform without a lot of experience was a serious risk,” says Elfinston, “but there weren’t many competitors with viable technology solutions that could compete with, so it was relatively easy.”
Initially, he used £ 150,000 in cash from a private investor, hired an office manager and outsourced the development of the platform to an IT specialist.
The first major problem was the “chicken and egg scenario”: if vacancies were not listed on the site, van and truck drivers did not sign, but AnyVan could not list vacancies if they did not have drivers ready to accept them. So Elphinstone persuaded drivers to sign up (for free) to increase their deadlift revenue – “it wasn’t hard to sell,” he adds, and built the site from there.
“This meant that when we launched for our customers, the liquidity of the drivers was fluid enough to do the job.”
Currently, AnyVan will allocate about five jobs for each vehicle – anyone who wants to move the oven to Aberdeen will pay around £ 200 and the driver will receive 25% of that work plus a few others along the route.
In the first few years, AnyVan raised about £ 6 million, but initially hoped for organic growth. By the end of the first year, it had about 45,000 customers, and Elfinston was worried about a larger logistics firm exposing its concept.
“It’s very difficult to patent any ideas with technology,” he added. “You’re constantly worried about when the next competitor might show up and try to eat your lunch. We had to take into account the reputation, the product and the operational challenges. ”
Growth has slowed over time quarantine, but currently AnyVan has organized more than two million relocations. In recent years, we have had to deal with driver shortages and cargo problems, although Elfinston adds: “We use our technology to consolidate jobs and keep the cost of each job low, so we don’t need as many drivers and we’re not so affected by- for lack of drivers. ”
Currently, AnyVan has raised a total of £ 131 million, mostly from Vitruvian’s private equity, and is awaiting a business boom. Last year, turnover reached £ 85 million; Elfinston estimates that this year it will grow to 130 million pounds.
“We want to double technology and accelerate market leadership,” he explains. “We are prepared and funded to rapidly accelerate our expansion across Europe by focusing on a market that is underserved and highly inefficient, making it ripe for setbacks and rapid growth.”