Glow is a wildly successful corporate startup built from scratch by Norway Post. Its cloud-based delivery platform is designed to help companies optimise their logistics operations, facilitate last-mile deliveries and boost overall customer satisfaction. The goal? To make everyday life simpler for companies, drivers and delivery recipients.
The popular Glow platform’s features include automatic route planning, real-time tracking, and an easy-to-use driver app to help streamline communications between senders and recipients, resulting in more precise delivery times.
To date, Glow has unlocked significant value for its parent company, Norway Post, including:
So, how do ventures like these go from idea to thriving corporate startup? We had a chat with Jerker Dammbro, CEO at Glow, to get the full story.
Q: Let’s start with a quick intro. Can you tell us a bit about Glow and your role within it?
Jerker: I've been working within the Norway Post Group since 2014, the last five years with our corporate venture Glow. I started off with different project management roles and then transitioned to an IT Manager role for one of the business divisions in Norway Post Group. One of the systems I was responsible for as IT Manager was Glow, and after a reorganisation, Glow became my sole focus.
Since then, Glow has spun out and gone from being a small pilot, to its own department and now to a corporate venture run as its own company.
Q: Could you give us some more context about what Glow really is? The service itself, and what does it offer?
Jerker: Glow is a transport management system, so it can handle the route optimisation of parcels that get delivered by the drivers. When drivers use the Glow app, we get access to data that can be communicated to recipients. For example, we get access to the route plan, which enables us to tell customers, we’ll be at your house at 8:15, and your neighbour’s house at 8:30 and so on.
This way, recipients know when to expect the delivery, and we don’t house arrest people waiting for a delivery. We also share that data with the sender in a customer portal, so that they can get an overview of the status of all the deliveries they have sent through Glow. Glow can be divided into four parts: the traffic management tool, the customer portal, the driver's app and the recipient interface.
Q: How was the idea for Glow born? What needs/challenges prompted Norway Post to use venturing as a strategy?
Jerker: Glow focuses on last-mile deliveries, which attract lots of venture capital, with different players wanting to disrupt the current market. We’re seeing completely new players enter that market.
Traditional logistics companies sometimes handle every step in the delivery process from end to end. That includes, for example, production in China, the freight ship to Europe and then the road transport through different terminals. Despite the fact that some items are being sent across the globe, most of the costs occur in the last mile.
This happens because, if you have ordered an iPhone during that last mile, you're no longer sharing the shipment costs with millions of iPhones on a ship or thousands of iPhones on a trailer. You're only sharing the cost with the limited number of items that a Nordic paid driver has in his or her car. That makes it the most expensive part of the delivery - and the part that new players are focusing on.
Glow can be seen as our way of facing the competition from these new players. We've been in logistics for 375 years, but obviously, faced with this competition, we needed a better digital offering for our recipients. Glow enables us to do exactly that.
Q: Building a corporate venture has benefits and challenges. What were the biggest internal assets you were able to leverage? And what were the biggest challenges?
Jerker: From a group standpoint, I think the advantage was that we already had huge logistics volumes, so we didn't start the idea and the technology from nothing. We already had the volume, and we leveraged it to produce a better value proposition for the recipients.
The drawback of that is, of course, that we had a logistics operation with a set way of working that had been established through decades. It's quite a change management journey to tell drivers that have been route planning their own deliveries that all of a sudden, an app will tell them what direction to go and where to deliver first. Getting this done was extremely important because if a driver took an alternate route and ended up being late for a delivery - it would be upsetting to the customer, robbing them of a good experience.
This change management was the biggest challenge for us when implementing the new system.
Q: How did you overcome this?
Jerker: The key was to work as closely as possible with the actual users and management.
Norway Post Group consists of many different business areas. For those that used Glow the most, I was a part of the leader group in those business areas. The product owners and other people within the Glow team also worked very closely with traffic planners and daily operational leaders within those business areas. So that's how we tried to solve that issue.
Q: Now, let’s talk about how the venture was initiated. What were some of your big milestones? How much time did they take, and what was the building process like?
Jerker: We started formulating the concept in late 2018. We thought that we had something really good here with Glow.
So we started to think that perhaps other companies outside Norway Post could benefit from Glow as well. If we are able to easily and quickly implement this in different businesses within our group, then perhaps we could do the same for external companies.
So that idea was born in late 2018, and Glow's implementation in multiple different businesses within Norway Post followed in late 2019.
After we got the go-ahead from our group management team to further explore the concept, we spent about a year doing a thorough market analysis of the European last-mile delivery platform market. We found out the European market is quite similar to the Nordic market. We got the funding and the go-ahead to start building a year later, in 2019. That’s when we started building a second version of Glow, separate from the one we used internally - to sell to external customers. That’s when the journey really started.
Q: Is that the reason you decided to structure it as a spin-off? To work with external partners?
Jerker: That was the key reason. So once we made the decision, we set up new legal entities and started working with Glow in them.
Q: What is the relationship that Norway Post has now with this legal entity? Is it still a mother brand, is there a shareholder relationship, or is it completely independent?
Jerker: Norway Post still owns the entity and is also a customer.
Q: Does that in itself create any challenges with external clients? Or is it not really an issue with the different partners?
Jerker: Of course, there are both positives and negatives from a customer standpoint. I think the advantage that we have as Glow is that we are actually developed by a logistics company. That makes us unique when talking to other big logistics companies in Europe.
It's obvious to our customers that we know what we’re talking about, and that's the reason why we get to talk to them in the first place. We're not just any logistics platform, we have years of experience and industry knowledge backing us.
Then, of course, the approach has to be balanced, with questions like “Do you really work for me or do you work for your owners?” But I don't see that as an issue. First of all, we can't be in business if we have first and second-tier customers. Second of all, there are so many synergies between what Norway Post wants and what our broader European customers want. It’s actually one of our biggest strengths because a great idea by an external customer will benefit Glow for internal use within Norway Post. But it also works the other way around. Any internal idea that helps Glow improve will benefit our external customers as well.
It all boils down to the fact that continuous improvement for Glow benefits all customers.
Q: Has Glow played a role in somehow bringing external partners or external organisations closer to Norway Post? Has it helped Norway Post build partnerships in any way?
Jerker: Very much so. I think our external customers listen to and respect our logistics knowledge. We’re not just a tech company. Our customers know that there's genuine logistics knowledge within this group.
Q: What is the governance setup like between Norway Post and Glow? What about the corporate financial structure? Is there a board? Tell us a bit about that stuff.
Jerker: Glow and another corporate venture that we have in repose called Amoi (which is a digital marketplace that brings local food and other goods to the recipients in urban areas) really paved the way. We had to invent many of these structures along the way. However, just a few months ago, we reorganised and started a new division called “Division Next”, with Glow and Amoi.
Division Next consists of a corporate venture capital unit that invests in different companies related to digitalisation and sustainability. It also includes its own accelerator that can invest in internal ideas and start new corporate ventures.
Q: If you had the chance to start over with Glow, with all the learnings you have today - what would you do differently?
Jerker: That's a really good question. I think the changes that we have made now, setting up our whole group to actually create these corporate ventures, will help a lot with all the administration related to setting up a separate legal entity for future corporate ventures.
Norway Post Group is, of course, very used to starting new legal entities, but they are often way bigger than Glow is. So perhaps, we could have done that a bit more efficiently. Seeing that a small company like Glow needs different treatment compared to a big company with thousands of employees, for example.
Q: In our experience, B2B concepts tend to be more challenging to validate because the target audience is harder to reach than B2C. What was the validation process like for Glow? Was it easier to validate because you had an existing network?
Jerker: I think that's the main benefit that we had. Even logistics companies in other countries like Belgium or Switzerland, which might be less familiar with Norway Post, knew that as the national postal service of Norway, we have an idea of how to do logistics because we’ve been doing it for 375 years. So that opened many doors for us. It made it quite easy for us to validate the service.
Q: Now, let’s talk about the talent behind Glow. Does the team mostly consist of people from Norway Post or external talent? What was the initial setup like and why?
Jerker: The development team is entirely made up of people that came from outside Norway Post. Development talent is really hard to find everywhere, and this is true for the Nordics as well. We needed to find the best people we could, and we also needed to create a workspace that they wanted to join.
The rest of the group, product owners and other roles is more split. We have some external talent, but we were also able to recruit from within Norway Post Group. So we were able to get some really talented people from around the group to join us.
Q: What are some of the biggest benefits of having someone on the team from Norway Post? Not looking specifically at the person but the profile?
Jerker: I think the logistics knowledge. It brings something to the table. For example, we were able to recruit a sales director with 20 years of experience in logistics sales. She knows the product and really understands the needs of the customer - that’s all very valuable.
That being said, we also have external people that are highly talented. Everyone brings a different perspective, and the combination is highly valuable.
Q: What are some of the main benefits that Glow brings to the table for Norway Post? Is it revenue? Improved customer experience? What’s the biggest return on investment?
Jerker: We see two main benefits from a Norway Post perspective. The first one is, of course, revenue. We use the platform internally, which prompts constant development and improvement. Selling the service to external customers compounds the return on investment. So it's a very powerful revenue model.
But the most important thing is not the revenue - it's the co-innovation that we can do together with external customers. It would be amazing to have other national postal services or other big logistics companies working with us as well. Pouring ideas and resources into the development of Glow together with us. We are all facing the same challenges and share many of the same needs. Working together would enable development to go at a much faster pace.
Q: Glow has a more international focus than Norway Post itself. Has that created any issues, challenges or limitations? What about benefits?
Jerker: Since Glow is backed by Norway Post, which is an established, reputable company and a national post operator, it was easier to expand to other countries where we didn’t have a strong presence. Not everyone has heard of us, but everyone can relate to what a national post operator is.
That being said, we don’t have a strong market presence outside the Nordics, and we also target other companies compared to the rest of the group, so we are alone in our group trying to build a brand for those companies in those markets, which of course is a challenge.
Q: What are the plans for the future of Glow? What are its ambitions for the upcoming years? Where is it going to go next?
Jerker: I think we're still early in this journey. So at the moment, we're focused on succeeding and growing our customer base even further.
When you find your first couple of external customers, you need to spend a lot of money developing the platform to make sure that separating Glow into different entities actually works. So you have to invest in expanding the operation model.
We’re fully focused now on developing the platform and making sure that Glow fits just as well for external customers as our own group, but at a later stage, we need to make onboarding more efficient so that we can lower our operational costs per customer.
Q: Based on your experience, is there any advice you’d like to share with fellow venture builders interested in similar projects?
Jerker: Make sure that you have full support from management. You need complete buy-in from top management and some freedom to operate. That was one of the success factors for Glow. We earned support from top management, and then we were able to do our thing and find our own way.
I would also say try to find the advantage that you have if you work within a big company or group. Big companies are huge users of different services which you might be able to make into a product. This can make all the difference. Exploit your advantages as much as you can.
Lastly, we already touched on this earlier in the interview, but I think there are loads of talented people in big organisations like Norway Post. Of course, it's different working in a corporation than at a startup, but people move freely between the two worlds all the time. Find the right people that want to bet on your project and have the drive to help build the product. There are loads of them in every big organisation. Just find the right ones.
We’d like to thank Jerker Dammbro for taking the time to speak with us. We wish him all the best moving forward with Glow and hope to speak again soon to discuss its newest milestones.
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