The choice is ours

March 21, 2007

Better late than…

Filed under: Business Development, music — shippingpal @ 10:02 am

It’s weeks like the last two that make maintaining a blog rather difficult – so much happening, so many meetings, so much code to write/evaluate/re-write… between that and my busy social life, there isn’t much time at the end of the day to gather one’s thoughts into anything approaching coherence. At any rate, a brief rundown would have to at least include mention of our ever-improving API, now being written in ASP and .NET versions for all you Microsoft victims, our expanding network – we’re now returning results continent-wide from FedEx and UPS, with Dynamex soon to come – and our continuing efforts to get our second round of capital in place. As the company has grown over the last 12 months, I’m somewhat less hands-on when it comes to decisionmaking on the corporate level, as I’m busy in the trenches building the technology that the firm is valued on. That said, I am still in close contact with the partners and all decisions made are unanimous – aside from a few…

Out in the real world, I was devastated to find out that Friday’s Booka Shade concert was cancelled when the band got snowed in at NYC; it was rescheduled to Sunday, but that didn’t suit me as Monday promised to be insanely busy – I now have the dubious pleasure of having missed my favourite band in London AND Toronto. Still, we compensated somewhat beforehand by heading to the Trane Studio to see my good friend Waleed Abdulhamid kick it with his band of jazz musicians, and they were on fire that night.

Currently reading: ‘Woolmer’s death treated as murder‘ – intrigue in the intl cricketing community

Currently hearing: Neon Bible – The Arcade Fire

Currently watching: Fast Food Nation (dir: Richard Linklater)

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March 6, 2007

Work, music, batteries, placebos

Filed under: Business Development, News and Comment — shippingpal @ 1:20 pm

I don’t have a lot of time to post this week as we finally wrap up our API build, coming soon to www.shippingpal-api.com. In the meantime, I’ve got a lot of coding to do myself, as well as integrating all the third party work that has gotten us this far. Such dedication – I even elected to stay in last night rather than check out the Toronto debut of a band that’s been getting a fair bit of play in my iTunes, the Submarines. Oh well, they were only the opening act.

In other news, my MacBook Pro is experiencing battery issues, a total pain as I can’t afford the time to put it in for repairs, but it has only about half the battery life I had two weeks ago, and it cuts off without any warning, leaving me in the middle of a major project without a reliable, portable system. So I’m somewhat chained to my desk, which might be advantageous considering the amount of work I face in the next few days.  Strangely, running diagnostics using the hand coconutBattery app shows no problems – it’s still running at full capacity, but it dies well before the battery indicator goes into the red.

Across the web, I see that – centuries of anecdotal evidence notwithstanding – a bunch of scientists are claiming that coffee does not in fact wake you up in the morning. I don’t drink it every day, but I have in the past, and this sounds patently absurd. I know entire companies that run on the stuff, and I’m not inclined to think it a placebo…

Currently reading: Apple discussion board – MacBook Pro battery

Currently hearing: Declare a New State – The Submarines

Currently watching: No Reservations (Discovery Travel)

February 23, 2007

The struggle continues

Filed under: Business Development — shippingpal @ 12:37 pm

The work continues on our API, though we have had a major breakthrough over the last few days and are on schedule for early March to roll out the build.  It’s been a challenge, with all sorts of issues emerging, and a few instances where we simply thought too much about certain things, instead of just rolling with the simplest solution – that’s a lesson that needs to be learnt more than once.  We have also added a number of major carriers to our network, including FedEx, Dynamex, and USPS, so we really are in the process of becoming a central data-collecting point for continent-wide shipping options.  Fun!  Now back to work…

Currently reading: Empire – Niall Ferguson

Currently hearing: Renaissance – The Masters Series 7 – Dave Seaman

Currently watching: The Queen (dir. Stephen Frears)

January 31, 2007

Work it

Filed under: Business Development, music — shippingpal @ 12:47 pm

Out last night at Century Room for Industry night, we stumbled upon the after-party for Justin Timberlake, who played the ACC last night. Though the man himself did not appear to be in attendance, we were treated to a rare live PA set from Timbaland, his genius producer, who dropped a bunch of his hits and generally got the crowd whipped into a frenzy. It was pretty packed in there, and the energy was wild. A lot of fun. On a more laid back groove, I’ll be hitting the Dominion to see my good friend K Obsidian mix some classic jazz tonight, which better suits the tempo of a Wednesday evening.

Workwise, we are in the midst of a fairly significant overhaul of the ordering system, so that we can bring our data closer in line with the requirements of the national level carriers we now deal with. This requires a modification of our current package type selector to compel the user to enter the dimensions and weight of each individual package. It is resulting in a fair bit of extra coding, mostly to facilitate passing the variables through the system from one end to the next, and it’s fairly exacting work, as everything needs to be totally accurate. Anyway, between that and project managing our outsourced work, I’ve been keeping busy.

Currently reading: nothing in particular

Currently hearing: Anything – Martina Topley Bird

Currently watching: Ricky Gervais interviews Christopher Guest

January 12, 2007

This is not a rant

Filed under: Business Development — shippingpal @ 11:35 am

I’ll tear my eyes away from the images of the iPhone long enough for one more post this week.  I am tempted to launch into another tirade against crappy third-party service providers whose systems don’t even do the basics (you know who you are), but that’s so 2006.  Around here, we are focused on solving problems, not kvetching about them…

At any rate, an interesting meeting recently with a very large shipping company who for some reason still don’t have accessible APIs for third party connectivity.  By the looks of things, they won’t be in place until a year from now, which is a pain because we really want to work with them, since they offer competitive rates and excellent coverage areas.  Being small, resourceful, and innovative, we took up the challenge and offered our services to try to find a wedge point in their system which would at least work as a stopgap.  We wait to see how interested they might be in such a proposition.  Yet another example of what James Gleick shrewdly described as the mammals running around at the feet of dinosaurs.  Still, it’s easy for a startup to shift gears, no so much for a many-thousand-person company with proprietary hardware and outdated systems.

The Shipping Pal holiday party, fittingly, takes place tonight, now that the stresses of the launch and the holiday season are passed.  We’ll be down at the super-hot Century Room tonight if anyone wants to take a look in.

Currently reading: Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim – David Sedaris

Currently hearing: Greatest Hits, So FarPublic Image Ltd

Currently watching: Before Night Falls – dir. Julian Schnabel

January 10, 2007

iWant

Filed under: Business Development, News and Comment — shippingpal @ 10:35 am

Well, as predicted, Apple dropped their new iPhone yesterday, and set the world to drool.  Even cooler – make that way cooler – than anticipated, it also answers a nagging question I’ve had for a while, namely why they never went fullscreen with their video iPods.  At any rate, it’s definitely the coolest device out there, making my Blackberry look rather 2006…

Back here on earth, we’re ankle-deep in API documentation, both our own and those of a number of service providers whose systems we are hoping to bring into our network.  Those of you who can read between the lines might have sensed a growing frustration with a number of third-party service providers who were over-promising and under-delivering, and we’ve decided to take matters into our own hands and deal directly with certain service providers, rather than having to rely on cumbersome 3PL solutions.  It’s a bit of a major IT restructuring, and could take a while, but it will be worth it in the long run, making our systems faster, more transparent, and less reliant on other companies’ technology.

The new year brings new business cards, designed by friend and genius Avery Kalemba of Quadrant Productions.  We’re moving up in the world, with heavy card stock and high-quality, saturated colours.  It’s small things like this that make entrepreneurship so much fun…

Currently reading: A Short History of Nearly Everything – Bill Bryson (almost finished it!)

Currently hearing: Love – The Beatles

Currently watching:  Nothing much

January 4, 2007

New Year, New Strategies

Filed under: Business Development, News and Comment, Service Providers — shippingpal @ 10:43 am

Back in-country and flaunting a conspicuous cough from the damp Paris weather, 2007 is starting out with a bang.  We’ve been engaged in a number of meetings to re-orient our organization towards a new strategy and target market for 2007, which mostly revolves around switching our focus from the general public to the business audience, a strategy which in hindsight had been on the burner for a while but got temporarily lost in the holiday rush.  A moment’s reflection makes it clear that we were right in our thinking – the general public needs a reason to ship, namely the holiday season, whereas businesses need to ship all the time as part of their process.  So 2007 is the year of B2B.

Towards that end, we’ve been engaging new consultants and creating new partnerships to help us achieve these objectives.  We’ll be putting out an API early in the year to allow developers to integrate directly with our web service and switch our focus from being a brand to being a business solutions provider, following the model of our heroes, PayPal.  Subsequent to that, expect an eBay extension in Q1.  However, our priority in the short term is to get the web service and API out the door in advance of the semi-annual Shop.org conference at the end of January.

In other news, the Guardian has an interesting article trying to guess what exactly Steve Jobs is going to announce at the next Mac love-in – odds are it’s going to be a phone.

Currently reading: craigslist

Currently hearing: Bebel Gilberto

Currently watching: The Departed (dir. Martin Scorsese)

December 16, 2006

A day in the life

Filed under: Business Development, News and Comment, Service Providers — shippingpal @ 4:03 pm

Yesterday was one of those typical entrepreneur days, full of challenges and narrowly averted catastrophes which just end up making the team stronger.

It started out quietly enough, with a scheduled meeting with one of our service providers.  Only problem was, when we showed up at their headquarters, we got an urgent call from our contact saying that she was at our office.  Some wires had crossed somewhere, evidently.  So half-an-hour of Jay-Z and Nas and a cup of coffee later, we finally rolled into our meeting, which I’m happy to say went very well.  There’s nothing like some good hard hip-hop to put you in a negotiating frame of mind.

From there, we headed back to the office to work on a few things.  Form validation is a sticky issue around here, as there are many ways to do it but most of them involve messy alert boxes and can sometimes result in the filled-out data disappearing.  I finally found something that works nicely and doesn’t look like a dog’s breakfast, but for some reason it was causing the insert action on the action page to fail.  After staring at it for a cumulative several hours, I finally realised it was because one of the form fields was tagged as id= instead of name= – such are the blatantly obvious things that can cause MEGO.

We managed to arrange some coverage from City TV for our Daily Bread food drive campaign, and wanted to capitalize on it, so we decided to have some jackets made up with our logo on the back.  The only problem was, it was a totally last minute arrangement, so we ended up running to the mall and spending a good three quarters of an hour trying to find suitable jackets – they had to be white, and preferably made out of wool.  The ones we got ended up being really nice, and then we killed half an hour in the food court waiting for the transfers to be applied.  I’m happy to report that no food was consumed there – I’m pretty neurotic about what I eat, and it’s been a decade or so since I would venture into any kind of fast food establishment, but I digress…

We arrived at the Daily Bread HQ, where they were celebrating their annual volunteer Christmas dinner, and it was really the first time this year that I’ve felt anything remotely close to the holiday spirit.  It was really nice, and good to see all these volunteers, many of them recipients of Food Bank donations, enjoying the fruits of their labours.  A lot of nice, friendly people and their kids.  Hardin worked on his interview skills while we arranged the unloading of over 3000 lbs of food, generously shipped by our star partners, The Messengers International.  City caught it all on tape, and we managed to score a bit of a publicity coup, as well as contributing to a really worthwhile cause.

After that, there was reason to celebrate with a couple of gin and tonics before I blasted back into the city to check my friend and fellow genius Waleed Abdulhamid at the Trane Studio for a truly barnstorming concert. Those who were there, know exactly what I mean…

Currently reading:  Motto magazine

Currently hearing: Further Adventures in Techno Soul (Ferox Records)

Currently watching: English Premier League football

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)

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

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