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UPS Fuel Surcharge Increase

By Thomas Schiavone

UPS Fuel Surcharge Increase

Effective Feb. 2, UPS changed its fuel surcharge. For UPS Ground, surcharges are adjusted the first Monday of each month based on the national U.S. on-highway average price. For UPS Air and International, surcharges are adjusted the first Monday of each month based on the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC) spot price.

UPS Ground

At Least: But Less Than: Surcharge:
$2.90 $3.02 5.50%
$3.02 $3.14 5.75%
$3.14 $3.26 6.00%
$3.26 $3.38 6.25%
$3.38 $3.50 6.50%
$3.50 $3.62 6.75%
$3.62 $3.74 7.00%
$3.74 $3.86 7.25%
$3.86 $3.98 7.50%
$3.98 $4.10 7.75%
$4.10 $4.22 8.00%
$4.22 $4.34 8.25%

UPS Air and International

At Least: But Less Than: Surcharge:
$1.48 $1.53 3.50%
$1.53 $1.58 3.75%
$1.58 $1.63 4.00%
$1.63 $1.68 4.25%
$1.68 $1.73 4.50%
$1.73 $1.78 4.75%
$1.78 $1.83 5.00%
$1.83 $1.88 5.25%
$1.88 $1.93 5.50%
$1.93 $1.98 5.75%
$1.98 $2.03 6.00%
$2.03 $2.08 6.25%
$2.08 $2.13 6.50%
$2.13 $2.18 6.75%
$2.18 $2.23 7.00%
$2.23 $2.28 7.25%
$2.28 $2.33 7.50%

Posted February 17th, 2015

FedEx Fuel Surcharge Increase

By Thomas Schiavone

FedEx Fuel Surcharge Increase

Effective Feb. 2, FedEx changed its fuel surcharge. For FedEx Express, surcharges are adjusted monthly based on a rounded average of the U.S. Gulf Coast (USGC) spot price for a gallon of kerosene-type jet fuel. For FedEx Ground, surcharges are adjusted monthly based on a rounded average of the U.S. on-highway average price for a gallon of diesel fuel. For FedEx Freight, surcharges are based on the weekly national average fuel price set by the U.S. Department of Energy and are effective each Monday.

FedEx Express

At Least Less Than Surcharge
$1.43 $1.51 1.5%
$1.51 $1.59 2.0%
$1.59 $1.67 2.5%
$1.67 $1.75 3.0%
$1.75 $1.83 3.5%
$1.83 $1.91 4.0%
$1.91 $1.99 4.5%
$1.99 $2.07 5.0%
$2.07 $2.15 5.5%
$2.15 $2.23 6.0%
$2.23 $2.31 6.5%
$2.31 $2.39 7.0%
$2.39 $2.47 7.5%
$2.47 $2.55 8.0%
$2.55 $2.63 8.5%
$2.63 $2.71 9.0%
$2.71 $2.79 9.5%
$2.79 $2.87 10.00%

FedEx Ground

At Least But Less Than Surcharge
$2.47 $2.65 3.5%
$2.65 $2.83 4.0%
$2.83 $3.01 4.5%
$3.01 $3.19 5.0%
$3.19 $3.37 5.5%
$3.37 $3.55 6.0%
$3.55 $3.73 6.5%
$3.73 $3.91 7.0%
$3.91 $4.09 7.5%
$4.09 $4.27 8.0%

FedEx Freight

When the EIA fuel index is at least: The LTL & TL fuel surcharge will be: When the EIA fuel index is at least: The LTL & TL fuel surcharge will be: When the EIA fuel index is at least: The LTL & TL fuel surcharge will be: When the EIA fuel index is at least: The LTL & TL fuel surcharge will be:
250 21.1% 288 23.0% 326 24.9% 364 26.8%
251 21.2% 289 23.1% 327 25.0% 365 26.9%
252 21.2% 290 23.1% 328 25.0% 366 26.9%
253 21.3% 291 23.2% 329 25.1% 367 27.0%
254 21.3% 292 23.2% 330 25.1% 368 27.0%
255 21.4% 293 23.3% 331 25.2% 369 27.1%
256 21.4% 294 23.3% 332 25.2% 370 27.1%
257 21.5% 295 23.4% 333 25.3% 371 27.2%
258 21.5% 296 23.4% 334 25.3% 372 27.2%
259 21.6% 297 23.5% 335 25.4% 373 27.3%
260 21.6% 298 23.5% 336 25.4% 374 27.3%
261 21.7% 299 23.6% 337 25.5% 375 27.4%
262 21.7% 300 23.6% 338 25.5% 376 27.4%
263 21.8% 301 23.7% 339 25.6% 377 27.5%
264 21.8% 302 23.7% 340 25.6% 378 27.5%
265 21.9% 303 23.8% 341 25.7% 379 27.6%
266 21.9% 304 23.8% 342 25.7% 380 27.6%
267 22.0% 305 23.9% 343 25.8% 381 27.7%
268 22.0% 306 23.9% 344 25.8% 382 27.7%
269 22.1% 307 24.0% 345 25.9% 383 27.8%
270 22.1% 308 24.0% 346 25.9% 384 27.8%
271 22.2% 309 24.1% 347 26.0% 385 27.9%
272 22.2% 310 24.1% 348 26.0% 386 27.9%
273 22.3% 311 24.2% 349 26.1% 387 28.0%
274 22.3% 312 24.2% 350 26.1% 388 28.0%
275 22.4% 313 24.3% 351 26.2% 389 28.1%
276 22.4% 314 24.3% 352 26.2% 390 28.1%
277 22.5% 315 24.4% 353 26.3% 391 28.2%
278 22.5% 316 24.4% 354 26.3% 392 28.2%
279 22.6% 317 24.5% 355 26.4% 393 28.3%
280 22.6% 318 24.5% 356 26.4% 394 28.3%
281 22.7% 319 24.6% 357 26.5% 395 28.4%
282 22.7% 320 24.6% 358 26.5% 396 28.4%
283 22.8% 321 24.7% 359 26.6% 397 28.5%
284 22.8% 322 24.7% 360 26.6% 398 28.5%
285 22.9% 323 24.8% 361 26.7% 399 28.6%
286 22.9% 324 24.8% 362 26.7% 400 28.6%
287 23.0% 325 24.9% 363 26.8%    

Posted February 13th, 2015

How We Bought easypost.com

By

We launched EasyPost with easypost.co, which was good enough for our Show HN. We knew long term we'd want to acquire easypost.com and we knew the price would continue to increase in proportion to the company's success. Given we were bullish on the long term prospects, we knew we had to acquire it quickly.

As soon as we raised our first $200k, we started poking around about how to acquire the domain. Since we'd already launched EasyPost, we thought it was pretty obvious who would be interested in the domain and emailed the company directly. If you're going after a domain that's more broad you should avoid emailing the seller directly. Since domains are often fairly illiquid and negotiated digitally, the main sources of leverage are time and price. Knowing the potential buyer gives a lot of leverage to the seller in terms of price. Given that, we also decided to hold off on announcing our fundraising until we had acquired the domain. We didn't want the seller to know we had raised any money.

Shortly thereafter, an investor introduced us to a domain broker. At first, like with anyone in the brokerage business given the typical conflicts of interest related to pricing of commisions (higher the sale price, higher the commission), we were skeptical, but the broker's recommendations were stellar.

After speaking with the broker, we learned that one of the main value props of a domain broker, just like with a real estate broker, is knowledge of historical sales. Good ones know who has bought what for how much recently and thus have a good sense of the market. The broker we used had a good sense for what the buyer would be willing to sell our domain for, as well as comparable domains that had been sold recently.

The second thing we learned was to use an alias. Like we said before, the more the seller knows about you the more leverage they have. Our domain broker had a few fake accounts complete with LinkedIn and Facebook profiles. These give you the opportunity to approach a seller and get a general idea where their head is at in terms of price, absent the knowledge of how big or small you may be.

Next, since easypost.com was owned by a corporation that also happened to do web hosting, email hosting (on easypost.com), and other web services, it was going to be a bit delicate. Buying domains from corporations takes a while since you're dealing with a bureaucracy, which means people are heavily inclined to say 'No', and it takes several 'Yes's for a deal to go through. The bigger a corporation, the longer it will take and the lower the likelihood of success. If the domain you're looking for happens to be owned by a large and/or public corporation, move on. Those can take forever.

Our broker got started by emailing a few of the contacts there. In our way of thinking, you email them politely, professionally, and get an idea for their appetite. Wrong.

Here's an example of the email our broker, whose alias we'll call Walter*, sent:

David,

Hi my name is Walter, my partner Jarrett has been in touch regarding easypost.com.

We realize you guys have had this Domain for a while and probably at one point planned to use it.  We get that, we fully understand where it’s been and what it means to you.

We realize you guys aren't hurting for cash and you’re not very motivated sellers.  We’d  owe you big time if you give some on the price tag.  The potential PR value we could bringyou guys not just now but later down the road - you could do a write-up on us, we'll sing your praises.  Crazy good testimonials, whatever you guys want - you got it.  We'll be    your whipping boys.  How about a viral video on how you changed our lives down the road!? Anything you want, name it.

Hell if you fly us over we'll cook, clean, and do your CEOs laundry for a month!  We’ll doanything it takes to reach a win/win, to reach an amount we’re able to swallow, that we   can afford.

Jarrett and I feel confident with a handful of days and making a mad scramble on this end we should be able to scrap together $10K GBP.  We’ll have to make a deal with the devil topull it off.  Anything it takes, we’re very passionate about our project and we really, really need that .com to make it shine.

If you could see both of us right now we're on our knees, practically begging you guys to cut us a break and reduce the asking amount – take our offer.  Work with us and we'll be  in your debt forever.

Sincerely,

Walter and Jarrett

Like anyone, when we saw that we were shocked. We thought there was no way an email like that would work, and we were pretty sure we were being had. That is, until the response came back a few days later. The person promised to look into the matter for us and we were stunned.

Shortly thereafter we learned their asking price was $30,000. Wow, we'd only raised $200k at that point and that was a tough pill to swallow. Fortunately, our broker let us know that domains are typically negotiated down 50% or more. $15k was still pushing it, but we knew the price would only increase and we didn't want to have to continue waiting to publicize the work we'd done on EasyPost.

Our broker also brought up other payment options, like cash and equity, or a longer term payout. If you're really tight on cash and/or the domain is really expensive, there are ways to negotiate around that. You can offer some of the company, or to pay out over a year or two. Obviously, you'd have to give up your identity to do these, but it's likely a premium domain. Also, in this case you'll need to talk yourself up if you're pitching the seller on equity.

After a few weeks of back and forth, in the aforementioned fashion, we settled on $15k. This was pricey for us, but the company was gaining traction and the price was bound to go up.

We used escrow.com to arrange the transfer. (Edit: I'm told escrowhill.com is great as well and cheaper.) We put in our bank details, the money was wired, and the domain was transferred.

If you're using an alias, you'll need an alias account at DNSimple or whichever domain registrar you're using. If you don't have one of these, you'll give up your identity before the domain is actually transferred. Make sure and have one of these setup before you start the transaction.

Once it's transferred, you're in the clear. All in, the transaction was $15,000 + 15% commission.

Buying your domain, if it's valuable one, can be one of the first big and delicate transactions a startup makes. Hopefully our experience helps.


*I received an email from a domain broker whose name was the previous alias of the alias I used, so I've changed the name to Walter.

Posted February 4th, 2015

Spee-Dee API Certified

By Thomas Schiavone

Spee-Dee Certified Solutions Provider

We're proud to announce our recent certification with the Spee-Dee API. Spee-Dee is a regional US carrier that many of our high volume customers rely upon.

You can access all Spee-Dee functionality through the EasyPost Shipping API. Just like with all the carriers we support, the steps are as follows:

  1. Log in to your EasyPost account
  2. Go to your Carriers page and enable Spee-Dee. After that you'll input your Spee-Dee account info.
  3. Get started! The Spee-Dee API is integrated in EasyPost, the integration steps are the same as any other carriers.

As always, email us if you have any questions or difficulty getting started.

Posted January 20th, 2015

Colis Privé API Certified

By Thomas Schiavone

Colis Privé Certified Solutions Provider

We're proud to announce our recent certification with the Colis Privé API. Colis Privé is a major French carrier that many of our high volume customers rely upon.

You can access all Colis Privé functionality through the EasyPost Shipping API. Just like with all the carriers we support, the steps are as follows:

  1. Log in to your EasyPost account
  2. Go to your Carriers page and enable Colis Privé. After that you'll input your Colis Privé account info.
  3. Get started! The Colis Privé API is integrated in EasyPost, the integration steps are the same as any other carriers.

As always, email us if you have any questions or difficulty getting started.

Posted January 5th, 2015

How to Interview for Y Combinator

By Jarrett Streebin

Back in 2012 we applied to Y Combinator for the winter class and got an interview. We interviewed with Paul, Jessica, Robert, and Trevor. We felt like the interview went really well and were very confident. We had already done a successful Show HN, had SV Angel invested, and gathered a lot of good recommendations. We didn't get in.

Six months later we applied for the Summer class and got an interview. This time our traction had drastically improved; we'd gone from signups to a working product and paying customers. We got in.

Here's what we learned between those two interviews and what helped us get in.

First, it's not an interview. It's a presentation. Go in with the mindset that you're going to present your case, piece by piece, and answer questions as they come.

Second, you are not a beautiful and unique snowflake (but possibly will feel like Jack's raging gall bladder on interview day). You're one of many in a very long day. Put yourself in their shoes: you've been pitched a few dozen times already today, you're hungry (or digesting). Worst of all, if you're an introvert you're drained from talking to people all day long.

Given that, you should go in with energy and excitement about what you're building. Don't expect the other side of the table to provide the spark to get you going. The partners are great, just understand interviews is a huge undertaking for them and it takes a lot.

You'll need more than just energy though, your presentation needs to be confident and convincing. What's the best way to prepare? We've heard of many preparing by compiling long lists of questions and answers. This is the worst possible strategy. This forces you to know umpteen questions and answers, and god forbid you didn't think of one, you're left without a prepared answer.

The best way to prepare is to focus on perfecting your pitch from five or six key angles:

PROBLEM
CUSTOMER
TRACTION
MARKET
STRATEGY
TEAM

These work well because nearly every question the partners will ask can be related to one of these.

Q: "Is the market big enough?" A: MARKET

Q: "Will you be big enough?" A: STRATEGY

Q: "How do you know?" A: TRACTION

Q: "Are you charging enough?" (Hint: this means they see the value in what you're doing.) A: CUSTOMER

Let's look at each key area for some tips on how to prepare.

PROBLEM:

This is what you're solving or hope to solve. You're fixing or creating X by building Y. (e.g. Carrier APIs are so dated that customers end up not integrating them and losing money on shipping, or paying for over-priced software.)

CUSTOMER:

The best way to address all manner of "customer" related questions is to empirically learn everything you can about them. Don't guess, gather evidence. What you know is invaluable, what you guess is beyond useless, it's dangerous. You should prepare to talk both about what you know, and how you've learned it.

TRACTION

This is this most important item. Think of your company and all the others on a spectrum between high risk and low risk. We'll use how far along you are in the product to define the risk. Have a beta product with no actual paying customers or users? That's about as high risk as you get. Have paying customers and rapidly growing revenue? That's very low risk (provided it's not software for regional newspapers).

Where are you on that spectrum? This matters because the closer you are to low risk, the less all the other stuff matters. The further you are from low risk, the more all the other stuff matters.

You're just a week or less away from your interviews which means you have little time to try to change anything. However, if you don't have any customers, or even signups, you still have time to do a Show HN. This, more than those 5 or 10 friends who really love what you're doing, will actually mean something. This has launched many YC companies, including one of their Black Swans.

If you do have potential customers (signups or leads), but no revenue, it's worth going to them and asking if they'll commit to paying for the product once it's built. Better yet, get them to pay up front.

The way to talk about your traction is in terms of numbers and growth. We have X customers and are growing Y percent month-over-month. We have X revenue and it's growing Y percent month-over-month. (e.g. We have 20 paying customers and we're growing 100% month-over-month.)

A startup with committed customers, prepaid customers, or signups is already better than the legions of startups with no customers or signups at all.

MARKET

Find a reliable figure for the total addressable market you're going after. For example, shipping is a $300B industry in the U.S. and we can expect to gain 5% of that market. That means our TAM is $15bn. If your target market is a subset of the total addressable, make sure you've identified that beforehand. Be honest with yourself about these numbers because you won't be fooling anyone by pretending that you can address a gigantic market that you clearly cannot.

Market * reasonable percentage you could acquire = the opportunity.

STRATEGY

Or, "how it gets big". After TRACTION, this is the most important thing to think about. For those of you that haven't read Black Swan Farming, they're only looking for companies that are going to get big. Their economics are such that they get a piece upfront and that's it. Given that, they need the pie to be huge (this is slightly different from the strategies of traditional VCs, although VCs often mistakenly apply the same metric. I digress).

Talk about what you're doing today, and what you plan to do in the future. How do you intend to transition from things that don't scale to things that do?

TEAM

This is the least important area, although there will likely be questions about it. Best possible answer: we have known each other from working together for five years under Nobel Prize Winner X. Second best, we have known each other for five years. Worst: we just met. If you've just met, make sure you know who the CEO is and make sure there's no tension about it.

Also, unless your degrees are directly related to what you're doing, save the spiel for your dating life. They're not looking for degrees. Dedication and resilience is what they're looking for.

Practice these. If you nail them, you'll have the best interview possible. Plus, the great thing is even if you just get to four out of five or six, you'll still get a big chunk of your idea or business out there. During our second interview we only got through three or four of them, but it worked.

Posted November 13th, 2014

LaserShip API Certified

By Thomas Schiavone

LaserShip Certified Solutions Provider

We're proud to announce our recent certification with the LaserShip API. LaserShip is a major East Coast carrier that many of our high volume customers rely upon.

You can access all LaserShip functionality through the EasyPost Shipping API. Just like with all the carriers we support, the steps are as follows:

  1. Log in to your EasyPost account
  2. Go to your Carriers page and enable LaserShip. After that you'll input your LaserShip account info.
  3. Get started! The LaserShip API is integrated in EasyPost, the integration steps are the same as any other carriers.

As always, email us if you have any questions or difficulty getting started.

Posted November 3rd, 2014

LSO API Certified

By Thomas Schiavone

LSO Certified Solutions Provider

We're proud to announce our recent certification with the LSO API. LSO is a major Midwest carrier that many of our high volume customers rely upon.

You can access all LSO functionality through the EasyPost Shipping API. Just like with all the carriers we support, the steps are as follows:

  1. Log in to your EasyPost account
  2. Go to your Carriers page and enable LSO. After that you'll input your LSO account info.
  3. Get started! The LSO API is integrated in EasyPost, the integration steps are the same as any other carriers.

As always, email us if you have any questions or difficulty getting started.

Posted October 30th, 2014

Purolator API Certified

By Thomas Schiavone

Purolator Certified

We're proud to announce our recent certification with the Purolator API. Purolator is a major Canadian carrier that many of our Canadian customers rely upon. EasyPost is the first and only RESTful JSON API to be Purolator certified.

You can access all Purolator functionality through the EasyPost Shipping API. Just like with all the carriers we support, the steps are as follows:

  1. Log in to your EasyPost account
  2. Go to your Carriers page and enable GSO. After that you'll input your Purolator account info.
  3. Get started! The Purolator API is integrated in EasyPost, the integration steps are the same as any other carriers.

As always, email us if you have any questions or difficulty getting started.

Posted October 28th, 2014

In Defense of Party Rounds

By

Every quarter or so there's a new post about why you shouldn't do a Party Round. Googling "Party Round" will bring up a handful of them. A party round is when a company raises from a relatively large group of investors, say 10+, and no investor takes a board seat and/or makes a substantially larger investment than the rest of the investors.

Given how awful they're supposed to be, and the lack of posts by companies that have raised one, we thought we'd write down what our experience has been raising a party round. From our first check from SV Angel to our most recent, we've raised over $3m from over 40 investors. Since no investor gave us more than $250k on over $3m total, and since no investor took a board seat, this would be considered a "party round".

The most frequently mentioned argument against party rounds is a lack of "skin in the game" by the investors. It's the idea that since there is no lead investor--one taking up a major chunk of the financing--there are no investors with sufficient skin in the game. Since no investor will have a board seat or an investment that's sizably bigger than the others, each individual investor won't care that much about the company.

An implied reason in the "skin in the game" argument is that the investor makes the company successful. If an investor had enough skin in the game they could lead the company to success. Although we have incredibly helpful investors whose belief in us has helped tremendously, I don't believe they make the company. Or that their lack of skin in the game dooms the company, especially not at the seed stage. I do believe in later rounds, where party rounds don't really exist, the investor matters more. But remember, great companies aren't defined by their investors, but great investors are defined by their companies.

Another argument is around fundraising. It's often said that a lack of lead investor will make further financings more difficult. There is also the issue of setting the terms. If there will be many small investors, it can be tough to properly price the round. You could get to a point halfway through the round and have investors disagree with the price.

Despite those and other potential pitfalls, our funding structure has successfully helped us grow our business. Four times as many people work at EasyPost as when we closed our round and we've grown our volume more than 25x in the last twelve months. We've yet to raise a Series A, so I can't comment on later rounds, but so far it's working.

As far as skin in the game is concerned, having our skin in the game has been sufficient. After all, investors are in the business of making many bets, with respect to companies. As a founder, I'm in the business of making a single bet. That's more skin in the game than any venture investor will have, since their model is to put some skin in a lot of games.

My sense is that this is may be a holdover from an older era of VC in which investors sought and often demanded large measures of control. This was often used so they could enact what they thought was best, be it for the company or the investor themself. This included selling companies, firings, et cetera.

The other advantage to this is that we control our board. In our experience, the max amount of time we knew an investor before they invested was about two months. That's only say 3-6 meetings or calls at most.

Is that enough time to pick an investor and board member for the life of your company? What if you make the wrong choice? This hastily chosen board member will now have significant control throughout the course of the company, and there's not much recourse if there isn't a good fit between a board member and company.

In our position, we've now seen and worked with many investors and can carefully choose who we want on our board. We also aren't beholden to any lead investor for further financing. This is another major area where potential negatives can outweigh the positives.

Let's lay out a positive scenario for follow on financings with an established lead investor: company seeks additional capital and lead investor provides it on amicable terms. Round is closed, everyone is happy.

Now let's look at some potential negatives: a) lead investor agrees on timing of investment but disagrees significantly on terms; company can either take the terms, seek outside funding with a negative signal since the lead investor didn't agree on terms, or not raise money, b) lead investor disagrees on timing of investment (maybe they're waiting for a fund to close or aren't sufficiently excited about your business prospects); company must outside capital with a negative signal since lead investor didn't follow on, or c) lead investor is not interested in a follow on investment; company is left to seek outside investment with a negative signal.

As far as we can see, the potential negatives heavily outweigh the potential positives. We've yet to find investors met our preferred terms without signifcant leverage, so it also seems the potential positive scenario is a bit unlikely without outside bidders.

In our case, should we need additional financing we have 10-20 institutional funds that are already investors. We've gotten to know them over their months and years as investors. This has given us significant time to both prove our value as a company to them, and for them to prove their value to an investor to us. Also, should we seek financing outside of our existing investors, we're able to do so without a negative signal since none of them lead the round.

When it came to actually setting the terms, we learned to be flexible. Pick a price that gets a yes. Worst case, you get a few yeses and then a string of no's so you lower the price and rewrite the terms for the initial yeses. Everyone will be happy.

A potential negative arises with respect to setting terms, since there will be no lead and the company needs to get many investors to agree on terms. What we found is that the lead investors often want preferred terms given their sizeable investment. We also found that we didn't have to get all the investors to agree to terms at the same time, just one after another.

What got us started on this post was that most of the anti-party rounds' posts were by investors, and we hadn't heard a founder say a party round was bad for them. Given that, we thought it was worth weighing in since our experience has been mostly positive.

As you can see, there are plenty of pros and cons about raising a party round. This isn't meant to be the final word. Like our previous post, this is just our experience. But we'd be remiss if we didn't point out a few of our positive experiences in the sea of supposed negatives.

Posted October 23rd, 2014