April 21

Iztok Renčelj, Pošta Slovenije: We are interested in solutions that consider the network of 550 offices, 2,400 postmen and 1,200 vehicles in the field!

Pošta Slovenije, the biggest provider of post services and one of the biggest providers of courier and information services in the country, is planning up to seven investments into startups this year. They realize that finding good teams with interesting marketable ideas is a challenge for practically all corporations looking for new business opportunities in collaboration with startups. They are answering this challenge with a special team of experts and experienced mentors, a branched logistic network and connections with foreign postal operators that can help with international market penetration. If we add one of the biggest and most modern information systems in the country and a network of more than 500 post offices, around 2,400 postmen and 1,200 vehicles that are present over the entire Slovenian territory, we get a basis for winning strategic connections with startups that are developing solutions in the field of mobile and transport. These are some of the things we learned in an interview with Iztok Renčelj, director of the Field of sales and development of information services of Pošta Slovenije, which is also our PODIM Challenge blue-chip partner this year.
 

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When and why did Pošta Slovenije detect the need to collaborate with startups? How do you feel their disruptive actions otherwise – as an opportunity or as a threat?

Disruptions by startups definitely bring challenges and opportunities for those who are prepared to adapt to new technological and social changes. At Pošta Slovenije, we tackled these challenges systematically and the expected results are a lot of new ideas and out-of-the-box perspectives as well as of course new opportunities that add value to our services. Otherwise Pošta Slovenije is a company with clearly defined goals, also in the field of development and innovativeness. We detected the opportunity to collaborate with startups rather early and for example started to develop one of our new business models years ago in collaboration with the company Poštar.
 
We usually advise lean and agile startups to fall in love with the problem, not the solution. In which fields or problems do you wish to attract startups to collaborate?

In Pošta Slovenije, we will mostly be looking for innovative solutions in developing the so-called first mile and last mile products. In this, the phrase “first mile” refers to accepting parcels from senders, and the phrase “last mile” to the last stage of delivering the parcel to the final addressee who can sign for the parcel at their home address, alternative address, post machine or post office. The delivery of the parcel is considered as the most expensive part of the process. The major reason for this is a high share of unsuccessful deliveries at home, which causes additional costs of re-delivery, additional kilometers, but also an additional burden on the environment with harmful emissions.
 
Which other problems do you face in receiving or delivering parcels that you could also solve in collaboration with startups?

With door-to-door delivery, another problem is the “empty run” at return. There are other challenges, such as ensuring safety parameters for parcels sent per special regulations or for registered and insured parcels. And guaranteeing a critical mass of parcels for achieving suitable profitability and efficiency. Pošta Slovenije is also interested in ideas and solutions for new or improved solutions that could be introduced into our network of 550 post offices. And let’s not forget about solutions that innovatively include the fact that on the territory of the Republic of Slovenia, around 2,400 postmen and a little less than 1,200 vehicles are physically present every day.
 
What can young startup companies gain by collaborating with Pošta Slovenije? What exactly do you offer and under what conditions?

We are mostly looking for an investigative spirit and innovativeness. We have a team to work with startups. Experienced mentors. The main principle for idea development is how well it would work on the market. We will develop what we detect as commercially interesting and discover its market potential by testing. In short, a young startup team can expect support from experienced experts in further development, and the use of our network of post offices and a branched logistic network. Through our connections with postal operators abroad, we can also enable faster penetration of markets abroad. Additionally, we have one of the biggest and most modern information systems in the country. All this and a good idea can be a winning combination – for us as well as for startups that we collaborate with.
 
How do you collaborate with startups? Are these capital investments or do you prefer other forms, such as R&D partnerships, outsourcing, debt financing …?

If the startup’s idea is commercially interesting and we judge that it will bring good business results, one of the listed forms of collaboration is definitely possible. We are mostly interested in optimizing our existing solutions and services in our network. The solution for electronic delivery PoštAR was developed in collaboration with a startup company, for example. A similar story is implementing services of digitalizing documents of incoming and internal post. This year, we are planning to invest into up to seven startups that can be in different development stages – from an MVP or developed prototype to only an idea stage, if we think the solution is promising.
 
How did you tackle the search for startups with which you could collaborate?

Specifically, we have already collaborated with Initiative Start:up Slovenia and participated at most startup roadshow events. We are also planning certain marketing activities and exchanging opinions with other big established companies, because we face similar challenges – how to get good teams with useful ideas to collaborate with us. We are also talking to other postal operators in Europe and further. In the future, we will connect with foreign organizers of startup events, mostly in the neighbouring countries … We are also connected with the most important IT companies, logistic companies, government institutions, and we are constantly expanding the collaboration.
 
In your opinion, what is the role of the national and regional startup ecosystem when it comes to activities for establishing contact with startups?

It’s key, because that’s our polygon. We will be able to more quickly prove market scalability at home and in the region, which is rather rigorous. If we prove ourselves here, we are that much more on the right path. But we don’t exclude other regions, because first and last mile solutions are actually needed everywhere in the world. The need for change and innovation is increasingly big and important. Without them, it will simply be impossible to build successful stories, and the role of startups and startup ecosystem in this is key.
 
What do you expect from participation at this year’s PODIM, where you are one of six PODIM Challenge blue-chip partners?

We are definitely attending PODIM with bigger expectations than in previous years. In the meantime, we established a team dedicated to innovations and startups, we are also carrying out educational activities for generating and managing innovations inside Pošta Slovenije. At PODIM, we also wish to deepen our collaboration with other blue-chip partners and we are convinced that this collaboration will bear fruit.
 
And finally this – what is your advice to startups about how to address you so that they will definitely get your attention?

Our attention will definitely be drawn to good teams developing complementary or related services. We are looking for business talents with good energy and “uber” ideas that show as much innovativeness as possible. We can meet at PODIM, sooner or later. Contact us at startup@posta.si or write directly to dragan.stjepanovic@posta.si, and we will arrange an introductory meeting. And don’t worry, we also guarantee a safe introduction by signing an NDA agreement.
 
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Get in touch with the representative of Pošta Slovenije


If you want to present your innovative idea in the field of logistics or mobility and transport, we invite you to write to Dragan Stjepanović to his e-mail: dragan.stjepanovic@posta.si and set up a meeting at this year's PODIM conference. 


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More information about how to collaborate with Pošta Slovenije:

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Author: Stanislava Vabšek, Start:up Slovenia Initiative