|Innovative Technology is Changing eCommerce Delivery
Entrepreneurship is an all or nothing deal for 2006 Memorial Shad Mike McCauley. He has completely thrown himself into the development of BufferBox, the company he co-founded with 2005 Waterloo Shad Jay Shah and third partner Aditya Bali. Each team member turned down job offers to focus on the business full-time.
“When Jay, Aditya and I started commercializing BufferBox, I felt an internal spark that I had not felt when I worked for other companies. I feel energized running my own company, so I know that I'm following the right path. This is where my passion lives,” says Mike. “Entrepreneurship is more than a career. It’s a lifestyle that you have to live and breath to be successful. You work all the time, often with little or no pay in the beginning. I love it, but it’s not for everyone.”
The concept behind BufferBox is to create convenience for buyers of online products who must wait for delivery and are often not home when the delivery is made. BufferBox offers an alternative location that is securely accessed by buyers when it’s handy for them. A kiosk holds post-office-box-like lockers that are opened with a pin code. These lockers can be shared by all customers who use the service because unique pin codes are generated and sent by email when a parcel is placed in one of the lockers. Only the customer with the unique pin code can then open the locker to retrieve the package. Once the locker is free, it's available to the next customer.
The company is currently situated at the Communitech Hub, a start-up incubator centre in Kitchener, Ontario. Communitech provides office and meeting space, along with mentoring services for promising new businesses in the area. The VeloCity Garage is an open-concept co-working space housed within the Hub that is supported by the University of Waterloo and designed to help Waterloo alumni launch and grow start-up companies.
BufferBox originated as a fourth-year engineering project when Mike and Jay were pursuing their undergraduate degrees in engineering at the University of Waterloo, but their work together started earlier than that. By coincidence, these two Shads who didn’t know each other were placed in a project design group in one of their first engineering classes. They worked well together and had Shad Valley in common. Their business partnership essentially began then. As they moved through undergrad, they continued to work on engineering projects together until their fourth year. At that point, they decided to make their fourth-year project one that could become a business.
“We needed to build a solid team so we started searching for other partners. This search was very strategic. We purposefully entered engineering competitions with other students we were considering so that we could see how we worked together under pressure. These prospective business partners didn’t know we were assessing them, but Jay and I knew that finding the right team would be one of the most important steps on the path to success,” explains Mike.
Once they found their additional team members, they brainstormed ideas and came up with BufferBox. The final-year engineering project was used to refine the concept, develop specifications and build their prototype. They entered business plan competitions and won, obtaining funding to help cover their costs. After graduating in April 2011, the team moved into the Accelerator Centre, another start-up incubator in Waterloo, to begin working full-time on the company. In February 2012, the team moved into the Communitech Hub after winning $25,000 from the University of Waterloo's VeloCity Venture Fund.
"Our first BufferBox was installed at the University of Waterloo and has experienced ongoing usage. Now, our second BufferBox is at Communitech and more are in production to be installed at universities across Ontario. Our plan is to increase our presence in urban settings next. Moving into the future, we are taking BufferBox as far as it will go," says Mike. "It's inspiring to look back and see how Shad Valley has been an ongoing theme through our journey. Jay and I will always share a unique friendship since both of us have experienced the Shad Valley program. In addition to pushing me to think outside the box (no pun intended), Shad Valley showed me the value of surrounding myself with smart, driven people who are going places. That's what we’ve done with the BufferBox team. Our mentors, partners and supporters have also been amazing, both in terms of being able to leverage their experience and learn from them. We are now even able to start to give back by passing along our experience to younger-stage companies working in the same space."