From Melbourne Alcohol Delivery Start-Up Emerges a Bigger Apple Company. GetSwift is kicking goals!

Swift chief executive and co-founder Joel MacDonald in Sydney. Photo: Kate Geraghty

Swift chief executive and co-founder Joel MacDonald in Sydney. Photo: Kate Geraghty

From SMH and The Age

Just two years ago Joel MacDonald was in Melbourne playing in the AFL.

Now he's living in New York playing a very different game, as chief executive and co-founder of a thriving logistics software start-up called Swift.

Logistics is a lot less sexy than footy, or the alcohol delivery start-up Liquorun, which MacDonald previously founded with two other Melbourne Football Club Players, James Strauss and Rohan Bail.

But as Liquorun grew, it became clear to MacDonald and his team where the greater prize lay.

"We started out delivering beer on scooters in inner Melbourne and it got to a stage where we were getting more orders, and I and our co-founders couldn't handle the dispatching anymore so we built Swift," MacDonald told Fairfax Media, visiting Sydney this week.

"When we introduced Swift to Liquorun some really incredible things started happening: customers just stopped complaining. Or at least, stopped calling up and saying, 'Hey, where's my order?

The Swift mobile app and demand analytics page in action. Photo: Swif

The Swift mobile app and demand analytics page in action. Photo: Swif


"We basically slashed about five jobs in our call centre."

The software, whose pitch is "Dispatch like Uber, track like Dominos, set routes like UPS", was refined over two years of hands-on testing with Liquorun. But when an offer from a US company to trial Swift's software in a three-month pilot arose, the team made a crucial decision to move to the US and put Liquorun on the backburner.

Fairfax Media can confirm for the first time the partner company is Instacart, as speculated in previous media reports. Swift has signed a "multimillion-dollar deal" with the online grocery delivery company, MacDonald said, though he could not disclose exact figures.

In a few short months Swift has clocked up paid and free trial sign-ups in "around 70 different regions around the world".

"[We've got] people doing dry cleaning on-demand in Dubai; marijuana dispensaries in Los Angeles; flower delivery companies in South Africa; and we're dealing with a whole heap of transport companies in India, so every day is pretty exciting," MacDonald said.

"Today we had our first translator on a call with a Portuguese company – that's when it kind of sank in we're distributing to the world."

Alcohol delivery companies including ones in the US that MacDonald read up on before launching Liquorun – are now looking at Swift.

"I got a demo request this morning from probably the biggest alcohol delivery company in the US right now," MacDonald said. "It gave me a few heart palpitations."

In August, Bluechilli and Black Chip Capital, which also backed Liquorun, led an angel round of $US675,000 ($940,000) in funding for Swift. MacDonald said Swift was now about to go back to the market.

The company still has its feet firmly in Australia, too. MacDonald said Swift was currently running "five or six" pilots with Australian companies, which were going "extremely well", and that Swift was "very close" to closing in "some large national clients in Australia that are in the food delivery space". (He was unable to give more detail other than to say they weren't Dominos, Coles nor Woollies.)

Meanwhile, Liquorun's website states the service is "currently closed while we make improvements" but the truth is MacDonald is in negotiation with "about five different parties" to buy it, with an announcement likely by year's end.

MacDonald isn't the first Australian start-up entrepreneur Fairfax Media has interviewed to have pursued a logistics company off the back of another start-up. We recently profiled Sendle's James Chin Moody, who built his Uber-style parcel delivery company to service a previous project, TuShare. (Incidentally, both went to Brisbane Grammar –must be something in the water.)

IBRS analyst Guy Cranswick said although logistics had "all the charm and appeal of high-level chartered accountancy", it was "absolutely essential" and the modern world would fall apart without it. Companies could either invest "substantial" amounts in R&D to streamline their logistics, or, they could increase efficiency straight away by implementing easy-to-use software that has already done the work.

"It should pay for itself," Mr Cranswick said.

However he warned that the barriers to entering the logistics software market were "very, very low" and expected there would be some consolidation in the sector.

MacDonald hopes Swift can mark out its point of difference with a fun user interface, borrowing from the book of US darling Slack, which has become the internal communications platform of choice for countless organisations the world over.

"There's a tonne of them [logistics companies like Swift], just like there were a tonne of online internal office chat clients; and then Slack came along and basically just kicked everyone's arse with a really fun user experience," MacDonald said.

Attracting and keeping customers with good user experience was about "the little things", he said: "After you click a button how does the loading icon look? When you're transitioning between pages you've got an opportunity to make someone smile rather than just looking at a dead computer screen all day."