Startup Profile: Starship Technologies + Postmates

This past year, Starship Technologies teamed up Postmates to be the among the first autonomous robotic services to deliver goods and food in Washington, DC.

Vikrum Aiyer from Postmates and Nick Handrick from Starship Technologies sat down with us to share why they do what they do, and why they chose to be in DC.

What do you do?

Starship Technologies is a delivery company that is revolutionizing the world of last-mile delivery with sidewalk-based, autonomous delivery robots.
Based in Washington, DC since 2013.

Postmates connects users to local businesses and couriers that deliver anything they need from within the city right to their doorstep, from local teachers in need of supplies to senior citizens with mobility issues.
Based in Washington, DC since 2015.

What is the inspiration behind your company?

POSTMATES: In an era where companies like Amazon set up warehouses on the outskirts of the city, we asked: “why not treat the city like a warehouse itself?”

The citizens and the artisans – all the people who make up a community –  they’re the ones to create the products, tastes, and aromas we love. We make sure those businesses and customers have the tools they need to connect with each other.

STARSHIP: The delivery industry is ripe for disruption. In the era of convenience by e-commerce, many challenges come with it: more delivery trucks means more pollution and congestion; demand for lower delivery prices; and difficulty for local businesses to compete. Our robots can be one of the key drivers to meet these challenges while making delivery an affordable option for consumers and businesses.

What neighborhood in Washington, DC are you located?

POSTMATES: 16th Street, NW but we operate all over the city.

STARSHIP: Dupont Circle.

What do you love about DC?

STARSHIP: DC is where important people do important things. This drives a very unique energy to the city.

DC is where important people do important things.

POSTMATES: DC is the first market we started in. Communities in the Georgetown neighborhood were getting pupusa deliveries from the Mt. Pleasant neighborhood. When you can build connections between different neighborhoods and economic backgrounds, then you’re able to experience the city in a more meaningful way.

How has DC contributed to your success?

POSTMATES:

Over the last 10 years, new restaurants have popped up around the city and it’s become a community for artists. The Mayor’s office and WDCEP has made the investment in technology and innovation a priority, making it a perfect playground to run our own experiments, and connect both tourists and residents to the evolving restaurant, business, and product scenes.

DC is one of our strongest markets. We sold $23 million in goods & 7.6K couriers earned a total of $10.7 million.

As a result, DC is one of our strongest markets. We’ve sold $23 million dollars in goods since we started operating here and 7,600 couriers have earned a total of $10.7 million in wages. We love to call DC home and continue to enlist more partners and offer a wider variety of products.

How is Washington, DC a smart city?

POSTMATES: Washington, DC is a development sandbox. It was one of the first jurisdictions in the nation to allow and permit the testing of sidewalk-class robotics. We hear a lot about robotics when it comes to manufacturing, but with the rise of automation in our daily lives and in the workforce, this is a big deal. The city’s progressive mentality allows us to experiment with and share those results to craft the rules of the road for the future. With the support of Mayor Bowser and WDCEP, our partnership with Starship Technologies enables us to test new ideas.

Washington, DC is a development sandbox.

STARSHIP: Washington, DC was one of the first cities we launched in the US because of its eagerness to build for the future. Our service fits nicely with the city’s current innovative efforts.

How are you helping Washington, DC become even smarter?

Delivery robots are able to communicate with street signs and traffic lights to share information back with the city. The city in turn collects information on street conditions or downed power lines. With civic applications, autonomous robotics can play an important role in making a city smarter that goes beyond delivery of products.

It also enables a smarter economic infrastructure. For Postmates, the ability to conduct forward-leaning R&D to assess how robotics handle short distance deliveries is huge. In the parallel, human Postmates manage longer or larger deliveries and earn income. Couriers have the flexibility to be on or off the platform and is ideal of people who need flexible work schedules.

What can we expect next from Postmates and Starship Technologies?

POSTMATES: We plan to continue experimenting and scaling the robotics efforts in a way that is mutually beneficial for the communities we serve.  WDCEP has helped us understand the economic and evolving landscape of DC and identify partners for future development.

STARSHIP: Our aim is to expand our services to more DC neighborhoods and provide grocery and package delivery in addition to take-out food. We’ll continue testing in the city to make our robots smarter and more helpful to the customers we serve.


Liked hearing about Starship and Postmates?

Check out what how these other Washington,DC-based companies are making waves in the Smart Cities space: