The choice is ours

November 29, 2006

The calm before the storm

Filed under: Business Development — shippingpal @ 11:49 am

It’s celebration time here at Shipping Pal, as we finally move into the next phase of business development. Daniel, our genius XML developer, has completed the integration of Purolator and UPS into our system, so we’re now returning quotes for over 90% of all postal codes in North America. We have finally created the coast-to-coast shipping network we’ve been visioning for three years now. With forty-plus carriers and a continent-wide reach, we’re ready to take it to the masses…

And towards that end, our billboard is going up over the weekend. Toronto readers can look out for it on the DVP, just north of the Queen St bridge. Our radio campaign starts Monday, and it’s hilarious – I’ll be posting an MP3 of it as soon as I get a copy. Many thanks to all the creative people involved in both projects, John Currid‘s photography, Ben Wong‘s graphic design, and Blair Bailey’s radio work. We’re confident that these strategies will really help to build our brand.

Our PR firm Thornley Fallis also issued our press release last week – I blogged it earlier – and it’s having the desired effect. Observant readers might have seen Shipping Pal featured on CFTO TV news the other night. Things are starting to get busy.

Currently reading: Colombia News

Currently hearing: Hi-Fidelity Lounge Vol 3

Currently watching: The Annoying Devil (Balls of Steel)

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November 27, 2006

Unless you have an inner blogger – don’t bother

Filed under: News and Comment — shippingpal @ 4:14 pm

A couple of interesting articles in the Guardian over the last few days, including one excoriating politicians for their half-hearted attempts to embrace social media. The target of media editor Emily Bell’s wrath is the faux-viral Tory online campaign, which has proved to be fairly painful for all those with even half an interest in British politics. Their attempts to be cool seem laughably staid, as one might expect, and as Ms. Bell correctly observes, are redeemed only by “the opportunity for parody and for people to tag their own videos ‘Tory tosser'” – amusing.

Another very interesting item profiles the new Silicon Valley, where the legendary garage has been replaced by the wireless-enabled coffee shop. It’s a guided tour through the area, featuring a colourful cast of characters and some interesting observations about venture capital, entrepreneurship, and the new nature of the Internet. Check it out here.

Currently reading: Media Guardian

Currently listening: Very Best of Al Green

Currently watching: Under Blackpool Lights (White Stripes)

November 23, 2006

New York, marketing, press releases.

Filed under: Business Development, News and Comment — shippingpal @ 5:48 pm

City Journal published an interesting piece on the re-emergence of New York’s Silicon Alley after a couple of disastrous years, with quite a few interesting start-ups namechecked. I’m glad to hear that New York is as vibrant and creative as it is, since along with London and Paris it’s got the be on the shortlist of places I’d like to spend a lot of time in. Hopefully get down there for a quick visit in January.

We’re busy working on the last few details of the technology-end of things, and ramping up our marketing push. Half a million flyers went out this week across the GTA, and we’re in the process of getting a billboard on the DVP for early December. We’ll be recording our radio spots next week for broadcast in early December, and things are starting to heat up.

We also released our first official press release, the text of which follows:

A NEW SOLUTION FOR ALL YOUR SHIPPING NEEDS!
ShippingPal.com Eases Holiday Shipping For Canadians

Toronto (November 20, 2006) – A new and innovative Canadian shipping website has launched, just in time for the busy holiday season. Shipping Pal (www.shippingpal.com) is North America’s largest network of leading independent courier companies. At the click of a mouse, customers can compare delivery options and prices from over 40 first-rate courier firms and then place their order instantly.
The company is dedicated to providing its customers with a superior level of service and reliability, as well as convenience. Participating courier companies were hand-picked by industry experts on the basis of their superior track record for speedy delivery and quality customer service. The firms in the Shipping Pal network employ over 10,000 couriers across North America and handle millions of shipments every day.

Shipping Pal’s network stretches from coast-to-coast and includes a wide variety of courier companies, from small businesses specializing in super-rush service in metropolitan areas, to some of the largest shipping companies in North America, including UPS and Purolator Canada. The unique Shipping Pal technology ensures that its customers get the best quotes for their shipments from the largest selection of service providers for their pickup area. In contrast to Canada Post, Shipping Pal offers door-to-door pickup and delivery, and same-day delivery options at rates that are surprisingly affordable.

“We are very excited to offer our customers a new and more convenient shipping alternative,” says Hardin Jackson, President and CEO of Shipping Pal. “People no longer need to waste their time checking out various websites to compare shipping costs and delivery times, or standing in line at Canada Post to try to save a buck or two. With Shipping Pal, they have access to all the courier companies in their area right on their computer screen, and they don’t have to leave their home or office to get the best rates for their shipments.”

By entering their shipment details into Shipping Pal’s easy-to-use website, customers can receive real-time, value-driven quotes on shipments from every company in their region, and select the level of service or price that suits them best. This makes it easier than ever before to “shop around.”
“The service that Shipping Pal provides simply could not have been built even a couple of years ago,” says Martin Mills, Shipping Pal’s Chief Technology Officer. “We use the Internet to connect people and systems in ways that cannot be done by any other means, and we believe that what we’re really doing is making people’s lives easier, by eliminating the usual stress and time-wasting involved in shipping.”
Shipping Pal is very simple to use. Users can choose from a huge range of service options, from 30 minutes or less up to 5-7 day ground delivery, depending on price, location and distance. When the shipment details have been entered at http://www.shippingpal.com, competitive rates and delivery times from every company in the area are received from the companies’ servers and displayed in real-time. Users can choose from a huge range of service options, from rush deliveries, same-day, overnight or most economical, to ensure that they always get the shipment that best suits their needs, hence Shipping Pal’s motto “The Choice Is Yours.”
With another click, the order for the shipment is placed, couriers are dispatched automatically, and a waybill is immediately e-mailed to the customer, which can then be printed and attached to the package. Another useful function is Shipping Pal’s tracking tool. Once the package has been picked up, the customer can simply click the ‘tracking’ tab at the top of the homepage and enter the tracking number from the waybill to follow the progress of the shipped package.

Corporate social responsibility is also at the heart of Shipping Pal. Along with its partners and service providers, Shipping Pal is proud to present ‘Handle With Care,’ its first annual charity drive. From December 1st to 18th Shipping Pal is offering free pickup and delivery of all packaged food donations – up to 300 pounds per delivery – to the Daily Bread Food Bank from anywhere in the GTA. With on-going support from its customers, Shipping Pal hopes to help the fight against hunger. To find out more about this initiative, visit http://www.shippingpal.com.

For more information about Shipping Pal, or for useful tips on shipping, visit http://www.shippingpal.com. Or to take a peek inside the minds of the two entrepreneurs behind Shipping Pal, check out their ‘The Choice is Ours’ blog at https://shippingpal.wordpress.com/ where they discuss the day-to-day challenges of Internet entrepreneurship, the shipping industry, networking, and general art and culture.

About Shipping Pal

Shipping Pal Corporation was founded by Hardin Jackson and Martin Mills. Friends since high school and principals in an internet development firm, the two were also keen eBay users. They realized that there was an opportunity to apply a variation of the auction model to the shipping process and http://www.shippingpal.com was created. It provides real-time, value-driven quotes on shipments from top-ranked courier companies and allows customers to select the level of service and price that suits them best. The company is now North America’s largest network of leading independent courier companies. Its network stretches from coast-to-coast and includes a variety of courier firms from small specialized businesses to large firms such as UPS and Purolator Canada.

For more information or to set up an interview with Hardin Jackson or Martin Mills, contact:

Karen Oliveira
Thornley Fallis Communications
416-515-7517, ext. 236
oliveira@thorleyfallis.com

November 21, 2006

In today’s papers…

Filed under: News and Comment — shippingpal @ 11:40 am

CNN is running a story that seems to get recycled every year or so, the idea of (what’s now being called) ‘personal recommendation software.’  It’s not a new concept, though it differs from plain searching for obvious reasons, and it’s something I’m quite into.  The mistake here, as always, is to overimagine it – as it there could be a Google-equivalent that will somehow intuit what kind of music you like based on what’s in your grocery bag.  I don’t buy that neat compartmentalization.

There are a number of really good advisor systems out there, one of the oldest being the Global Network of Dreams, which I was using a fair bit when it first came out four or five years ago now.  The music site is particularly good, the movies one OK, the books a bit off to my taste, and I never tried the social networking one.  Another great music site is Pandora, which allows you to plug in your favourite artists and find similar (hopefully not-too-similar) music.  I set up a station there and it was surprisingly accurate, though with a 7,000 song iTunes library I am pretty much self contained as far as music goes.

These advisor system articles always love to harp on about Amazon‘s recommendations, but I’ve never once been persuaded to buy something based on their recommendations.  Often, I get email offers for books that I’d never bother even cracking the spine on.  Maybe it works better for other people.

Currrently reading: Emergency Sex and other Desperate Measures (Cain, Postlewait, Thomson) [audio]

Currently hearing: Hi-Fidelity Dub Sessions 3

Currently watching: Itineraire d’Une Enfant Gâté (dir Claude Lelouch)

November 17, 2006

Another hectic week

Filed under: Business Development — shippingpal @ 2:03 pm

There’s hardly time to think, much less post updates, as we grind down the last few nagging details and prepare for our ‘official’ launch on the 20th. Of course, we’ve been shipping orders for over a year now, but this time it’s ‘official’. A big part of it is of course the Go-Logix integration, which has required us to do a fair bit of remodelling in terms of our own database, hence the delays in getting it quite out the door. As head of IT, it’s up to me and my team to pull it off, and I have total confidence as we broke the back of the project earlier this week. Everything works properly on our test server, now it’s just a matter of migrating it to production.

Our official launch press release is going out on Monday, so I’ll be posting it here immediately thereafter. We worked closely with Thornley Fallis to pull it together, and I think it sounds great. Mass marketing, here we come.

Currently reading: About some weird Danish artist (The Guardian)

Currently hearing: Sounds of the City – Berlin (Jazzanova)

Currently watching: Intineraire d’un Enfant Gate (dir. Claude LeLouch)

November 14, 2006

Breakthrough in the Grey Room

Filed under: Business Development — shippingpal @ 12:20 pm

The team is pretty jubilant today, as we are finally making progress in an important part of the system, the integration with Go-Logix that will allow us to return results for Purolator and UPS. There have been a number of challenges in terms of matching up their system with our existing one, for instance they don’t return delivery times, only service levels, so we’ve had to script a bunch of interpretations of the service levels to convert them to delivery times. At any rate, some real progress has been made and we’re all excited about it.

Tomorrow, I’ll be working the phones with our team and talking to a bunch of courier firms as we bring them on board, and by the end of the week we should be running at full capability. There’s a lot to do between now and then, but I am confident it can be accomplished on time. On November 20th, our media blitz begins, so between now and then it’s going to be a whole lot of coffee and coding – two of my favourite things.

Currently reading: A Brief History of Nearly Everything ( Bill Bryson)

Currently hearing: In Bloom 2: World Music Produced in France

Currently watching: A Prairie Home Companion (dir. Robert Altman)

November 11, 2006

Too Many Meetings

Filed under: Business Development, music — shippingpal @ 1:39 pm

It’s been a hectic week as we put the finishing touches on both the site and our launch strategy. A number of worthwhile meetings with key players, including one at Pure Spirits in the Distillery district, where all four diners had the steak frites – and mighty good it was, too. We’ve been co-ordinating our Daily Bread initiative, which should be great, and it’s been implemented on the website. You can fill out a simple order form for your donation, and if you schedule it between December 1 and 18, it’s free.

Went out last night with a bunch of friends to catch Robyn Hitchcock at the Mod Club. It was a great show – some hilarious asides and typically nifty wordplay, but it was the music itself that was so exciting. A massive, crunchy vibe, much harder than I’d expected, with deep bass and a really full sound. He thoughtfully dedicated ‘I Wanna Destroy You’ to former Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Dynamite stuff.

Currently reading: UN: Water, Sanitation Crisis Killing Millions of Children (VOA)

Currently hearing: Back to Mine (Everything But the Girl)

Currently watching: The Ballad of Jack and Rose (dir. Rebecca Miller)

November 6, 2006

Dim Sum Mondays

Filed under: Business Development — shippingpal @ 6:43 pm

Dim Sum in Chinatown is always a good time.  For some reason, it was packed today with a lineup out onto the street – who knew Mondays were big for dim sum?  Fortunately, we are regulars and were escorted to our seat promptly.  Yummy har gow.

Back at the office, things are really rolling.  We had a great meeting on Friday with Jayson at Daily Bread Food Bank, and in conjunction with their Winter Food Drive, we’ll be offering free pickup and delivery of donations up to 300lbs from December 1 to 18.  It’s a great way for us to support a community cause while spreading awareness and trial of our technology.  I’m really hyped about it.

We’ve also started working on our radio ad, which promises to be very funny.  The multi-talented Mr. Blair Bailey will be producing it for us, with studio work by Dino at Balance Music.  Will post it online as soon as it’s completed.

Currently reading: FP Passport

Currently hearing: The Good Son (Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds)

Currently watching: Lori Nix photographs

November 2, 2006

Goings-on around town

Filed under: Business Development — shippingpal @ 5:24 pm

It’s been a hectic week of meetings, negotiations, contracts, and general anticipation as we put the finishing touches on our ‘launch’ campaign. We’ll be rolling out our coast-to-coast, continent-wide shipping network next week, so there’s a lot going on at the lab here in advance of that. We’re working on our radio campaign, which will be a lot of fun and very funny, as well as our ongoing charity initiatives, which are being finalized tomorrow (Friday Nov 3).

I also just improved my quality of life by switching from my old Blackberry 7100 to a new 8700r. The screen is bigger with better colour, and it has a full keyboard rather than the 7100’s hybrid qwerty/phone pad, which slowed down my email typing somewhat. I haven’t really put it through its paces yet, but I am confident that the 8700 will also be a bit more robust in handling Javascript and some of the other scripts that didn’t interact well with my 7100’s browser. I even got a fancy holster with it…

Currently reading: Rolling Stone interview with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert

Currently hearing: Joyful Rebellion (K-Os)

Currently watching: Murderball

November 1, 2006

The Sound of Music

Filed under: music — shippingpal @ 11:17 am

I’ve been digging around on the Net for a few music related tools lately, mainly to mix my considerable MP3 collection, and then to post those mixes somewhere I can share them with a few friends. In my travels, I’ve come across a couple of cool apps. I’m still waiting for Acoustica to make a Mac version of their fab MP3 mixer, but I’d guess they probably won’t bother since the already-bundled GarageBand does almost the same job. I still prefer the Acoustica one though, because it allows for track dividing, and also doesn’t max out at 2000 bars (about an hour and a bit), even if I have to fire up my Windows PC to use it. Anyway, there’s a nice big pile (415 when I last checked) of iTunes related Apple scripts available here for Mac users, that can help you do just about anything you need to organize your music.

The mix complete (tentative title “October Surprise”), I came across a rather cool little sharing app called esnips, which provides you with a GB of web storage space and all sorts of customizable settings. Again, they’re still working on their Mac-compatible interface, but in the meantime there’s a web-based uploader that handles files up to 10MB – easily enough for individual MP3 tracks. They also just completed a $2 million round of financing with Greylock (nice one!) and have a couple of blogs on their site. Prior to finding esnips, I’d checked out the promising (and working-for-others) waxdj.com, but the automated responder never sent me my activation code, so I guess I won’t be posting any mixes there for now. Just as well, I wouldn’t know how to categorize the music I’m into anyway…

Currently reading: eBay Canada Message Boards: Payments, Customs and Shipping

Currently hearing: Sorry Sorry (Francois K’s Deep Afropop Mix) – Femi Kuti

Currently watching: Ah Pook Is Here (William S. Burroughs animation)

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