Miami — If you’ve ever travelled to the U.S. from LatAm, you probably come with a laundry list of items that your family and friends ask you to buy. If you can’t get everything on Amazon, it can be an extra pain to visit brick and mortar stores, too, not to mention the stress of making sure you got exactly the right item.
That’s where Shappi comes in (previously known as Kargoo). The U.S. based startup that just raised a $1M seed round, verifies travelers so Ecuadorians can go shopping in the U.S. without having to leave the country. “Rent the space in your luggage,” says Karla Valdivieso, Shappi’s founder and CEO.
“It’s 2018, we have Uber, Airbnb, we have a shared economy, why are we not connecting this space?” she added.
The round was led by Sixers Innovation Lab and Concrete Rose Capital, with participation from Lightspeed Scout Fund, Iterative Venture and Gaingels. This brings the company’s total raised to date to $1.2 million.
The company, which was founded in 2018 and beta launched in 2019, now has 10 employees, more than 20K active users and has processed more than $3 million in product requests.
It operates as an app where individuals can place an order for an item, and then have it delivered when a traveler returns from the U.S. Travelers are verified by the company, and receive training on customs’ regulations, as well. In addition, all the regulations are listed in the app. Shappi matches shoppers with travelers so shoppers don’t have to wait until their next family member makes a trip.
“Maybe you can only bring back a limited number of electronics, but you can bring an unlimited number of vitamins, for example,” said Valdivieso.
The buyer pays a fee for the service, and that’s how the travelers and the company make money.
“On average travelers make about $200 per trip, and the most someone has made is about $600. That’s enough to pay for your flight,” Valdivieso said.
The company currently only operates between Ecuador and the U.S. but plans to use the money from this round to expand to other countries in LatAm.
Valdivieso is a serial entrepreneur having started a “product factory” where she and her team did market research and created the business plan for entrepreneurs who had an idea for a product.
“I noticed in LatAm that people were building apps but didn’t have a go-to-market strategy, and definitely had no idea if people even wanted this product,” she said. “This experience made me want to have a startup of my own, but I was just waiting for that “ah-ha” moment,” she added.
She later started a direct to consumer coffee business, but it didn’t succeed. The hardest part, she said, was figuring out the logistics.
“I’ve always has an interest in logistics, and the idea for Shappi came when I needed to buy supplies for my office in Ecuador, and I realized it made more sense for me to fly to Miami and buy the things then go to the mall and pay 4x more for a computer,” Valdivieso said.
Before her trip she went on social media and posted that she was traveling to Miami, and that she would be happy to bring things back for a fee. She was booked in no time, she said. And that was her “ah-ha” moment. For the next year she traveled “to Miami 6 times to validate the business,” she said.
“Asking for things from abroad is an old behavior that’s in our DNA, but there’s never been a platform to do this,” Valdivieso said.