June 3, 2014
If you read my last article on Tech Cocktail about a startup named PivotDesk, you would have noticed that I think very highly of the newly emerging “sharing economy.” I think, along with many others, that the “uberfication” of the service industry (with startups like Uber, Airbnb, TaskRabbit, and many others leading the way) is only just beginning, and that this notion of a sharing economy will disrupt many industries in coming years.
I’m here to say I’ve found yet another industry on the verge of disruption because of this notion…local moving.
Located in Chattanooga, TN, a burgeoning startup community in its own right, Bellhops is a tech startup that helps you “book college students for local moving help.” With an army of over 8,500 student movers in 121 cities, the service works similar to car-sharing service Lyft where a young professional, incoming college student, or local mover of any kind will request “Bellhops” to help them load and unload their moving trucks, and the request is sent to a company-wide job board where college students registered to work with the company can choose to “claim” the job either as a “Captain” or a “Wing-man.” This way of working gives Bellhop student contractors more freedom at work, as Inc. chronicled in this article, which empowers this student workforce to continue delivering the exceptional customer experience and upbeat branding that the company is known for.
As company cofounder Cameron Doody shared with me over the phone, the company began “with $1,000 and a goal of moving 20 people in the first year.” After putting up a simple website and spending that startup capital on an advertisement in a new student orientation pamphlet, however, “we moved 250 people in three days,” explained Cameron excitedly. The company has now gone on to raise a seed round of funding from Lamp Post Group, Chattanooga’s premier venture incubator.
The pleasant surprises didn’t stop there, however. “LPG (Lamp Post Group) is probably one of the most special places in the world for startups,” Cameron went on to explain. “It’s the total opposite of most VC groups.” With the unique support that they’ve been able to get as one of Lamp Post Group’s investments, the company has gone on a rapid expansion recently and is quickly threatening to completely disrupt the local moving industry. In the last year alone, they’ve more than quadrupled their revenues, struck nationwide partnerships with key companies like U-Haul to give them the proper infrastructure for their moves across the U.S. with the flexibility of a startup company, and (as I mentioned before) grown to over 121 cities.
What’s next for Bellhops and for the entire notion of a “shared economy”? No one really knows for sure, but both certainly look promising, and before you know it, the green-headbanded student workforce of Bellhops may be moving bigger competitors straight out of the market!
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