The lost shipping container that sparked an international business idea


The lost shipping container that sparked an international business idea

July 10 2019


By Keith Lewin, Founder of PostTag

I am often asked about what prompted me to start PostTag. It all began with a lost shipping container.

My family and I had been living in Australia and New Zealand for a few years when we decided in 2013 to move back to the UK. So we packed up our whole lives, everything but the house, into a shipping container and jumped on a flight home.

I made it, the wife, kids and dogs made it, but six week later the furniture was still MIA.

The news came through a phone call. Our container – with our entire household in it – was missing. I couldn’t even say, “sit down honey, have a cup of tea, I have some bad news,” because there was nowhere to sit and no way of making tea because the kettle, teapot and cups were all gone.

We were later told that thousands and thousands of containers fall off ships each year around the world. The fact that ours had company was little consolation. I imagined ours bobbing up and down on the high seas somewhere. We were devastated.

We had to start completely from scratch and soon became Amazon’s, John Lewis’ and House of Fraser’s biggest customers. We were buying a lot and getting up to 20 deliveries a day.

I soon realised though that we had a big problem because, although the UK has one of the most advanced postcode systems in the world, I was getting dozens of phone calls from lost delivery drivers. “Can you direct us in because we can’t find you”, “I’m looking at a river, where is your house?”. While we’re rural, we’re not that isolated and live just off a main road. It should be easy, yet our postcode was taking drivers to the middle of a field. I even had one driver say to me, “I’m at junction 17 on the A12, I’ve spent 45 minutes looking for you and have had enough, if you want your parcel I will be here for 5 minutes” and then he hung up.

During this time, we must have spoken to hundreds of delivery drivers, frustrated that trouble finding our address was going to make them late for the rest of their deliveries.

Once our home was fully furnished, I invited our friends over for dinner and told them of our delivery woes. it was like I’d thrown a grenade at the table. People were almost arm wrestling to better my story of bad couriers, late deliveries or deliveries not happening at all. And I thought, wow this is a really big problem.

I did some homework and discovered that missed deliveries cost UK retailers £771 million in lost business that year. That is a staggering figure and I realised – as a strategist – that there was a strong business case in an untapped market.  

I came up with PostTag; a simple, seamless system that can verify, validate and confirm a customer’s address with multiple data sources, creating a precise latitude and longitude which we then feed directly into the retailer’s logistics software. This process is completely frictionless – neither the customer nor delivery driver are aware that it’s going on. The PostTag team designed it that way – to work behind the scenes, in milliseconds and without any added visible steps in the ordering process.

All drivers notice is that, suddenly, they’re not driving around in circles anymore, looking for the right address, while customers are receiving their deliveries on time. It’s a win-win.

Our system is friendly, less hassle than our competition and with less room for error. It’s the most accurate geolocation and address verification system in the world – and we have proved that with our analysis of over half a million addresses.

Everyone in the UK should be using PostTag – especially emergency services.

If you talk to paramedics, fire fighters or police officers they’ll tell you about the amount of time they waste each day because their sat nav has directed them to the wrong location. Just like us, they get lost, equally led up the wrong garden path, except for them it can be a matter of life or death – which makes lost luggage seem unimportant.