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Roadie is like Uber for shipping

TechCrunch TechCrunch 16/05/2016 Kristen Hall-Geisler

“Someone is always leaving everywhere”: that’s the idea behind Roadie, a peer-to-peer package delivery service launched last year by Marc Gorlin. There are something like 250 million vehicles on the road every day, Gorlin said, so he decided to take advantage of this resource by allowing people to help their neighbors out by driving things to places they’re already going.

Gorlin said in a phone interview that Roadie has already had 250,000 downloads and 20,000 drivers in its first year, and thousands of items are ferried to their destinations in private vehicles each month. The cost of shipping the item depends on its size and how far it’s going; an across-town delivery costs about $8, while a piece of furniture being moved a couple of states away will be a few hundred dollars. When you post a gig on Roadie, drivers headed in the right direction will make an offer, which you can accept or ignore.

Drivers are rated and reviewed, and Roadie relies on that pretty heavily. Drivers who’ve logged lots of miles get a Road Warrior badge to distinguish their record. You get to pick your driver, unlike Uber, where you get whichever driver answers your request and shows up at the curb. Roadie also has an agreement with Waffle House to take the Craigslist creep factor out of the transaction. Whether you’re picking up or dropping off, you can meet at a 24-hour Waffle House and get a free cup of coffee, thanks to your Roadhouse benefits.

There’s a photographic chain of command, Gorlin says, to make sure your item arrives in the same shape it was shipped. Every gig is covered by $500 in insurance, but you can buy up to $10,000 extra. All drivers get free roadside assistance when they’re on a gig, and they get a summary of miles driven on gigs at the end of the year so they can write those miles off on their taxes. And you get what Gorlin calls “the most deterministic tracking,” since you can follow the gig on your phone, and even call or text the driver.

That community is the key for Gorlin. “We had a couple of guys road tripping from Texas to Oregon,” he said, “and they picked up gigs to pay for gas. They went to a pick-up at a house and found a dying grandmother and greiving family, and they asked to pray with the family. Then they delivered the grandmother’s stuff to her granddaughter in Oregon. You don’t pray with your postman.”

Gorlin loves to tell stories about gigs, like the guy in Brooklyn who found the perfect stained glass window for him mom’s antique shop—in Atlanta. He trusted Roadie more than a traditional carrier with the fragile piece. Or the woman who needed to send a 9-foot surfboard 400 miles as a birthday present for her boyfriend. “It’s like creating magic,” Gorlin said. “People can send things where they couldn’t before.”

Of course, you can ship anything anywhere if you’ve got the cash and the packing materials, but that’s another difference for Roadie gigs—no boxes or Styrofoam peanuts required. You can help the driver lash that highboy into a truck bed, or you can just throw your stuff in the backseat of the driver’s SUV. Roadie has even added pet gigs to get your animals where they need to go, though drivers seem to need to only answer a few questions to get the Pet Lover Badge initially.

What makes this different from on-demand ride sharing services like Lyft, or even food delivery services like Door Dash or Caviar, is using the app to mesh the driver’s goals with the shipper’s goals. “On demand means someone’s coming where they weren’t already going and taking you somewhere they weren’t already going,” Gorlin said. “With Roadie, this is where you’re already going. It’s more efficient.” No packing peanuts necessary.

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