Never trust a stranger

Through internet, our startup PiggyBee connects people who want to receive or send an object with people traveling. Although a large majority are taken with the idea, the biggest obstacle to the development of the service is proving to be trust between users.

“- I would never ask someone I don't know to bring me something.”

“- I do not want to entrust a personal object to somebody unknown to me.”

“- You should always be wary, internet is too dangerous.”


This problem is crucial for all startups coming from what is called the sharing economy, which works on the principle of linkages between individuals on the internet. Different entrepreneurs have, in fact, taken the problem head on by providing solutions that increase confidence on these different platforms. From identity verification to gathering the opinions published on different websites, or studying relations on social websites, the solutions they offer are many.

To the extent that development is expensive and time consuming, that these “trust aggregators” are relatively new on the market, that they offer multiple solutions to the problem, that they cater to different communities and, finally, that they, like many other actors in the sector, are encountering a problem of critical mass, like a man hoisted with his own petard, our problem is thus to choose in which trust aggregator to place our confidence... In short, we are not (yet) offering any formula of this type on PiggyBee.

Nonetheless, and throughout this article, we want to share with you our experience and try to counter the different remarks made above. From our database of 1,500 users, we took, completely randomly, 20 e-mail addresses (by taking the first e-mail address that fell on each multiple of 75). For the sake of offering a very quick and simple website (and avoiding the long registration forms that nobody likes to complete), we only have very little information on our users. As such, while e-mail addresses are the most reliable information that we have on our users, can they really by themselves guarantee confidence?!

Through various simple, free, and fully accessible tools, here are the types of information that we were able to obtain based on these e-mail addresses. This data is strictly public and therefore viewable by anybody with an internet connection.

It is therefore through a simple e-mail address that we manage to reap a precious quantity of information on our members, such as profile photos, complete names, localization and languages, or visible profiles on social networks (+twitter, vimeao, flickr... as well as others not included in this list).

In 90% of cases, we are therefore able to provide a series of key elements that will allow us to significantly increase confidence in the relationships created on our platform. Although zero risk does not exist (on the internet as elsewhere), we have just demonstrated that the exchanges did not necessarily occur between complete strangers! In addition, and as some claim too quickly, internet users are not always criminals or evil smugglers.

Let us return to the above questions: In whom should you place more confidence? Your neighbour or the friend of a friend in “real life” or, a PiggyBee user whose picture you can see, whose profession you can know (such as high school teacher, researcher, business CEO, or project manager, which were among our randomly chosen users above) and for whom you can analyze different life elements via numerous social networks (such as pictures, family status, different opinions and comments...)

If it was not already the case, let us hope that this article has given you the desire to take the plunge. With the novel idea of “parcel transport by individuals,” we were initially called crazy by some (including by some so-called “influential” people). Our friendly competitors have had to bear harsh critics in the press. We hope that these explanations will have persuaded you that we are not any crazier than you are, and we invite you to join our community without further delay by sharing your next trip on PiggyBee!

Entrepreneur and worldwide traveler, David Vuylsteke is the founder and CEO of PiggyBee, a startup that connects people who want to move items across the world with travelers who can help.