News, Insights and Stories from the Australian and New Zealand tech ecosystem.

Startup CartHopper disrupts the furniture removal market

So you need an item moved from one location to another and it’s too large to carry or fit in your boot? Hiring a removalist or renting a ute can be too expensive an option – especially when you only need a few items moved. Wouldn’t it be simpler to find someone with the right vehicle who happens to be going in your direction? Such is the idea behind a new Australian startup, CartHopper

Launched earlier this month, CartHopper is an online platform that allows people to post jobs and have items moved from point A to B by someone in the community with the right vehicle – whether it’s a ute, trailer or van – going in the right direction.

How does it work? Users simply post a job on CartHopper, nominate what they want to pay, and wait for someone to accept the job.

The idea spawned from personal frustration when Jacob Turner, one of CartHopper’s co-founders, moved houses. He bought a medium-sized piece of furniture at an auction house and struggled to squeeze it in the back seat of his sedan. Coincidentally, a man parked next to Turner who had extra space in his trailer and was heading in the same direction, offered to pop the furniture in.

Turner happily paid him $30 for the favour and was able to avoid the expensive delivery service offered at the auction venue. He pitched the idea to co-founders Kevin Skeen and Britney Marsden, who both agreed it was a pain point experienced throughout the community and wanted to create a solution. Mike O’Connor was soon to join the co-founders on their venture.

Co-Founders of CartHopper

Unlike other options such as hiring a removalist or renting a vehicle, CartHopper embraces the collaborative consumption model. This allows them to significantly bring down the cost of getting items moved from one location to another.

“Instead of asking our customers to enter their requirements for us to send off to drivers to quote, we let our customers nominate what they are willing to pay to have their stuff moved,” says Skeen.

“Bidding systems, as used by other sites, don’t often result in drivers hearing back on their quote or bringing down the cost for the customer. They also don’t allow a driver to instantly accept a job while they are on their way. We are disrupting the model by letting those who really want the job to accept it, and often making the driver extra cash on a trip they were doing anyway.”

The startup has been bootstrapped to date, and the founders don’t plan on raising external funding until they’ve hit some key milestones. Their diverse skill-sets in design and development meant that the original cost outlay was minimal.

“We did our homework, comparing other collaborative consumption platforms and dissecting their business models. We spent several months learning everything we could about the industry, soliciting feedback, creating wireframes and fleshing out the finer details, before we were happy with the minimal viable product we created that had a unique value proposition,” says Skeen.

Thus far, they grown the business by implementing guerrilla marketing tactics. They’ve all reached out to target customers and drivers through social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter. They’ve also done some targeted mail drops with their flyers; but their most successful marketing method has been Google AdWords campaigns.

The startup is yet to employ a monetisation model. At the moment, the CartHopper team are focusing on generating brand awareness and listening to customer and driver feedback.

“We want to ensure our customers and drivers are enjoying our platform the way they expect to. We have several monetisation models in mind, but our current focus is to grow our user base and build our brand,” says Skeen.

Their biggest achievement, like many other startups, has been getting that first satisfied customer. Early market validation boosted their confidence about CartHopper and the direction it will take.

“We were ecstatic when we found that one of our early customers found us through AdWords when searching for a ute to hire, successfully had their job completed, and then shared their experience on Facebook,” says Skeen.

“They reached out to us letting us know we had saved them a considerable amount of both time and money as they were planning to rent a ute and do it themselves. It was a great feeling to know that a customer found us unexpectedly, tried the service, and was so pleased with the experience that they wanted to share it and give us feedback. It felt like true validation.”

On the flip-side, the biggest challenge has been creating the Minimum Viable Product – a term used repeatedly throughout Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup. Skeen says it was easy to make assumptions about what features ‘should’ be built, without any evidence to back it up.

“The hardest part was filtering those assumptions down to a version that would deliver an acceptable user experience, while still being agile enough to adjust as we received feedback. All of our decisions are now very driven by data and the LEAN methodology,” Skeen adds. 

Nevertheless, the team are focused on refining the product based on user feedback; and this year they plan on building CartHopper to become a household name that’s synonymous with getting items moved.

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