“One of the main reasons I started Airspace was because drivers are the face of the company, and in the past, they have gotten the least amount of respect,” said Nick Bulcao, CEO of Airspace Technologies. Bulcao wanted to change that. For-hire drivers at companies like Uber often complain about poor working conditions and low pay, but Bulcao saw an opportunity to upend that paradigm.
“By eliminating an entire layer in the supply chain, which is the agent model, we go directly to the drivers, who are independent contractors, and by doing that we can get the cream of the crop,” Bulcao explained. “We can pay substantially more to the drivers, by eliminating that 30-40 percent margin that the agents were making.”
From a purely operational standpoint, what Airspace does isn’t too far from conventional shipping. “There’s a million final-mile providers doing similar things,” Bulcao said. The process works as follows: Shippers enter the pickup and delivery information into Airspace’s system, the driver takes the shipment to the airport, and that process is repeated in reverse once the package lands at the destination airport.
What distinguishes Airspace is its technology, says Bulcao. “We’re the first company that’s found a way to integrate air and ground, and provide that transparency throughout the entire process of the shipment.”
Drivers are given turn-by-turn directions to the pickup point, and Airspace provides a scan-in and scan-out process. Drivers pick up packages, scan them into the system, deliver them to the airport and scans them out of their possession. The packages are then shipped between the airports, and drivers on the delivery end are notified to pick up the packages and deliver them to their final destination. All of this is updated in real-time on Airspace’s platform.
That same focus on technology allows Airspace to compete with the likes of UPS and FedEx on pricing, says Bulcao. “The big thing is, by owning fewer assets, we’re able to tap into the capacity on commercial flights,” he explained. Airspace has agreements with all the major airlines, mostly on the domestic side, but it is increasing on the international side as well. “That allows us to do everything that FedEx and UPS are doing, at a fraction of the cost, because we are able to tap into the commercial airlines’ capacity,” Bulcao said. “We’re focused on the next flight out [NFO] side of the business. It’s an industry that requires a lot of transparency and speed, and that’s exactly what our technology does.”
Bulcao’s bets seem to be paying off. While the company doesn’t release volumes, he said that Airspace was expecting 250-to-300-percent growth by 2018, and that the company had grown more than 400 percent between 2016 and 2017. To keep that momentum, Bulcao and his team are pushing hard into the NFO space.
“We’re just getting started in the market,” he said. “We’ve got a long way to go with that, but a couple other avenues we’re looking at include the international side of things. That’s just a fraction of our business right now.”
Bulcao concludes that the only way to hit the growth targets he’s set is through the company culture that Airspace has created. “I’m looking for someone that likes to come to work every day, and really works hard, but has fun during the journey, because we’re really on a journey right now. At the risk of sounding cheesy, that’s really what it is, and I want to make sure I’m surrounding myself with people that also want to be on that journey.”