Santi Ureta is a man with plenty of experience of start-ups.
Having started his career with Deliveroo in Spain, he then made his move into the transport industry with start-up Orkestro, which specialised in last-mile delivery, where he was product operations manager.
Ureta, who is from Barcelona, then moved to Dija, a grocery delivery company that was later acquired by Gopuff, where he worked as product manager.
All this experience, combined with his time as a consultant for sustainable fleet operators, gave Ureta a clear understanding of the pain points facing those in the transport industries, particularly around sustainability, and then around the actual management of the fleet.
On setting up a fleet with Dija and Gopuff, Ureta said: “Firstly I wanted the fleet to be sustainable to make the consumer proposition more appealing, and everyone has Net Zero targets.
“We know that last-mile emissions are increasing, so it’s a no-brainer to have a sustainable, electric fleet. But that was easier said than done.
“I had two main problems – the first was on the sourcing side, and the second was on managing the fleet.”
While setting up the last-mile delivery fleet, Ureta needed a multimodal fleet (different vehicles for different jobs), which meant he couldn’t source vehicles from a single firm.
Then after finally sourcing the vehicles he needed for the fleet from six different service providers in London, Ureta then needed to manage these different vehicles.
“That’s where the second problem appeared,” he said.
“Every single service provider had their own systems to interact with. Those systems were like WhatsApp groups, email, Google Spreadsheets, some of them had fleet management tools, and as a fleet manager I had to interact with all of them.”
After all of this to launch one fleet in London, Ureta then needed to expand to Manchester and Paris, so would have to start the whole process again.
That is how the idea for Papaya was born.
First up for Papaya and its founders was to establish a single platform that would allow fleet operators to manage their vehicles efficiently, without dealing with multiple operators simultaneously.
Ureta said: “Papaya is a platform to source and manage electric vehicles, and to interact with all stakeholders on one single platform.
“We’re trying to build this digital infrastructure where everyone can come in and interact with each other.
“But if we start at the top, we have a very clear mission: We want to help fleet operators electrify their fleets.”
Founded in 2022, Papaya is targeted towards any organisation that operates a fleet of vehicles, from logistics companies, supermarkets, police forces, and local authorities.
The next development for Papaya was the launch of an innovative B2B marketplace, which was officially unveiled in June.
This industry-first marketplace connects fleet operators with service providers, allowing them to compare prices and find additional services like maintenance.
Both the marketplace and the management platform can then be used in unison, so fleet managers can source and operate their vehicles all in one place.
The marketplace also serves as a shop window for Papaya, allowing fleet operators to find the business in the first place.
Ureta said: “We have the fleet operational tool, and we have the service provider operational tool, and both tools can be used as a standalone product, but then they can be connected.
“Now any fleet operator that wants to move into a sustainable fleet, they can find the vehicles and services they want, they can purchase them, and then as soon as they have made that transaction they’re hooked into this platform that allows them to manage it efficiently.”
So after its initial launch and the development of an industry-first marketplace, what next?
“This is just the foundation,” said Ureta. “Our vision is to build the biggest ecosystem for sustainable vehicles in the world. So almost like a plug and play software, where if you have any services that you want to offer for sustainable vehicles, you can plug in. If you need any of those services you can just plug in, very similar to Shopify.”
And what changes has Ureta seen in the fleet industry in recent years?
“We’ve seen some massive changes,” he said.
“We’re seeing sustainability is coming to the top of the agenda for companies – whether that’s because of political pressures and cities introducing emission zones, we’re seeing companies thinking ‘we need to do this [electrify the fleet] and we don’t know where to start’.
“We’ve also seen a new market appearing of services and new vehicle types made for the purpose.
“We’re almost seeing the beginning of a small revolution of people moving away from automotive vehicles. I don’t think we’ll get completely away from automotive and petrol vehicles, but it will be a combination, and we’re seeing that micromobility is growing much faster.”