A City analyst who began to cycle to work every day and became fascinated by the world of the cycle courier has invented an app and website that he hopes will become the Uber of the courier world.
With its own fleet of cycle couriers, the founder, James Middleton, a former hedge fund analyst, still gets on his own bike to meet courier demands - and his wife, an actress, also does it to make extra cash.
However the company says it’s revolutionising the courier industry with its app and website that cuts costs and says that Street Stream is the first digital service to transform the courier industry in the same way Uber shook up the minicab world.
Companies and the public are put in direct contact with cycle, motorbike and van couriers who compete to offer the most competitive prices and the best service.
Couriers quote less for jobs because they are dealing directly with their customer, removing overheads and charges.
Because Street Stream's couriers are rated by customers it is in their interests to be reliable, professional, competitive and polite.
James used his business expertise to analyse the courier business model to identify its strengths and weaknesses, as well as try to solve a sector currently beset by disputes, rancour and low customer - and courier - satisfaction.
James said, 'With the traditional way of booking a courier everyone loses out. Firstly, the customer is paying over the odds to the big courier companies - the middlemen - which pass on their high overheads.
'Then the courier has little incentive to be polite or efficient because they have no real direct relationship with the client. Sadly, many couriers today are not happy with their wages and have no job security and few employment rights because they’re usually freelancers rather employees.
“Add to that the fact that most bike, van or motorbike couriers have to hire walkie-talkies, uniforms and handsets to get work and it is easy to see why couriers are lacking motivation.
'Put simply, the customer is overcharged and the courier is underpaid. The courier companies exploit the fact that the customer and courier can't get in touch directly. This is where Street Stream steps in. Customers book the couriers directly through the website. Radios are replaced with the app and the courier company controller is no longer needed.
'With Street Stream the customers and couriers are in control. The courier decides what jobs he or she wants to bid for and the customer chooses the courier they want. They might choose the closest - something the website shows - or the cheapest, or the best rated.'
Customers enter details on the website of the package they want picked up from where and delivered to what address by what time, as well as any other essential information. The couriers, all fully vetted by Street Stream, are alerted of the job request on their app and log their quote. Then it is up to the customer to choose.
Once the quote has been accepted, telephone numbers are swapped and the customer is kept up to date about the delivery at every stage. When the item is delivered the time and recipient's name is logged on the mobile app and the customer alerted.
Secure payment by card is held for two days to ensure everyone is happy. Then the customer can rate the courier.
Street Stream automatically insures all deliveries up to the value of £100, but additional cover up to the sum of £5,000 is available (£1 extra covers goods up to £1,000, £2 insures £2,000 and so on up to £5 for £5,000).
James has seen how the couriers have been motivated by the desire to work hard to please their client to get a good reputation to get more work, rather be ordered around by the courier company controller. Meanwhile, the customers like the fact they get a choice of courier and are impressed with the improved prices and service.
While there have been unusual requests for deliveries, such as couples wanting cooking ingredients or wines biked to their homes for a dinner party, traditional clients include film companies, fashion PRs and high-end stylists, food and drink traders and photographic agents.
When booking a delivery customers can make a donation to the London Courier Emergency Fund, an organisation supporting cycle couriers who suffer injuries in their work.
After an unpromising start, having to be bribed by her parents to learn to ride without stabilisers, Sarah became rather keener on cycling in her university years, and was eventually persuaded to upgrade to proper road cycling by the prospect of a shiny red Italian bike, which she promptly destroyed by trapping a pair of knickers in the rear derailleur. Sarah writes about about cycling every weekend on road.cc.