Oxford-based ByBox sees huge global potential for its B2B logistics and locker technology, as managing director Simon Fahie tells Tim Wickham.
Every day, over 20,000 engineers around the UK open a ByBox secure locker to collect essential components delivered overnight that they need for their work. It could be replacement parts for a hospital MRI scanner, spares to repair a computer, or new smart meters for utility companies to install.
The company has over 1,500 locker locations in the UK and reckons an engineer can expect to find one no more than three miles from their home. It’s all about improving the efficiency of engineers working in the field, and the speed that businesses move parts around their supply chains.
ByBox’s developers have written 17 million lines of code for proprietary software that keeps supply chains running smoothly and securely. The company also runs a global network of contractors who collect components and carry out simple fix or replacement tasks.
“We are a technology company solving a niche, high-value challenge in supply chains,” explains Simon Fahie.
B2B rather than B2C
Back in the early 2000s, the company got off to a less than auspicious start. Founders Stuart Miller and Steve Huxter headed to Silicon Valley, where they saw an opportunity for their secure lockers as the last step in the ‘click-and-collect’ element of the fledgling consumer online market. But they arrived on the US west coast just as the dotcom bubble burst and the technology industry imploded.
Undeterred, the duo returned to the UK convinced that their idea had potential. They decided the future lay in B2B click-and-collect services rather than the consumer market.
“What we do isn’t rocket science. As a value proposition it’s easy to work through,” explained Fahie. “Having a strong USP makes our services easier to sell. We demonstrate to customers that they can significantly reduce the costs of moving and storing their stock.”
The company has a workforce of around 450 and earlier this year moved to new headquarters at Oxford Science Park, after outgrowing its site in Harwell. ByBox has a distribution centre in Coventry and eight smaller centres around the UK. Annual revenue has grown steadily to £80 million, with expansion through a mix of organic growth and strategic acquisitions.
BYBOX: NO 14
Funding the future
Towards the end of 2016, ByBox took a decisive step by bringing in Lloyds Development Capital (LDC) and repaying many of its original shareholders and early investors. “Funding from LDC gives us the freedom to do what’s best for the business. It’s a fantastic opportunity – LDC is ambitious and so are we,” said Fahie.
The company is expanding its US operations, based in the tech town of Burlington, near Boston. “We are extending our technology services in the US rather than B2B logistics,” he said.
ByBox licences its technology to HP Enterprise, where it is used in lockers located near mission-critical activities, such as data centres. The HPE partnership has extended ByBox’s reach to more than 20 countries. “We are looking at commercialising our technology by licensing it to other third parties,” said Fahie.
ByBox anticipates further growth when the ultra-fast 5G cellular network rolls out. “There are many possibilities for us. In technology terms, we are only beginning to scratch the surface,” said Fahie. “You could have a 3D printer in a locker to make a component on demand or the locker could store a ‘dumb standard terminal’ that is programmed on demand as you approach it. By the time you reach the locker and unlock it using a secure Bluetooth connection from your mobile phone, the part you are collecting could be customised for your individual requirements.”
Fahie points to the company’s short decision-making process and tenacity as key qualities that drive it forward. “We are entrepreneurial and curious by nature. We encourage our people to have an opinion and win business by building trust with our customers.”