When Postmates was young: the early years

Steven Loeb · September 13, 2019 · Short URL: https://vator.tv/n/4ea1

Postmates started out as Curated.by, a real-time tweet curation platform, before pivoting

Our when they were young series is a look back at the modest days of startups, what traction they had in their first few years, and how they evolved. In the end, we hope to provide a glimpse into what great startups looked like in their first three years.

Stories like these are always well received because it reminds us that anyone, regardless of pedigree and environment, can rise above the noise and have great influence. They show us the value of being resilient, persistent, and committed. If we can follow their footsteps, maybe we too can have similar success.

This segment is on Postmates.

— Postmates' First Year —

Founders: Bastian Lehmann, Sean Plaice, Sam Street

Founded: March 2009 as Curated.by, a real-time tweet curation platform.

Initial company description: "Curated.by is a community for curators. Our users collect and organize tweets into topic based streams that can be shared or embedded anywhere. You can use curated.by to capture a conversation, embed testimonial tweets on your blog, or simply to bookmark your most favorite tweets," the company writes in the about section of its website

"...it basically – nowadays it makes a bit more sense – looked like Twitter Moments, but curated by humans. So you could have a curation curated by Sara Weber, it would be around a specific topic and we would call these bundles, bundles of interest. You would manually put tweets or articles in it," Lehmann explains in a 2017 interview.


— Postmates' Second Year —

Incorporation, at one year and six months from founding: On September 7, 2010, Curated.by is incorporated in Delaware.

First funding, at one year and six months from founding: In September 2010, Curated.by graduates from the first AngelPal cohort and receives angel funding from Carine Magescas and Thomas Korte.

"Obviously, big markets are interesting to me as an investor. But when I look at the challenges that they tackle—even something like Curate.by. Everyone talks about the social graph and people tend to forget about the interest graph. My Facebook feed today is full of stuff that I’m frankly not that interested in. If it were random people [instead of my friends], I wouldn’t even read it. It would just be noise. But this really surfaces the interesting stuff. If I were to get the stuff that you tweet about, that is relevant to the economy and startups, I would love to have that. I think from that perspective, they all take on big challenges," Korte says in an interview with Xconomy.

Traction, at one year and six months from founding: In September 2010, Curated.by has more than 500 people sign up in a single weekend, including Robert Scoble and Dorai Thodla. Those users curate more than 3,000 Tweets and generate over 12,000 page views.

Press mention, at one year and six months from founding: In September 2010, Scoble mentions Curated.by on his blog in a post about real-time curation tools. 

"Based on my first playing with these tools it is clear that Curated.by and Storify are in the lead. They let you mix multiple media together, not just Tweets, and have good and easy-to-use drag-and-drop interfaces to let you reorder things. Who will be best? I need a few days putting them through their paces. If you are using these tools at Techcrunch, post your URLs in the comment area here and I’ll link your curation into mine, which is one way to get group curation," he writes.

Public beta, at one year and eight months from founding: On November 23, 2010, after three months in private beta, Curated.by opens up its public beta

"After being in private beta for the last 12 weeks, we’re excited to launch into public beta today. If you joined us early during our beta, you will notice that many things are different today. Not only did we changed our UI but also the way you collect, organize & discover content on curated.by," the company writes.

"The idea behind curated.by, remains the same. We are a growing collection of topics and interests, edited, organized and curated by everyone. A place that makes it easy to follow a specific topic or an evolving story, something that is still very difficult today."

Press mention, at one year and 10 months from founding: In January 2011, Curated.by is featured in a Mashable article called 4 Promising Curation Tools That Help Make Sense of the Web.

"I have to say that I'm still getting used to the concept of bundles. And I didn't find it warm and fuzzy at first blush. That said, it's clear that Twitter is a great link discovery stream,  and there will need to be a concept that rides on top of it to gather and organize what used to be known as bookmarks. Will Curated.by's bundle concept catch on? That's the question right now," the article says.


— Postmates' Third Year —

Pivot, at two years from founding: In March 2011, after being rejected by angel investor Naval Ravikant, and turning down his offer to join AngelList, Lehmann and Street decide to shut down Curate.by and instead launch Postmates, an idea Lehmann had come up with years prior.  

"We all felt really good about it but I think two things happened. We started raising money and we met VCs and, you know, there was absolutely no traction on the funding side. So, you're walking into the meeting, you feel like you have the greatest thing in the world, and then the enthusiasm level on the other side is like below zero. And people are too nice to tell you that what you're working on sucks, so they all tell you something great, and they speak code language. VCs never say, 'No,' they say things like, 'It's a little bit too early for us,' or 'Hmmm, that's a space we're not as interested in,' or, 'Let's say in touch and let's speak again in 12 months,' you know?," Lehmann says in an interview with DraperTV in 2016. 

"I woke up one day and said, 'Look, you're wasting your time working on something that only you and a few other people think that is cool, it is probably not really going to change the world, you're 33, what the fuck are you going to do to actually leave a market here? So stop being weird about this and work on something that actually matters to you.' And that's when we decided to sack the whole thing. I remember having a conversation with Sam, my co-founder, and I told him about an idea I had back in 2005, when I moved from Munich to London."

The original idea for Postmates was for it to be a local courier service that would pay people with extra space in their car to make deliveries.

"The original vision was a little different. We wanted to create a ride-sharing platform for stuff. You see, when I lived in Germany ride-sharing already existed but not in the sense of the Lyft way but more a website where you could say, 'Hey, I'm leaving Munich train station at 3 pm tonight, heading to Frankfurt. If you want to join it's $10 bucks.' And out of personal experience I was in a little bit of a pickle when it got to the point where I forgot to get my snowboard to my parents' place but I was about to move to London. So, I needed to get my snowboard delivered across the country and it turns out that UPS and FedEx, at the time, in Germany, they were going to charge my an arm and a leg because it's kind of an odd-sized item," Lehmann says in an interview with CNBS in 2019.

"So, I started talking to friends, and a friend of mine after a few days said, 'You know what? I'm driving to Berlin, do you just want me to talk this item and drop it off at your mom's place?' And him and I started thinking about that idea and we said, 'Look, what if there is - surely we're not the that a) have that problem and, b) what if we could create a network that would allow you to do this in a more systematic way?' And that's where the original idea's coming from."

Second funding, at two years from founding: In March 2011, Postmates raises $60,000 from AngelPad.

Third funding, at two years and two months from founding: In May 2011, Postmates raises $750,000 from Walter Lee, Uncork, Russell Cook, Russel Simmons, Naval Ravikant, Matrix Partners, David Wu, AngelPad and Andy McLoughlin.

Incorporation, at two years and three months from founding: On June 12, 2011, Postmates is incorporated in Delaware.

Competition, at two years and six months from founding: In September 2011, Postmates participates in the Startup Battlefield competition during the TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco.

Traction, at two years and six months from founding: By September 2011, Postmates has made 300 deliveries. 

Traction, at two years and eight months from founding: As of November 2011, Postmates has made 1,000 deliveries in San Francisco over the course of three months while still in beta.

Launch, at two years and nine months from founding: In December 2011, Postmates launches in San Francisco. Same day deliveries start at $15 for a two hour delivery within San Francisco and $25 for a four hour delivery to Oakland, Berkley and Emeryville.

“The basic idea around Postmates is that you have all these great retail stores and local merchants with amazing products and while more and more of them start to unlock their inventories, and make their products available online, it's still really difficult to get these items delivered within a city,” Lehmann says in a statement.

“At Postmates, we looked at this and we decided that we want to turn this around. We wanted to make it really easy for everyone to offer an Amazon-like same day delivery service as part of their business."

— Postmates' Fourth Year —

Fourth funding, at three years and one month from founding, four months from launch: In April 2012, Postmates raises $1.2 million from Uncork Capital, Scott Banister, Paige Craig, Matrix Partners, Jawed Karim, Crosslink Capital and AngelPad.

Product, at three years and one month from founding, four months from launch: In April 2012, Postmates launches its Get It Now app in beta, allowing couriers to deliver goods from any store, whether or not they are partnered with Postmates. 

"When we launched Postmates last December, we made it our mission to offer all of these local places an Amazon like delivery experience through our existing Postmates app but we’ve also had to face the reality that we can’t change a city over night. We would love to sign up every retail store in the city, capture their inventory, unlock it, make it searchable, turn it into a store front and make ordering form your local stores seamless, more resourceful and faster than shipping your items across the country. The reality is that we won’t get this task done anytime soon if we don’t hack the system a litte bit," Lehmann writes in a blog post.

"So instead of waiting until we signed up every merchant in San Francisco to use Postmates, we decided to give you magic powers to order anything from your local stores, whether they currently use Postmates or not. Get It Now is at its heart a huge warehouse that you can access and have items purchased and delivered from at any time. We use our own urban logistics platform to coordinate an army of Postmates equipped with credit cards to get you the best of San Francisco in under an hour."

Product, at three years and two months from founding, five months from launch: In May 2012, Postmates officially launches the Get It Now app to the public.

“The most exciting part of what we’ve built is that we’ve entirely unlocked the city’s local inventory,” Lehmann says in a statement. “Our goal is to provide an Amazon shipping experience with same day delivery, from any store in the city. Think of Get It Now as the largest warehouse in this city...with no warehouse at all.”

Traction, at three years and two months from founding, five months from launch: By May 2012, Postmates has made $20,000 in revenue, with the average user spending $116 per month. The Get It Now app has over 1,000 users, which it gained during its beta period.

Traction, at three years and nine months from founding, one year from launch: In 2012, Postmates travels a total of over 150,000 miles, almost 6 times around the earth

Award nomination, at three years and 10 months from founding, one year and one month from launch: In January 2013, Postmates is nominated at the Crunchie Awards for "Best Collaborative Consumption Service" but loses to Airbnb.

— Postmates' Fifth Year —

Fifth Funding, at four years from founding, one year and three months from launch: In March 2013, Postmates raises a $5 million Series A round of funding from Scott Banister, Jack Abraham, Founders Fund, Expasion Venture Capital, Crossline Capital and AngelPad. 

Expansion, at four years from founding, one year and three months from launch: In March 2013, Postmate launches in Seattle.

Traction, at four years from founding, one year and three months from launch: By March 2013, Postmates has delivered over 130,000 items from over 6,000 restaurants and stores.

Name change, at four years from founding, one year and three months from launch: In March 2013, the company shortens the name of its app from "Postmates Get It Now" to just "Postmates."

Expansion, at four years and two months from founding, one year and five months from launch:  In May 2013, Postmates launches in New York City. To start, Postmates couriers in NYC are available from 8 AM to 3 AM everyday, and deliver from anywhere in Manhattan to the greater Flatiron District.


Scandal, at four years and six months from founding, one year and nine months from launch: In September 2013, an email from Lehmann cursing out a customer is made public. 

Lehmann apologizes publicly for his behavior in a blog post.

"Last night I sent a private e-mail to our Customer Service team in response to a customer complaint regarding her past orders and restaurant profile. My e-mail, which outlined how to resolve the customer issue, contained a bad joke which was very poor in taste. Subsequently, the bad joke was sent to the customer. What I said was a major lapse in judgement on my part. I deeply regret this," he writes.

"I immediately reached out to the customer and offered my full and sincere apology. I would like to extend that same apology to all of our customers and Customer Service team. There is no excuse for this."

Pricing, at four years and eight months from founding, one year and 11 months from launch: In November 2013, Postmates introduces Blitz Pricing which allows it to increasing pricing during periods where demand exceeds the supply of couriers. 

"This new feature creates a strong financial incentive for couriers to make themselves available when you need them the most," the company writes in a blog post. 

Expansion, at four years and nine months from founding, two years from launch: In December 2013, Postmates launches in Chicago, servicing Lakeview, Lincoln Park, Wicker Park, Old Town, River North and the Loop, and in Washington D.C.

Platform expansion, at four years and 10 months from founding, two years and one month from launch: In January 2014, Postmates launches its app on Android.


Sixth funding, at four years and 11 months from founding, two years and two months from launch: In February 2014, Postmates raises a $16 million Series B round led by Spark Capital with follow­-on from existing investors.

Nabeel Hyatt, Venture Partner at Spark Capital, joins Lehmann and Sean Plaice on the company’s Board of Directors along with Scott Banister.

"We’re thrilled to be partnering with Postmates. They have a magical product and have proven this past year they know how to handle incredible growth while keeping quality high,” Hyatt says in a statement. “Bastian and his team have created a service that not only puts your city in the palm of your hand, but it also does that while helping support the local businesses that make a city what it is."

— Postmates Today —

Postmates not operates in 2,940 cities in the United States. The company has raised a total of $681.5 million and is valued at $1.85 billion. 

The company is expected to file to go public in 2019. 

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