(Monday, March 31, 2008)
Plenty has been said (and alleged) about couriers darting around the world's cities. But controversy aside, courier delivery is the second biggest business on two wheels (behind bike shops) and is surviving thanks to the need for deliveries that can't be attached in an e-mail.
Travis Culley wrote about the ins, outs, ups, and downs of being a courier in his autobiography, The Immortal Class.
Start A Courier Service
To start your own, you may need a courier license from city hall, but aside from that you basically need a bike, a bag, a cell phone, and a bunch of admins in various companies who have your cell phone number and need those ASAP deliveries. There's a brief write-up at Entrepreneur Magazine.
But Only If You're Clever About It
The Economist takes a stark look at how courier companies are having to specialize to survive:
The legal system still relies on original documents, so some messengers cater to lawyers by offering benefits such as serving subpoenas and filing papers in court. “They are almost paralegals on bikes,” says Mr Götte. Others focus on deliveries that cannot be made electronically—architects' blueprints, for example, or take-out meals.And Get Some VC Money (wait - it's not 1999)
Kozmo was a New York City dot-com start-up that managed to raise $250 million in venture capital to provide free door-to-door deliveries for basically anything you needed - even a pack of gum. The company sank quickly (hint: "free delivery") but there is some merit to the basic business model, especially in big cities where dense traffic and short distances conspire to make bicycle deliveries feasible and profitable.
(photo by timmycorkery)