Five years ago, Rafał Brzoska was on the brink of bankruptcy. Now, his bet has made him into a billionaire!

It was the summer of 2016, and the walls were closing in on Rafał Brzoska. The then-38-year-old Polish entrepreneur had spent nearly two decades transforming InPost, a college dorm-room business that shoved supermarket coupons through letterboxes, into a $120 million–a-year commercial mail business. But competing against the government’s postal service was taking a toll. He had $65 million in debt and was trying to find new investors while staving off.

Those investors were not interested in Brzoska’s dying postal business but in the automated ecommerce lockers spinoff he had started in 2010. Amazon and other online retailers ship packages for pickup to these refrigerator-sized street lockers, which cost around $20,000 to install. They are popular because mail carriers in Europe will rarely leave a parcel unattended on a stoop. That effectively stops porch piracy, but if you miss the doorbell, you are in for a slog to the post office.

Poles were late to embrace online shopping, but by 2017, ecommerce sales were growing at a steady 20.4 percent per year. Then came the pandemic, and online shopping jumped 36 percent in just 12 months. InPost’s revenues soared to $677 million, up by 104 percent in 2020. Brzoska’s lockers handle 36 percent of all parcels shipped in Poland.

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