Now sprouting like mushrooms in San Francisco are kiosks sporting safe-grade electronic locks for customers to receive and send items through San Francisco-based Swapbox, a start-up which views itself as a “super post office,” the company’s chief technology officer and co-founder Nitin Shantharam told India-West.
Swapbox’s co-founder is CEO Neel Murthy, a 26-year-old Indian American engineer who graduated from the startup program at Y Combinator, an incubator that helped launch billion-dollar companies like Dropbox and Airbnb.
Shantharam pointed out that busy professionals often don’t have the time to stand in lines at the post office waiting to sign for packages or to fill out forms for UPS or other messenger services.
Also, in a city like San Francisco, many people live in apartments or other residences where delivery of packages is haphazard and items can be delivered to the wrong house or stolen.
Swapbox now has 21 kiosks — most of them in San Francisco and a few in Silicon Valley — and is ramping up to 25 kiosks soon.
“Our (kiosks) are three times larger than Amazon lockers,” the Indian American co-founder pointed out.
Customers can sign up free for an account, shop online and then ship items to a Swapbox site housed inside a nearby laundromat, gas station, convenience store, etc.
Swapbox notifies customers by e-mail or text message with the pickup details. Shipping the first package is free and $1.99 per item after that. Customers can make a pickup when they want by swiping a credit card at the kiosk.
“You can track packages, view pickup information, and configure your settings all through www.swapbox.com,” the company says.
Swapbox will package items for customers, kiosks “are robust and tamperproof” and all packages are “handled with care,” the company adds.
Murthy and Shantharam, who has a master’s in information and computer science from U.C.-Irvine and worked at Microsoft on Xbox and on the Google Reader team, have known each other for 15 years, since they were friends in Southern California.
Before raising $875,000 in a seed round, they bootstrapped the company with their savings. The company has just three full-time employees and works with local courier companies to deliver packages to kiosks.
Shantharam said Swapbox is the wave of the future. “It is “what the post office of the future will look like,” he told India-West.