How These Harvard Alums Tackle ‘Major Threat’ in Modern Logistics

Gently, the AI-powered logistics company created by a pair of Harvard Business School classmates, made its first delivery from its central distribution hub in Santa Monica to its last mile in West Los Angeles on last week.

The company, which touts itself as a faster and more reliable alternative to Amazon for urban consumers, says it will expand to three “nano-fulfillment” centers by the end of May in Santa Monica, Marina del Rey and Palisades. From there, the goal is to expand across the Los Angeles metropolitan area, with other major urban centers to follow.

More from Sourcing Journal

“I would say one of the main differentiators is a very clear focus on urban delivery,” Elian Pres-Gurwits, Gently co-founder, told Sourcing Journal. “And by that we acknowledge we won’t be serving all areas of the United States equally. But there is a differentiating element of urban logistics that is very hard to replicate on a national level.”

Gently co-founders Anas Aljumaily and Elian Pres-Gurwits. <strong>Photo Courtesy of Gently</strong>
Gently co-founders Anas Aljumaily and Elian Pres-Gurwits. Photo Courtesy of Gently

The ambitions of Gurwits and co-founder Anas Aljumaily go far beyond just growing their business. Their stated goal is to “create a fully decentralized supply chain in America by 2040,” that can better guard against disruptions.

Gently believes it can achieve this by growing out nano-fulfillment centers that are franchised out, essentially to owner-operators who hire their own drivers to complete deliveries.

“This enables last-mile delivery drivers to leverage appreciating assets, such as their property, instead of depreciating assets, and gives them an opportunity to generate income from the supply chain, not just from last-mile delivery,” the company said in a statement.

One of the two 100 percent electric Arcimoto Flatbeds delivery vehicles in Gently’s original fleet.
One of the two 100 percent electric Arcimoto Flatbeds delivery vehicles in Gently’s original fleet.

The first of the Gently vehicles are 100 percent electric, a pair of Arcimoto Flatbeds delivery vehicles, along with an electric Brightdrop Van, as soon as they become available.

“We hope to be in a position to provide an alternative [to Amazon] because, unfortunately, today there is no alternative, and that’s the main challenge that we see in the market,” Gurwits said. “When we look at Amazon’s competitive advantage, it’s very much driven by data analytics, being able to predictably demand those products, request those products from vendors and allocate them across the supply chain infrastructure to the point that is closest to cater to the consumer.”

Gurwits said the massive competitive advantage companies like Amazon and Walmart wield over the supply chain needs to be disrupted.

“Big players are creating the next step in the evolution of the logistics experience, and that means efficient logistics that are customer-focused and fast, and not only logistics as delivery, but logistics as returns,” Gurwits said. “We saw that retailers with existing logistics capabilities became the only ones in position to leverage those capabilities and move away from their business model of selling products to being logistics or service providers. This is the major threat I see today.”

Gurwits believes creating competition in the logistics space will be better for small businesses.

“Decentralizing the supply chain will drive growth and unlock new opportunities for local retailers, last-mile delivery and entrepreneurs,” he said. “The ‘gig economy’ has failed to live up to the hype, and bringing fulfillment centers closer to consumers provides job security and long-term certainty for those in last-mile delivery.”

Gurwits said Gently is currently a “self-funded” company in pursuit of major investors.

“We have a very high conviction that by skipping the seed-round and getting straight to Series A, it will be an investment that will lift the proposition substantially,” he said.

Five years and millions of dollars in fundraising down the road, Gurwits hopes Gently will have become a top choice for urban delivery for any brand coming into the market and hopes its promises to better protect customer data will resonate with retailers.

“With Gently, you own your existing traffic, you own your existing operations and you’re able to do that without giving your customer away,” he said. “I think there is a desire to ‘own the customer,’ to monetize the data, to upsell, cross-sell, to do promotions, to activate, to increase the customer lifetime. That is fully in your hands and right now. You are handing that customer over directly or indirectly to one of the major competitors.”

The name of the company, Gurwits said, is derived from a memory from his days as president at the beauty subscription service Glossybox when he witnessed a worker carelessly toss a company package into the back of a vehicle.

“It’s an image I will never forget,” Gurwits said. “That is something that from the very beginning is a focus of our model to create a new standard in the industry—everything should be handled gently.”

Click here to read the full article.