From 10 to 10 000 parcels, Ulala is every business’ solution for prime delivery

Online shopping is popular because of how fast, efficient, and convenient it is for consumers. A vast selection of products can be bought, shipped, and delivered at the click of a button. During the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for couriers accelerated its demand and penetration of the retail market, including local and cross-border shopping. A little-known fact is that a large portion of those deliveries is fulfilled by small, medium-sized local couriers. Along with their rising popularity, they are facing the rising standards set by Amazon: two-day shipping and free return.

Unlike shopping in person, shoppers can’t check or inspect the products they’re buying on the spot. And items like perishable food and groceries need fast delivery before it spoils. Amazon sets the bar in the e-commerce market, but there are opportunities for smaller delivery companies to catch up. To do this, they need to maximize their efficiency at each step of the process.

Ulala team
The Ulala team from left to right: Billy Lin, Chi Zhang, and Vincent Chen

Chi Zhang is the co-founder of Ulala Technologies, a Vancouver company that uses software technology to increase the capacity of small to medium-sized last-mile couriers. With a background of SaaS and enterprise software development, his goal is to support small courier companies and replace their manual data entry work with automatic processes using Ulala’s solution.

The company chose Ulala as its name because it sounds like ‘ooh la la’, a phrase used to show admiration or excitement. The company began in November 2019, and within a year, it grew from 100-200 offers a day, to 4,000-6,000. Their system increased their clients’ delivery capacity up to five times and processing speed around eight to ten folds. Ulala makes it possible for couriers to increase their capacity without needing to hire more labour.

Order information is automatically updated
Order information is automatically updated

Chi and his team learned a lot about creating a sustainable business. Their first startup project was making a fashion bot using Artificial Intelligence to get the best outfit combinations. However, it did not generate enough revenue, and the team learned a valuable lesson.

“We spent a lot of time on the features of the project itself, but one major thing we learned from it is to stop building and start selling,” shares Chi. “You can’t sit over there and imagine the features that your clients might need. Instead, the best way is to reach out to your clients and talk to them. They will guide you to build the things they want. A lot of the small features you neglect could turn out to be the very feature they want.”

Their experiences with software and technology became the foundation of their work for courier services. Around the time of COVID-19, the team recognized the heightened demand for delivery services and realized how they could address their clients’ needs.

Daily operation and route tracking
Daily operation and route tracking

VentureLab's accelerator program also helped Ulala along the road to success. His mentor at VentureLabs, Chris Stairs helped Chi use math to understand his business model and sales strategy.

“I’m a numbers and math person. Chris explained business concepts in a way that resonates with me by using numbers. He talked me through the goals or milestones I need to set up each year, even each quarter, to give us a clear and vivid picture of how the company should grow.”

Chi is optimistic that his company, Ulala envisions itself as the future backbone of an open, agile logistics network across Canada. By working closely with their clients and partners, Ulala wants to help small and midsize businesses to achieve the two-day delivery standard set by conglomerates, like Amazon. Chi and his team strive to use their highly-scalable technology to expand their business and provide high-quality support.

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