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BufferBox: We're Joining Google (bufferbox.com)
128 points by paulgb on Nov 30, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 45 comments

I'm wondering.. It sounds exactly like what the german post service offers. You order something, it get's delivered to some automated station where you can pick up the package at any time.. Is this not common in other countries?

Nope. The common option in the US and Canada is to get DHL or its equivalent to come to your door and deliver it. The problem comes when you are not home and they require a signature. In this case they usually attempt again. If none of the attempts work, they store it in their warehouses for a bit, and if no one comes and picks it up, it's returned to sender.

Speaking of which, why don't someone just sell boxes for peoples homes? You know, some reasonable size container that you can only put things into but not take out of. Wouldn't that eliminate that reason for BufferBox? I think the only use case remaining would be in urban areas where space is at a premium.

EDIT (in response to leddt since I can't reply): if you ask UPS to leave the packages without signing, will they refuse to do this even if they are placing it in a secure place?

I've been thinking that this could be an interesting idea, especially when you consider that the Webvan model now seems to be becoming a reality. A larger size delivery box for everything from dry cleaning to packages, maybe with a refrigerated portion for groceries. Maybe with some kind of access control so they couldn't be targeted by thieves, with codes that could expire?

Oh, I really like the idea of using this to launch home grocery delivery.

Patent pending... ;)

The Austrian postal service does something like this. People can install boxes on their homes that will be used to deliver packets. I believe for a single household it is quite expensive though, but probably useful for larger buildings that could share a box.

(They are also starting to put up automatic stations, like the German postal service does.)

One thing BufferBox does that this wouldn't cover is that they sign for your package if required.

We manufacture products that we ship to our customers via fedex ground, and they require a signature for anything valued at > $500, regardless of what we or the customer wants.

That's the normal procedure in germany as well. But the "package station" offer is also available, plus if you have one nearby sometimes they send it there instead of the next post office. Unfortunately they closed my "package station"..

In Sweden, the Swedish Post partners with thousands of grocery stores and corner shops and similar that act as package stations.

So when I order something, the default is that I get an SMS notification when I can pick it up at my local grocery store whenever I want, not that someone tries to deliver it to me while I'm not at home.

same here in Canada... which is why I find it odd this service was started in Canada.

My post office is 5 minutes from my house. Open late.

Purolator/UPS, Fedex, and DHL are a bit more painful though. Close at 5, only open monday-friday.

To be honest, the options for Waterloo students is scarce.

Mail delivered on campus has been known to be delayed for > 4 days (sigh), and it's a great problem to solve.

In the Netherlands, most package delivery companies, including TNT Post, will attempt (after you're discovered to not be home) to deliver to the neighbors. After another attempt at your home, you have go pick it up at their office.

TNT Post has "offices" located in many local stores so that's pretty easy.

Same thing works in Finland. You can send and receive packages at the SmartPost points. Here is some more information http://www.posti.fi/smartpost/english/introduction/.

Nope. It's uncommon enough in the US that Amazon is experimenting with this: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=...

They'll ship your items from Amazon to, effectively, Amazon, just closer to you.

There's no automated service, but you can have the post office hold any package for you for a week or so. These guys look like they're going after the online retailer distribution market though, similar to Amazon's upcoming "lockers" platform.

In Canada the post will hold it, but couriers won't, and the post office won't accept delivery by UPS.

I found a way around: get to know the UPS deliveryman, have him deliver my package's to the (neighbour's) back door when I'm not home. Mostly books, so nothing I would miss if it got taken.

Combined with the recent price war, perhaps Google is recognizing that Amazon is gettin' all up in their business with Kindle Fire - ie, the best selling Android tablet prior to the Nexus7.

I would love to see this getting major traction.

In the UK there is a service called ByBox. They started out as lockers that field engineers could use to pick up spare parts. But they now also handle consumer deliveries.

Is this because Google suspects it will need to find a way to compete with the Amazon lockers? http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/customer/display.html/?nodeId=...

On a LOL side-note: The last line of the video on their site got awkward. "Let us handle your package". Gutter brain.

You'd think they would try to focus on a functional checkout process before worrying about delivery/pickup.

On the plus side, I can't wait to order my Nexus 4 off Amazon, and have a choice of picking it up from my closest Bufferbox vs. Locker.

I just imagined 7/11's everywhere having both Bufferbox's and Locker's right next to them. One of them should do a deal with Starbucks.

Kickass idea, great execution.

Personally, I think the paint scheme had a lot to do with the success :). Great to see startups have success with tangible technology.

This has been available in germany for over 10 years by DHL; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Packstation

I'm a bit confused what their strategy is (was?). Competing with the established logistics multi-nationals, especially when at least one of them already has the exact same product, seems a rather bold plan.

Just curious if anyone has heard about the acquisition price? Not sure if that sort of thing is verboten on HN for a YC co., so apologies if that's the case.

Also, is this the new launch-to-acquisition record for YC?

Depends on what you count as launch but BufferBox has been running at the University of Waterloo for a couple of years already.

Oh, I didn't know that. I saw YC S12 and assumed they had just launched.

Wow. What would Google do with this? I mean, if I understand correctly, it's just a warehouse which emails you when your package gets delivered there. Free for now(for publicity), and paid from next year.

Couldn't Google just open their own spare warehouses?

Picture this: BufferBox driverless cars - Automated mailmen. They can meet you at your house (notify your phone), or they can intercept with your driverless car while you're in transit to work.

The "Locations" page looks broken somehow: it's telling me that the nearest Bufferbox to NYC is in Toronto. Is that actually the case?

That is actually the case. It's a Canadian startup that is rolling out their boxes in Toronto to start, and scaling out to other cities in the future.

Congrats. You guys were great at Demo Day but my wiser elder angel friends did not invest so I did not pursue. Oops.

Unrelated: I can't believe Google is branching out to this kind of thing. Competing with Amazon and Apple? Nexus, Glass, etc.

Google is adding a lot of hardware to its portfolio of products and services.

Not hardware per se but bridges between real and virtual. Streetview is in that category too for example.

What would happen to my package if BufferBox would happen to be full at the time of delivery? :)

The courier doesn't deliver directly to the box, they deliver to BufferBox's warehouse (where there's someone to sign for your parcel) then it's taken to the box.

If the box is full, they hold your parcel until there's space. Presumably they could offer to deliver to a nearby alternative box if it came to that.

It's a little bit of a shame in my eyes. They could've built out a network and been bought for a lot by Amazon, Rakuten, eBay, Best Buy, etc or have built a big company. They obviously saw value in joining Google as they were still early on.

It gives them significantly more resources to fund expansion and educate online shoppers about BufferBox. Based on some other Google acquisitions, there is likely significant upside if they execute on their vision.

Congratulations guys :-)

Congrats guys!

Did bufferbox have any patents or other enforceable IP?

I suspect the catalyst for this acquisition was due to one thing: their blog has an easily identified link to their product site. Startups should take note of this oft overlooked detail.

WTF? Fuck "engaging in the conversation". What a crock of shit. You make a demonstrably valid point and fuck it, who cares...

I didn't downvote you, but I think whoever did assumed that you were mocking Bufferbox or being sarcastic. I'm not sure how prominently linking to your site from your blog, while generally good advice, would directly lead to an acquisition.

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