The rise of the on-demand economy means you can order a cab with your phone and have just about anything delivered quickly — as long as you live in certain big cities. To help the rest of the country get goods delivered same day, start-up Roadie just raised $10 million.
The mobile app, which launches today on both iOS and Android, uses the vast number of daily commuters on the road to create a person-to-person shipping network. Opening the Roadie app reveals a map of people driving to and from various destinations, as well as delivery requests.
The name “roadie” is in reference to the roving troupe of technicians that travel with bands on tour. Roadie, the mobile app, makes plenty use of band jargon. In the app, drivers are called “roadies,” who select “gigs” for cash. A “gig” in this case consists of picking up an item from a place you’re already in and delivering it to a destination near wherever you’re headed.
Alabama based founder Marc Gorlin dreamt up the idea for this company while sitting in traffic going from Montgomery, Alabama to Birmingham. A contractor was supposed to deliver bathroom tiles to his condo for an emergency renovation he was doing, but the tiles got held up. He needed to go pick them up himself or else wait three days to have them delivered. As he was sitting in traffic it occurred to him that there was probably someone in that traffic coming from Birmingham. If he could have just known who that person was, he could have reached out and asked them to deliver the tiles.
“Southern hospitality, is something that is genuinely southern,” says Gorlin. He says his company is very much based on the idea that neighbors should be inclined to help one another.
Roadie users pay a base fare plus an additional fee per mile traveled for deliveries. When the payment comes in, 80 percent gets paid out to the roadie and 20 percent goes back to the company. Roadies pull in roughly $8 to $150 per job depending on how far they have to travel.
Gorlin says all drivers who sign-up for Roadie must do a background check with the company. Regardless, people who list gigs do not have to have items delivered to their home. Instead they can meet the roadie in a public space, like a rest stop. In addition to the background check, users can rate and recommend roadies.
Starting today, you can initiate a gig if you live in Florida, Tennessee, Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama, Louisiana, Georgia, and the Carolinas. Gorlin says the fully functioning app will roll out more broadly across the U.S. later this year.
In the mean time, Roadie has a lot of work to do. Amazon, eBay, and even Google are already pushing same day delivery services in major cities around the country. Even without counting those three major companies, there are still an abundance of delivery services being offered by start-ups, e-commerce retailers, and traditional shipping services.
However, Roadie could appeal to a large and underserved market — people in less densely populated areas of the country. Already the company is angling itself as alternative to expensive shipping. Gorlin says he envisions the app being used to move fragile antiques or anything you find on Craiglist.
At the very least, the company has support from UPS Strategic Enterprise, which participated in this round of funding. Other investors include Eric Schmidt’s TommorowVentures, Warren Stephens of Stephens Inc., and Square co-founder, Jim McKelvey.