Innovation & Enterprise


UCL entrepreneur profile: BoxxDocks Co-Founder and CTO James Della Valle

UCL architecture alumnus shares his experience of launching an award-winning startup while studying for his master’s, with support from UCL Innovation & Enterprise.

James Della Valle, BoxxDocks Co-Founder and CTO

4 April 2024

James was part-way through his BSc Architecture at UCL when he and his two co-founders, Alessandro Attanzio and Amarjit Pall, hit on the idea for BoxxDocks. Their business is helping logistics companies boost efficiency and become more sustainable, with the first ‘smart boxes’ of their kind.

James and his two co-founders have been supported to set up and grow their business as part of the Hatchery incubator programme at BaseKX, UCL’s dedicated entrepreneurship hub in King’s Cross.

Meeting an untackled issue

“Our journey with BoxxDocks all started during lockdown when I was working on a placement as part of my architecture degree. Myself and two colleagues Amarjit and Alessandro noticed a pressing untackled issue in the UK logistics industry. Namely, the lack of innovation and visibility in distributors’ backend logistics.

We could see that many businesses were struggling with a lack of visibility into the whereabouts and condition of their shipped goods. So, we thought why not find a way to address that problem. We came up with the idea of fitting reusable packaging (such as plastic logistics boxes) with advanced tracking and tracing technology, to help companies boost efficiency in their supply chain, while also doing away with single-use plastics and cardboard to lower costs and emissions.

Studying while growing a business

At that stage, we were still a long way off BoxxDocks becoming a revenue generating company. So, I went back and started my architecture master’s at UCL, and things got properly going over those next two years.

Looking back, it was a lot to do at once. But it also taught me to get very good at decision making and time management, because I had deadlines to meet with my studies and limited time to get everything done for the business.

Joining UCL’s Hatchery incubator programme

A lot of the time as a startup, you just need to be together at a desk. So, our first step was to look for some in-person space. Someone told us about UCL’s Hatchery programme run by UCL Innovation & Enterprise, and we applied and were accepted. Having that desk space and tailored support meant we could meet up in person, put a plan together and really go at things from there.

As well as all the helpful facilities at the Hatchery, I was able to tap into my connections at The Bartlett School of Architecture at UCL. That was great for getting access to useful contacts we needed, to help us build a prototype of our platform, for example. Having the UCL logo on our decks also helped with building credibility with potential investors.

In 2021, BoxxDocks was named one of the top 100 startups in the UK by TechRound. That led to us securing the Wired Award in 2022 by TATA. In 2023 we won Santander’s Hatchery Startup of the Year award and a spot in TransportTech 50, who ranked us in the top 10 of the UK's most innovative tech companies in logistics.

After receiving business support from UCL Innovation & Enterprise, BoxxDocks secured investments from TechStars, British Design Fund and Angel Investor to take their solution to market.

Growing the business with UCL’s free extra-curricular support

It’s been a rapid and exhilarating journey, and the input we’ve had from UCL has been pivotal in all of it. Not just in giving us a physical base, but also in the support we’ve received from the startup experts at UCL Innovation & Enterprise.

They helped us access finance to develop our product. They helped us explore different markets. They let us know about competitions to get our name out there, like UCL Demo Day.

When you’re a first-time founder, you don't really know what you're doing, you’re trying to navigate this world of investment, and launching and development. So one of the best things has been being surrounded by other UCL entrepreneurs who are in the same boat as us. We ask each other questions, we signpost each other to different bits of support. Having that community is game-changing.

Having a tangible impact

I’ve now finished my master’s and am working full time on the business. I never would have thought I’d end up working in a field like logistics, as it’s quite a niche and hidden industry. But I absolutely love what we’re building and doing. By leveraging our technology, we’re empowering logistics companies to take accountability of their operations in a way they haven’t been able to do before.

We’ve recently launched with a UK leading pharmaceutical distributor, Sigma Pharmaceuticals. We’re helping them by tracking their logistics packaging across their national supply chain, enhancing efficiency and supporting their path towards net zero.

We’ve also signed contracts with two UK logistics companies and are in conversation with multiple enterprise across the pharmaceutical, food and retail sectors. Our focus now is continuing with our growth and product development, while we work towards a seed round in 2025, to scale our business.

Advice for budding entrepreneurs

Would I recommend entrepreneurship to other UCL students or graduates? Absolutely. But it’s vital to remember that success as a founder demands a huge amount of dedication and hard work. Be prepared to put in the time and effort required to nurture your business and see it flourish.

In terms of support, the best way of describing UCL is it’s a bit like a treasure box. There’s so much you can access. So, if you have the drive to go and build something, you just have to be willing to ask, and you’ll find someone who can help you. It’s all there for the taking. My advice is to jump in headfirst, and really make the most of what’s available.”