Alok Ahuja thinks he’s found the perfect co-pilot to help guide him down the path to success in the ultra-competitive last-mile delivery business.
As his fledgling shipping platform, Trexity, was ramping up this spring in response to the pandemic-fuelled explosion in e-commerce, the Ottawa entrepreneur knew he needed someone at his side to steady the ship as he entered the rocky waters of scaling a startup.
At the same time, Rob Woodbridge – a fixture of the local business community who’d spent the past two years in charge of ride-hailing service Lyft’s local operations – was starting to sense there were new opportunities emerging in the delivery space.
When a mutual friend introduced the two this spring, the seeds of a partnership were sowed. The 50-year-old Woodbridge officially joined Trexity as its chief operating officer last month.
“The pandemic really opened my eyes to other opportunities, I would say, where the growth will happen at a greater rate,” he says. “It got me thinking. The idea of delivery was such a pull.”
Although the Ottawa native seemingly knows everyone in the capital’s tight-knit business community, he’d never crossed paths with Ahuja before April. But it turned out they travelled in the same circles – in fact, Woodbridge attended Glebe Collegiate with Ahuja’s sister Mona – and they quickly hit it off.
“We were kind of two wayward ships talking about each other, and we’d never met,” Woodbridge says. “It just kind of happened.”
The two soon discovered they shared a passionate belief in the need for a reliable, cost-effective way to make sure that all those items Canadians were buying online during the pandemic made it to consumers’ doors on time.
That’s where Trexity comes in.
The company Ahuja conceived a couple of years ago at his parents’ kitchen table – “a classic entrepreneur story,” as Woodbridge calls it – now provides same-day delivery services on behalf of hundreds of merchants in Ottawa, Toronto, Calgary, Edmonton, Halifax and Winnipeg via a network of more than 3,000 drivers.
Fixing the 'bottleneck'
“I believe that as big as e-commerce is, delivery will be even bigger, simply because you have to enable commerce, and the bottleneck right now is getting the product to people,” he explains.
“That’s where Amazon nailed it. Small and mid-sized merchants have to have that same experience.”
Unlike many delivery platforms, Trexity doesn’t charge its customers monthly fees or take a commission. Fees, which are included in an item’s purchase price, are calculated based on time and distance.
Trexity then bills the platform’s customers for the amount of the fee. Drivers receive 70 per cent of the total, with Trexity keeping the rest.
It’s a model that resonates strongly with Woodbridge, who sees nothing but upside for Trexity. While its customers include big names such as food distribution giant Sysco Canada, it also helps smaller retailers that aren’t on big-name sales platforms get their products to market.
"The product became ready as the world descended into pandemic panic, and everybody moved online."
In business as in life, timing is everything. Woodbridge sees the fact that Trexity emerged just as thousands of brick-and-mortar enterprises were pivoting to online sales as a good omen.
“The product became ready as the world descended into pandemic panic, and everybody moved online,” he notes. “Last-mile, local delivery all of a sudden became the biggest stumbling block for every company. All I see is massive market opportunity.”
Ahuja, too, feels the hand of destiny at work as his new partner settles into his role.
He says Woodbridge – who’s also had stints as an entrepreneur-in-residence at Invest Ottawa and a senior executive at Terry Matthews’ Wesley Clover investment company – has been indispensable in more ways than he’d ever imagined, whether it’s priming Ahuja for meetings with investors or hopping in his car and delivering beer from a local craft brewery, as he did Thursday night.
Now at 10 employees, the bootstrapped startup is “on the cusp” of closing a seven-figure seed funding round as it gears up for an anticipated expansion into the U.S. in 2021. Woodbridge, who’s seen his share of would-be unicorns die early deaths in a career that’s spanned more than a quarter-century, sounds convinced that Ahuja’s company is charting a path to greatness.
“He spent those two years building it, and all of a sudden he’s ready to go and he’s asking me to be a part of that,” he says. “How can you say no to that?”