Laura Behrens Wu builds Shippo to make e-commerce shipping easier
The nearly $5 trillion global e-commerce market offers many opportunities for tools and services that ease the often-complicated multi-carrier shipping process, including the creation of shipping labels that make commerce electronic possible.
Shippo is one such company. Founded in 2013 by CEO Laura Behrens Wu and President Simon Kreuz, the San Francisco-based company provides an API, a web interface to help businesses generate shipping labels, as well as support for address validation. , multi-carrier support, API tracking, batch label creation, discounts and international shipping. It integrates with e-commerce platforms like eBay, Amazon, and Shopify and bundles its customers’ packages through their own account with carriers to get discounted rates, which they then pass on to customers.
After moving from Germany to San Francisco to intern at start-up LendUp, Behrens Wu was inspired enough to wonder if she could start a business on her own. She recruited fellow intern Kreuz to join her. “I reached out to my co-founder, Simon, and he’s the more technical between the two of us. So we started thinking about what we could build, and we couldn’t really find anything that changed. the world or that’s revolutionary. And then we were like, ‘Okay, let’s just build an online store. Let’s just start building something, and we’ll find out later. And that was our first step to building something together,” says Behrens Wu
While still working at the time, they started building their online store. And that’s where they first encountered the shipping problem. They started taking orders and shipping their products. But shipping turned out to be a huge challenge that seemed to outweigh the joy of running their online store.
“Because we were starting the business and owning the inventory ourselves, shipping required us to make that trip to USPS while waiting in line. It’s also not the most fun place to get advice from the people who work there. It was our first foray into shipping. And we did it pretty badly. And it was very expensive and time consuming. So I started researching what other tools exist, like what Stripe had done for payments or Shopify for storefronts. These are all really complex problems that they solve. Is there something like that for shipping? And we couldn’t find anything we liked. And the founder that I was working for, who had become a bit of a mentor at the time, was telling me, “Build something that’s a painkiller, not a vitamin.” And we just realized that, yes, shipping is a real issue. So that’s when we said, ‘Okay, let’s close this store. And we’ll start figuring out how to improve shipping for online stores. And that’s what we’ve been doing ever since. We have focused on making shipping easier for SMEs,” says Behrens Wu.
Today, Shippo helps over 120,000 customers, mostly small and medium-sized businesses, make their e-commerce shipping easier. With over 300 employees, the company is expanding into Europe and Australia, while adding offices in North America.
As a result, the company has raised $154.3 million in funding to date with its latest $50 million E-round led by Bessemer Venture Partners, valuing the company at $1 billion. Other investors include Uncork Capital, Empede Capital, Union Square Ventures and others.
Behrens Wu grew up in Germany to a German father and a Taiwanese mother and also lived in China for a period of his life. His father discouraged the idea of being an entrepreneur because he experienced that his own father was an entrepreneur, always working and traveling. “My dad deliberately said he wanted to have a nine-to-five job and be home for dinner every night. And he did. And it was really nice. So I never really thought that being an entrepreneur was something desirable or something I wanted him to do,” says Behrens Wu.
After spending time in China, she returned to Germany, but felt it was too culturally restrictive and was looking for something different. After graduating from the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland, she had the opportunity to move to San Francisco. “I got this internship in San Francisco, almost by chance. I met a startup founder at a Y Combinator event in Zurich and he volunteered to forward my resume to the YC mailing list. I got many interviews and then I was able to find a job,” says Behrens Wu.
In a short time, she went from intern at a start-up to creating her own online store, which then led to co-founding Shippo. As the company grew and became successful, it faced the challenges of transitioning from “do-it-all” founder to CEO of a mid-size company valued at $1 billion with several hundred employees in the world. “I spend a lot more time being a CEO now than I did years ago. I think it comes through personal development and working with a CEO Coach. I’ve been working on this for a few years now. People Management it’s not a natural skill, it has to be learned. And they don’t teach you that in school or college. When you’re a CEO, you have to start managing people pretty early and you sort of learn by trial and error. and mistakes. And the first few mistakes are really painful. But once you get through that, it gets easier. And then, more recently, I now have a team of executives around me who are amazing to work with and which I learn so much every day,” says Behrens Wu.
As for the future? “Shipping powers commerce on the internet and we want to make it a global business. I think the other part is that we’re still very early days in making sure that with scale comes the data and analytics that can make our product smarter and more intuitive, but also more predictive for our customers. And we are still quite early in this stage. But we are excited to go down this road,” concludes Behrens Wu.