Ratcheting through the stages of a growing startup is easier with an experienced professional under the hood, said Ben Jackson, drawing upon the comparison of scaling to “chewing glass while staring into the abyss.”
“Companies fundamentally change as various revenue thresholds are surpassed,” said Jackson, co-founder of Bungii. “A seed stage company looks completely different from a Series A stage, the same applies for Series A vs Series D. These changes require evolution in processes, management, governance rhythms and overall sophistication.”
Click here to learn more about Bungii’s funding and other businesses featured in Startland News’ 2022 Kansas City Venture Capital-Backed Companies report.
Bungii on Monday announced startup veteran Kerri Thurston has joined the Overland Park-based tech-enabled delivery platform as its first chief financial officer. Thurston previously served as the longtime CFO at C2FO — one of Kansas City’s largest and most-funded scaling companies — as well as global controller at Garmin.
“Having someone who has been through it before — and can help us avoid common obstacles and pitfalls — was the No. 1 thing on my list,” said Jackson. “I look forward to seeing how her thumbprint on our company will accelerate our success.”
Thurston, who also is a member of the Forbes Finance Council, an invitation-only community for senior-level sales and business development executives, began her work with Bungii in early November — but was already well acquainted with the startup.
She was among the executives who interviewed Bungii for C2FO’s incubation program shortly after the startup relocated to Kansas City from Manhattan where Jackson and co-founder Harrison Proffitt founded it while at Kansas State University.
Leawood-based C2FO — an on-demand working capital platform providing equitable access to low-cost capital — provided early incubation space for Bungii in 2016 and 2017, and Thurston and the team maintained a relationship, even after she left C2FO in June. That later proved serendipitous as Jackson searched for a CFO.
“I scheduled a quick call with Kerri to get input on a business question; she wasn’t even on my radar as a candidate at the time,” Jackson recalled. “While we were wrapping up the discussion, I casually asked her what she’s looking for in her next adventure. She probably had no idea but she almost perfectly described Bungii.”
Bungii’s platform unlocks large item, same-day delivery for retail partners to drive incremental sales and increase customer satisfaction.
“While it doesn’t necessarily seem like it on the surface, Bungii and C2FO have a lot in common,” Jackson said. “Both are marketplace companies that partner with some of the largest companies worldwide. Marketplaces are a unique animal but throwing in Fortune 500 companies to the mix only adds complexity. Having someone like Kerri, who fundamentally understands this type of business, join our team is a tremendous win for every Bungii stakeholder.”
Thurston’s arrival comes as Bungii builds upon a dramatic pivot forced by the pandemic. The startup no longer is targeting consumers specifically to say “Download our app and initiate a Bungii” to help move a large item, Jackson explained.
“We’re partnering further upstream — at the point of purchase — and the decision and action isn’t coming from the consumer, it’s coming from the business,” he said.
Changing the strategy follows a shift in consumer behavior and the resulting retail challenges, Jackson said. During COVID, in-store purchases dried up in lieu of online shopping. With that came a reliance on quick delivery and shipping.
And while consumers now expect that all purchases should arrive nearly instantaneously, big box retailers without a fleet of last-mile vehicles aren’t as prepared as Amazon to deliver on those demands, Jackson said.
“They just want it to show up — same day or next day — on their doorstep,” he said of customer expectations. “Big and bulky is becoming a life or death crisis for retailers nationwide.”
Bungii is uniquely aligned to offer a solution, Jackson said, detailing how the startup partners with such retailers to offer white label delivery in select markets to get large items from the store to a customers’ home.
“For our partners, this is no longer a nice to have; it’s a need to have. And it’s becoming a key part of their offerings to customers,” he said. “We have the technology. We have the processes. We have hundreds of drivers in each market that really eliminates the friction of buying in store, figuring it out yourself, or leaning on a third party logistics provider.”
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New markets and margins
Bungii’s shifting focus also means changes to the way it markets itself — messaging now targets potential Bungii drivers, not app users — and even where and when it expands to new cities across the U.S.
“We’ve taken a systemic and disciplined approach from a geographic footprint perspective, and expansion today is driven solely based on partner demand,” Jackson said.
With the infrastructure to recruit and train drivers quickly, Bungii can enter a market with greater ease once it identifies a go-live date with the partner, he said. That includes building sophisticated, custom API integrations with companies to seamlessly integrate the delivery process into retailers’ existing systems, Jackson said.
“Retailers want to focus on their core business: selling products,” he said. “They don’t want to have to figure out how to create their own on-demand big and bulky fleet to deliver their products.”
Bungii is positioned on the front end of a tectonic shift in retail, Jackson emphasized, and its ability to react and adapt in the face of the pandemic “could not have turned out better.”
“Every retailer is rethinking or completely rebuilding their supply chain,” he said. “Being in a place to recover with them has opened the door to C-level meetings with the largest logistics companies and retailers, resulting in another year of triple-digit growth.. And we’re more strongly positioned: higher margins, higher retention.”
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.