This story is from the 2017 Access FYI: How Young Innovators Are Connecting the World. Explore more from this issue

Simon Borrero: Delivering Local on Demand

The creator of Rappi aims to deliver goods and services almost instantly.

Simon Borrero took a cue from his Latin American culture when creating Rappi, an online marketplace that delivers goods and services in mere minutes to customers in major cities in Colombia (his native country) and Mexico. “We are friendly to everyone and want to be an example that Latin Americans can create amazing companies building on our own culture,” he says. “We’re building a community of people who like to serve others.”

That spirit makes perfect sense when you consider the products Rappi delivers are 100 percent hyperlocal, many from businesses within 1 mile of customers. “If you give a small entrepreneur the ability to sell to the whole city and to have 30-minute deliveries, they will grow a lot faster,” Borrero says.

Even though Rappi manages nearly 9,000 on-demand deliveries from 900 micro-entrepreneurs a day through its app (more than 1 million deliveries since it was founded in 2015), it doesn’t limit delivery options. The app’s blank box, in fact, is designed for specific, anything-but-standard requests, many of which go beyond meals and groceries. Rappi will even go to the bank to pay a customer’s income taxes or bill. And since only 15 percent of people in Mexico and Colombia have a credit card, cash is often needed. Couriers will withdraw up to $130 in cash from ATMs for its Colombian customers who might not want to venture out late at night.

Still, most of Rappi’s business connects shoppers with local shopkeepers (“tenderos” in Colombia). “We are the new generation of tenderos — kind, easy-going and fast,” Borrero says. “It makes us what we like to call ‘Rappitenderos.’”

For each merchant transaction, Rappi pays itself a 15 percent commission, and the company’s couriers who travel via motorcycle or bicycle are paid the delivery fee that customers are charged — making the platform a win-win-win. In many respects, it’s a start-up designed to fuel other start-ups.

Believers in Borrero and Rappi extend beyond the Colombian and Mexican borders. In April 2016, Rappi raised $9 million in venture capital from investors, including Andreessen Horowitz, a U.S. firm with major investments in companies such as Skype, Airbnb and Buzzfeed.

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