Entrepreneur Spotlight: Chistian Secci

Smart Lockers - “Locker-as-a-Service”

August 7, 2023

Entrepreneur Spotlight: Chistian Secci

Smart Lockers - “Locker-as-a-Service”

August 7, 2023

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In today's fast-paced world, efficient and reliable delivery services are in high demand. Meet Christian Secci, the Co-founder and CEO of Alfred24, a company that is changing the traditional way we receive our parcels by using automated parcel lockers.

As Christian explains: “We help logistic service providers to increase the efficiency of a single courier by 10x, using automated parcel lockers for the deliveries. For every 1000 deliveries, we cut 13 delivery vans from the street and reduce up to 75% CO2 emissions per parcel delivered  " 

By building a smart locker network for on-demand deliveries Alfred24 not only streamlines the delivery process but also contributes to a greener and more sustainable environment.

Alfred24 offers a versatile product lineup, providing both hardware and software solutions. They provide smart lockers, available as white label or under their own brand, seamlessly integrated with their advanced software. Additionally, they offer their software platform, Alfred24 Genius Hub , which can be seamlessly integrated with various hardware lockers. 

If you reside in Hong Kong, chances are you've encountered these smart lockers in various locations, including shopping malls, post offices, residential buildings, and office lobbies. Some of them even come with a temperature control to store hot & cold food! 

"We can provide hardware and software, or we can provide just software that can plug different hardware. We're building the standard operating system that can plug and play any  smart locker network”. 

This flexibility enables logistic service providers to leverage Alfred24's platform and seamlessly incorporate  different lockers and collection points into their operations.

From competitors to partners - Launching Alfred24

Not all partnerships begin as friendships. For Christian and his business partner they were initially competitors in the industry. However, recognizing the potential for collaboration, they decided to join forces and  scale their business together.

“After a bit of LinkedIn stalking and a friendly competition of who could install more lockers in Hong Kong, we decided to join forces and scale  our business together," Christian recalls.  

The idea for Alfred24 originated when Christian's business partner's family-owned courier company underwent a shift from traditional deliveries to e-commerce. They realized the complexities of e-commerce logistics, with packages needing to be delivered to different addresses daily, and recognized the need for a modern and scalable solution. Christian explains, "We developed smart lockers that serve as modern letterboxes connected to the cloud specifically designed for e-commerce parcels. Our aim was to consolidate deliveries, similar to how traditional letterboxes functioned, but with a focus on meeting the demands of the growing e-commerce sector."

The early challenges and victories

In the early stages of building a company, founders often encounter numerous obstacles before even launching their product into the market. When we asked Christian about Alfred24's early days, he honestly revealed their initial challenge: " Winning our first client, someone who believed in our capacity to build a smart locker network for them and was willing to pay for it, was a significant hurdle."

During the early days, the focus of the business was on white label solutions for postal organizations, tailoring their solution to meet market needs. With the support of  LSCM, the Logistic and Supply Chain Management R&D Center of the Hong Kong government, they developed a successful prototype and won their first tender. Since then they have been serving clients like Hong Kong Post, Australia Post, Polish Post, Kerry Express,Intermarche’ supermarkets in France,and Singapore Post, and installed smart lockers in thousands of  locations around the globe and build  their own networks in Hong Kong and Italy.

Christian also highlighted their success in providing a unified software solution to companies with multiple hardware and software systems, effectively streamlining their operations. By delivering successful projects and gaining references, they gradually expanded their own network of lockers. Eventually, they made a strategic decision to open their network to all couriers, establishing the first open shared network in Hong Kong accessible to any courier and to any online merchants, including DHL Hong Kong, Aramex, GogoX, HKTV MALL, Royale International, Decathlon, Zalora, ASOS, etc..

Navigating current market conditions 

In the ever-evolving global business landscape, hardware companies like Alfred24 face their fair share of daily challenges. Christian sheds light on some of the key challenges impacting their business, stating,  

"Today's business landscape is particularly challenging. It's marked by many unexpected shifts such as the COVID pandemic, widespread supply chain disruptions, geopolitical conflicts like the Ukraine war, and the economic clash between the U.S. and China. Additionally, fluctuating global conditions like rising interest rates add to the uncertainty. Now, people are reevaluating their careers and aspirations. Running a business in these circumstances is probably the toughest it's ever been."

Recognizing the need for flexibility and adaptability in the face of these challenges, Christian emphasizes the impact of COVID-19 and the rise of artificial intelligence on our lives and interactions. To stay relevant, businesses must prioritize efficiency and eliminate unnecessary complexities. Christian explains, "The priorities in the business world are shifting. The previous emphasis on growth at all costs has transitioned to a focus on efficiency and profitability. This is the key to managing a company in these changing times."

While technological advancements may replace certain jobs, Christian recognize that change and evolution are constants "It's crucial to be flexible and quick to reshape company strategies, structures, and procedures. A vital part of this adaptation process is having the right team to navigate these changes. These challenges aren't unique to any one business. Everyone, from small companies to large corporations, is grappling with similar difficulties.”

Risky decisions changing the game

When reflecting on the journey of building Alfred24, Christian highlights the bold decisions that proved to be game-changers for the business:

“There have been several occasions where we started projects without having an officially signed contract from larger organizations. I mean, we knew that we were getting the project, but it wasn't 100%. Despite the uncertainty, they took calculated risks, proceeding with prototype development and even mass production for hundreds of machines worth several million US Dollars.

These risky decisions turned out to be the right choices and paid off for Alfred24.

Let the market tell you what it needs

With experience comes lessons learned and valuable insights gained. Having faced and overcome challenges, Christian shares his wisdom to those who are just starting their entrepreneurial journey

  • Taking action and bringing your product to the market swiftly is key, rather than waiting for perfection. Christian emphasizes “If I were to provide some insights based on my experiences, I would emphasize the importance of getting your product to the market as quickly as possible. A perfect product doesn't really exist, let the market tell you what it needs, and respond accordingly.”
  • Furthermore, Christian suggest adopting a long-term perspective. Building a successful, resilient, and stable company requires dedication and patience. He explains, "It may take anywhere from 10 to 30 years. If quick financial gains are your primary goal, starting a business may not be the most suitable path. There are other options, like house flipping or investing in the stock market, that may align better with those objectives."
  • Lastly, in an era characterized by artificial intelligence and automation, Christian underscores the importance of cultivating empathy and fostering strong customer relationships. These qualities are likely to serve as significant differentiators, enabling companies to stand out in a competitive marketplace.

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