ImagineCargo: Sustainable Courier

Zurich, SwitzerlandBerlin, Germany
Year Founded:
Organization type: 
for profit
Project Stage:
$50,000 - $100,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

ImagineCargo is drastically reducing the emissions impact of small package deliveries. By using bike-train-bike instead of truck-plane-truck our network offers customers fast, reliable and cost-effective transport that is much less damaging for our environment.

WHAT IF - Inspiration: Write one sentence that describes a way that your project dares to ask, "WHAT IF?"

What if an average package sent around Europe would cause emissions of only 120g of CO2 instead of 12kg?
About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

A 5kg package transported across Europe using a typical express carrier such as FedEx, UPS or DHL could generate up to 12kg of CO2 emissions according to our calculations. Express operators are carrying around 4.5 million packages around Europe every day. Currently customers cannot access a truly low-impact transportation service at the national and international level outside of Switzerland.

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Our approach is to completely re-design the transportation network for carrying packages so that negative impacts are engineered-out of the process. By replacing trucks with cycle messengers, and under-utilised dedicated freighter aircraft with high-speed trains, we can reduce CO2 emissions by up to 99%. We believe we are the first to design a complete international package delivery network with minimised external impacts as a fundamental principle. Combined with per shipment optimisation for CO2 emissions we do everything we can to transport every package with minimum impact, while keeping prices and transit times competitive with customer expectations.


Innovate4Climate, climate-kic swiss venture competition and Zurich Klimapreis. In each case the competition judges recognised ImagineCargo for the significant potential of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and for our innovative business model.
Impact: How does it Work

Example: Walk us through a specific example(s) of how this solution makes a difference; include its primary activities.

A typical express package in Europe such as one traveling from Zürich to Berlin travels the hub and spoke network way of the integrators: Pick up by a truck, transport to the airport. First flight to the Hub of the Integrator, second flight to the target city, delivery by truck. This has a tremendous negative environmental impact. We calculated an average of 12 kg of CO2 for a 5kg package. 2kg for each of the pick-up and delivery trucks and 10kg for the flights. ImagineCargo picks up the same package by a cycle courier who places it on a high-speed train, from where it is then delivered by another cycle courier. While staying competitive in price an transit time ImagineCargo delivers the same service with up to 99% reduction in CO2.

Impact: What is the impact of the work to date? Also describe the projected future impact for the coming years.

ImagineCargo is in the startup phase. We have a fully developed proof of concept in Austria and first packages have been moved. However we are still facing some administrative barriers which prevent us from selling directly that will be solved by the end of this year. At the moment we are building up our initial network in Germany and subsequent expansion to other areas is planned (France, Denmark, Sweden, Italy).

Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling impact?

Our calculations estimate for the DACH region alone (Switzerland, Germany, Austria) a total potential of 110'000'000 courier package (same day delivery) every year. This results in a megaton CO2 savings potential each year. ImagineCargo strives for a 0.5% market share after 4 years which results in 550000 packages generating up to 6600 tCO2e saved every year just for the DACH region. The service can be replicated in any other market where there are existing cycle messenger operations and passenger trains with freight capacity.

Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?

ImagineCargo is a for profit for purpose organisation. We are building a three pillar business model that will ensure financial sustainability: a)direct sales through imaginecargo, b) indirect sales through cycle messenger partners and c) indirect sales through railway partners.

Marketplace: Who else is addressing the problem outlined here? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?

Currently customers cannot access a truly low-impact transportation service at the national and international level outside of Switzerland. Other network-bases package operators can be broken down in four groups: a) Integrators such as FedEx, UPS, DHL and TNT, b) regional parcel operators, c) postal operators and non-asset based or asset-light logistics providers and freight forwarders. ImagineCargo differs from all those groups with it's 100% focus on creating an international package delivery network with minimised external impacts as a fundamental principle.

Founding Story

Nick Blake spent most of his professional life working for the big integrators, totally unaware of the drastic negative environmental impact that is caused by this industry. When he was challenged to present a more sustainable option for the integrator network during a climate-kic ideation workshop hosted at Impact Hub Zürich, he presented a similar concept to ImagineCargo but with using more fuel efficient planes for the linehaul instead of highspeed trains. Naturally this idea didn't find many friends among the climate-kic audience. Subsequently the full idea of ImagineCargo was developed during that workshop. The rest of the founding team joined shortly after.


The founders of ImagineCargo Sustainable Courier have a unique combination of multinational express package operator and local cycle courier experience. We’ve extended the team with specialised execution skills and are backed by a group of advisors from various disciplines. Nick Blake - CEO 25 years experience in the express, air cargo and general transportation sectors. Previously running a Lausanne-based specialist consulting practice in the express and air cargo industries and Associate Professor of Supply Chain Management, Sustainability and Marketing at Business School Lausanne. Based in Zürich. Benjamin Duh - COO Founding partner of Graz cycle courier Pink Pedals with over 10 years operational and management experience in the cycle logistics sector. Based in Graz. Friedrich-Simon Kugi - Austrian Messenger Community Organiser ImagineCargo’s photographer and deeply involved in the Austrian cycling and messenger communities. Based in Graz. David Emmerth - Messenger Community Organiser Switzerland & Germany Former messenger and with extensive experience in the social entrepreneurship sector. Based in Zürich
Please confirm how you heard about the Unilever Awards:

Through a friend

Please confirm your role in the initiative (eg Founder/co-Founder) and your organisational title:

I am Prokura and Geschäftsführer, Role: Messenger Community Organiser Switzerland & Germany

Which of the 8 UN Global Goals (Sustainable Development Goals) pre-selected for this competition does your solution relate most closely to? [select all that apply]

Climate Action.

Leadership and the Unilever Awards
Please provide examples of any previous entrepreneurial initiatives you have pioneered.

For DeCo! Sustainable Farming, a small german based social enterprise in Ghana, I developed and implemended a public privat partnership between DeCo!, GIZ and Zoomlion that helped us to successfully scale the operations. DeCo! is up to date still the only large scale producer of organic fertiliser in the northern region of Ghana.

Beyond your existing team, who else are you working with to achieve your objectives, eg partners, advisors, mentors?

Our most important partners are the involved cycle messenger companies as well as the rail way operators. Furthermore we are proud of our wide network of supporters with organisations such as Climate-KIC, myclimate, WWF and Impact Hub Zürich.

We are working with a network of freelancers in the area of communication & design

We are collaborating with researchers from the University of Wuppertal & ETH Zürich, two of the worlds leading technical universities, to develop an innovative dispatch and linehaul optimisation software solution.

We are a member of the global Impact Hub Network which gives us access to a big pool of changemakers and innovators.

We've participated in the Innovate4Climate (I4C) program in Switzerland. I4C is a three stage accelerator program jointly run by Climate-KIC Switzerland, Impact Hub Zürich and WWF Switzerland, targeting entrepreneurs with innovative solutions to tackle climate change. ImagineCargo has gone through all three stages of the accelerator program. The most useful part of the program has been the contact with other ventures and the exposure to inspiring, skilled and well-connected mentors/coaches. Furthermore through the program we've had access to the masterclasses of Climate-KIC, a comprehensive collection of classes covering a wide range of topics such as business modeling, team building, lean startup, marketing & sales, pitching, etc. Our participation in the Climate-KIC community continues to grow and develop in breadth & depth.
We also participated in the 2014 edition of the Investment Ready Programme organised by Impact Hub Vienna. This was a three stage mentored program aimed at refining our business model and enabling us to pitch to potential investors at the CEE Impact Day in Vienna in July 2014. This program enabled us to learn more about impact investing, give real investor pitch experience and expose us to actual investors. Investor relationships developed during this program have evolved into ongoing discussions.