The social delivery service

The self titled 'social delivery service', Nimber is one of the latest additions to the ever expanding 'sharing economy'. Founded in Oslo, the company recently opened up offices on London's Old Street. We spoke to co-founder Ari Kestin to find out more...
Published —
09.16.16
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Can you tell us the story of Nimber? How did it all begin, and how have you grown since?

I like to think that innovative companies come from that ‘aha’ moment where there’s a certain realisation that you can make things or do things better. That moment came with the realisation that we all have spare capacity and can make perfectly good use of it for deliveries to move physical items.

The founders were on a ski trip in Norway and we came across a postal truck accident – there were parcels and packages spread all over the road. We realised we could all fix that problem by each taking a package with us and delivering it ourselves, as we were going that way anyway. That was the catalyst for the idea.

We created a solution that makes use of what we have, with the understanding that if we could do that, we could create a great service and meet people’s needs. If we can use spare capacity, then we don’t need to add additional capacity as that has limitations on our environment and our surroundings.

For example, instead of somebody going out and buying a new refrigerator, they can ask for the one they want because someone can deliver it to them from Bristol to Liverpool rather than buying a new one.

We wanted to create a matching platform – call it the Airbnb for delivery; call it Tinder for delivery. So, if a family is travelling to Brighton for the weekend, or someone is on their daily commute, or someone has space in their bag whilst on route – then they can potentially help someone out with a delivery.

Today we have offices in Oslo and London and we’re considering expanding into other European markets. We are close to being a community with over 100,000 people who are regularly using our services to deliver things to each other.

Would you consider Nimber to be a social enterprise? Are you driven by a social mission?

The initial idea was to create a solution which we thought would help the community. And what we’ve actually learnt is two things: as we developed this concept we realised that if we were able to help small businesses or individuals to monetise their movement then we also have an impact on them.

We also discovered something, which we didn’t think about originally, which was that in today’s technology age, we are where tech meets real world. We realised that when people connect with other people, something awesome happens. You’re actually matching and connecting people and there’s a real social aspect, which we love; people tell each other stories when they meet. I’ll tell you who I am, what my story is and you tell me yours – people want that social delivery.

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You felt like the original model for Nimber was over complicated. What was it that changed, and how did the change happen? What was the result of that change for you?

When you start out with any idea, you have certain beliefs on how things are going to work. As things move along you realise that you could do certain things better, there are ways that things could work better. It was the same with Nimber. We knew it was obviously working, but we felt like there was too much restriction.

The main thing that we did was to figure out how the product itself worked; how the platform worked. And simplifying that down so that bringers and senders could connect easily and effectively.

Ultimately we looked at what drives us; our ethos. We are only able to make a difference if our solution is viable enough for people to use it and that’s really our goal. It’s products, it’s communication and it’s actually partnership as well. If you’re thirsty, you have to get some water, right?

Why did you choose to open Nimber offices in London?

We were in a co-working space in Oslo, that’s when we started to realise that when you are around the right people, they affect the outcome of your future. We decided to move to London for various aspects; Norway is still our largest market, and the UK is quickly catching up. We decided to take it because it was a much bigger market and we thought it would help us to have all of the tools to expand.

London is a great place to be based and we are very fortunate to be teamed up with the Trampery. First of all I feel that we are part of something bigger than our own entity. And you’re surrounded by very talented people; different people with different types of expertise. So you’re able to feed off, and share, and ask questions – everybody comes together and shares resources.

Does Nimber operate any differently here in the UK than it does in Norway? Is the product used any differently?

This is an awesome question, as I like to think that we’re all the same to a certain degree. Norwegian and British people are not actually that different. Yet what we did discover is that people use it very differently.

There is more scepticism in the UK; I can’t figure out what it is exactly until we ask a lot more questions about how we do it. Norwegians don’t seem to be as concerned, maybe it’s a reflection of the social environment. I’d like to think that we were talking about a small difference not a big difference between the two.

We’re learning that people in the UK love their pets more than they do in Norway; we’re moving more animals in the UK than we are in Norway. This is something that we just stumbled across. If you want to buy or move a pet from one place to another, there are very few options out there for you.

What are the more interesting things you’ve moved? Did you imagine people using Nimber to move pets?

What we’ve found is that the things people move between each other are not the traditional things you get in a delivery from the Yolo guy. I like to think that we are the number one used toilets delivery company in Norway – we move more used toilets than anybody else.

Maybe we see more animals being moved in the UK than in Norway. But ultimately, our job is not to determine for what purpose people use our services but that we are providing a solution that is going to delight them.

People can move anything with Nimber. Anything that they can’t move with anybody else.

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What kind of protections do you have in place for people who use your service? I imagine you’ve got insurance, but are there any protections that have surprised you that you’ve had to put in place?

Our whole model is based on the fact that if you can get a community that would use itself. Ultimately, it allows people to trust what other people say about the service. We see that sometimes things get lost; sometimes people scratch stuff; things can get broken – that can happen to anybody.

I’m very proud to say that with the exception of one or two attempts at fraud, we’ve taken care of every claim for damage. We want people to be able to trust us and trust our community.

The peer to peer economy is has flourished with advances in technology, particularly with smartphones. Is there a type of technology that excites you in terms of Nimber, or in terms of the sharing economy more broadly?

We think about this a lot, about how our platform can fit, how we can integrate our solution with both demand and supply. How do we integrate our platform into other platforms? And that’s something that will be very important for the future.

You mentioned the sharing economy and we think a lot about how we do things and there’s been a lot of negative news lately about what I would call new companies as opposed to sharing economy companies. What we don’t do, and this is very important, we don’t dictate to anybody what they should do.

Think about Gumtree, nobody is forcing you to sell anything. Nobody is forcing you to buy anything. We see a lot of exploitation right now around workers and we are concerned about that. We are determined that our platform won’t become that. We don’t dictate price. We don’t dictate terms. There’s no t-shirt that you have to wear, because it’s not us who deliver, it’s you. And we want everybody to be an entrepreneur.

The reason we have such great success with delivering is because we actually aren’t doing it. If you have a problem or an issue with the person, then you guys are working together to collaborate. We are just there to pick up the pieces, and that happens very rarely.

The sharing economy as a phrase seems to have been co-opted by certain businesses that don’t seem to share the community value of the peer-to-peer element. It seems to have been a strange evolution of the phrase.

I think with new technology it has allowed it all to fall into place. My concern is with the hijacking of the shared economy – I prefer to call it the active economy. I think technology is activating certain services; to monetise the use of goods and connecting others. There are definitely peer to peer sharing economy platforms; I think Airbnb is one of them; with all its flaws, they’re part of the sharing economy.

What’s been your favourite story or set of stories you’ve had along the way?

Someone was delivering tyres for someone else. They’d picked them up and they were getting delivered a few days later, so they were holding the tyres in their home; something any other delivery company won’t do for you.

The person thought they were a bit dirty so they washed them, waxed them, and he cleaned the hubcaps. When they delivered them they said, ‘here’s your tyres, I washed them because I thought they’d be much prettier.’

Another story: Someone delivered a kitten; they had a Tesla car and they decided to upload a picture of another cat on the dashboard screen so that the kitten could have friends to watch while they were driving. I don’t know if the cat could see it, but the point is that these people really care about what they’re doing.

There are so many other stories… A bringer would call another bringer and say: ‘hey, someone needs this delivering but I can’t do it, I’d love to help them out. Can you pick it up half way and take it to your destination because I can see you’re going there all the time.’ So they met up and there was a handover from one bringer to another bringer.

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What’s next for Nimber? What do the coming years look like for you?

I always say there are people who talk the talk and there are people who walk the walk. And the reality is, if you’re going to make a difference, then you need to build something that’s not only sustainable from an environmental point of view, but sustainable from a business model.

If the whole thing breaks down, then it’s not worth it. So we’re looking to continuously create two things. One is to make our platform, so great that people just love it every time and every moment they use it. But we’re also looking to create a much more dynamic community.

If you needed to get something delivered from the other side of the country and you knew that there was someone down the street who’s going that way and could pick it up for you… how great would it be for us to truly connect you guys.

It happens every day and it’s our job to do that. We want to be able to match and grow the community, and ultimately be at the point where you don’t have to wait 50 minutes or 15 minutes to get a match, as you do now. But you just post something and someone says ‘yes, I’ll take that, I’m actually heading that way, I’ll take it to you.’

So that’s what we’re doing. Product. Grow our market. And Introduce it to new markets. And make Nimber synonymous with delivery. I’m Nimber, therefore I am.