By Tim Omarzu Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) "Roadie" lets people who need to move bulky items download its smartphone app and create a "gig," or a request to ship. Drivers in the Roadie "community" -- ordinary people who've had their driving records checked out -- search gigs. When drivers find gigs they like, they agree to toss the item in their car's trunk or in the back of their van, truck or sport-utility vehicle.
Chattanooga Times Free Press, Tenn.
An avid bicyclist who lives in Atlanta recently found a used bicycle trailer for sale in Chattanooga -- but needed a way to transport it.
There's an app for that: Roadie.
"By the next afternoon, the trailer was delivered to his doorstep," said Marc Gorlin, the founder and CEO of the Atlanta area startup business that bills itself as a "neighbor-to-neighbor shipping network."
Roadie has gotten the attention of Chattanooga's burgeoning transportation and logistics startup scene -- and investment from at least one businessman here.
Roadie lets people who need to move bulky items download its smartphone app and create a "gig," or a request to ship. Drivers in the Roadie "community" -- ordinary people who've had their driving records checked out -- search gigs. When drivers find gigs they like, they agree to toss the item in their car's trunk or in the back of their van, truck or sport-utility vehicle.
Pricing is determined by distance and urgency, in addition to size. Most local gigs will cost between $8 and $50, and long-distance gigs with oversized items can cost up to $650 -- or even more for delivery of pets. Roadie keeps a percentage, while the driver gets the rest.
Roadie delivers to the recipient's door, same day, next day and on weekends. Both the sender and receiver can track deliveries in real-time via smartphone and goods are insured up to $10,000.
The ideal Roadie driver picks up extra cash en route to places they're going anyway, Gorlin said, which is easy on the environment since he figures there are more than 1 billion square feet of excess capacity in passenger vehicles already on the road.
"As a Roadie driver, you get paid for going where you're already going," Gorlin said.
And it's not necessary to use cardboard boxes and foam peanuts to pack items shipped through Roadie, he said.
Roadie launched in the Southeast in February 2015, and has since become available in all 50 states. It's done tens of thousands of deliveries, Gorlin said, and has more than 30,000 drivers.
Roadie has gotten $25 million in venture capital, Gorlin said, including from the shipping giant UPS. The startup business, which is based in Buckhead, Ga., and has about 35 employees, hasn't yet turned a profit. But Gorlin expects it will. "We're a nonprofit for the moment, but we're working on it," he said.
One investor is Fred Decosimo, a shareholder in Elliott Davis Decosimo LLC, a Chattanooga accounting firm that's one of the largest in the South.
Gorlin, who has relatives in Chattanooga, pitched the Roadie concept to Decosimo, who declined to say how much he invested. "He asked me, because I've helped him on some other startups that he's had," said Decosimo. Marc Gorlin's father, Steve Gorlin, is an entrepreneur who's been involved in 15 to 20 biotech companies, he said.
"Marc's got good genes," said Decosimo, who said Gorlin has been involved in what's described in the tech world as a "unicorn," or startup that's gone on to be worth a fortune.
"He's got a unicorn that he started several years ago with some other people -- a unicorn being worth at least $1 billion last year," Decosimo said. "Marc's got a unicorn under his belt."
Decosimo doesn't know if Roadie will hit it big.
"I don't have a clue," he said. "Marc has got a really great reputation for startups and being honest. That's about all you can ask for. He's got some extremely impressive investors, not counting me. Some with tremendous reputations."
Roadie also has caught the eye of Santosh Sankar, the director of Chattanooga's new Dynamo Accelerator, which helps fledgling trucking, logistics- and transportation-focused businesses. It has a "sibling" Dynamo fund that offers $18 million in early stage investing in logistics startups.
"We are aware of Roadie and, by chance, have good relationships with a couple of their investors," Sankar said via email.
"They raised their first round before Dynamo was spun up, but is an interesting concept/business model we keep an eye on."