Dan Fell and his mother were in a quotidian predicament: they needed to move a large table, but they had too small of a car to carry it. She wished someone could “schlep” it home for her, she told her son.
“At that moment, Dan knew the world needed Schlep.”
That quote is from Craig Williamson, who, along with Fell and colleagues Hunter Riley and John Godwin, is a founder of Schlep, an on-demand moving service. Accented by the tagline “Your neighbor with a truck,” the company seeks to connect users in need of moving assistance with a reliable, local “Schlepper.”
Operating on the ever-visible Uber model, Schlep maintains a network of movers serving the Chicago metropolitan area. A user simply requests a Schlep, submits some preliminary information (day, time, number and size of items, pick-up and drop-off destinations, etc.), and waits for the schlepper to arrive (with coffee, if desired).
The cost of a Schlep generally ranges from $50 to $150, depending on a few variables, including distance and number, weight, and size of items transported. The price is determined, Williamson said, by a multifactorial algorithm, which generates a quote. (The site provides the following averages based on a 10-mile radius: $50 for a job that requires one mover, $85 for two, and $125 for three.)
Schleppers keep 80% of the user’s payment for the Schlep (the company takes the remaining 20%) and keeps all of their tips, the site promises.
There are, of course, well-documented customer safety and liability risks for “sharing economy”-modeled enterprises (take a distracted driving lawsuit against Uber, for example), but Williamson is confident that the company has taken the necessary preemptive measures.
“All of our Schleppers are thoroughly vetted in a multi-step onboarding process which includes face-to-face interviews, orientation sessions, and a complete background check,” he said. “We are well positioned to deal with the legal and regulatory environment having observed some of the issues our predecessors have experienced. We are working diligently to make sure we are ‘crossing all of our t's and dotting our…lower case j's.’”
In addition to legal issues, these companies have faced commercial risks, garnering opposition from more traditional businesses within the industries they’re attempting to reform. Is Schlep in danger of threats from large, established moving companies, like U-Haul?
“It's a concern, but we don't believe that major moving companies want to play in this space,” Williamson said. “Unlike our model, they have full-time employees. We use independent contractors and are doing jobs that are on the lower end of the price range...Many major moving companies don't see this as a good use of their time. Also, the professional moving market is severely fragmented. Almost 90% have less than 100 employees. We have been able to sign up 30 Schleppers already with a next-to-zilch marketing or recruiting budget.”
The company, which was founded in October, 2013, incorporated in November, 2013, and had a soft debut in September, 2014, employs three full-time and an additional three part-time. Currently, Schlep is purely web-based, with an app in development. Its angel round will close at the end of 2014, according to Williamson. “Our expectation is to have our A round finalized by June of 2015,” he added.
The funding will likely be directed toward hiring and technological development. And after that?
“Once we have built the technology to scale, we have plans to move into six cities in 2015 and then 15 more cities in 2016, “Williamson said. “From there...the sky is the limit.”
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