Moving App Zootly Wants to Make Your Relocation On-Demand

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Have you ever been in a situation where you need something moved (like, right now), but don’t have a truck or the manpower to get the item from one location to the other? A new company is trying to take some lessons from the rise of Uber to take the challenge out of moving. Launched in 2015, the Zootly on-demand moving app connects anyone who needs a mover or delivery with a professional mover in minutes.

Whether it’s for moving a couch, a whole home or even getting some big purchases home from a day of shopping, the idea is that you can get a van or a truck and some movers when and where the need arises.

Street Fight recently caught up with Zootly CEO George Colwell to talk about how the moving vertical lends itself to this kind of on-demand service, and how the company plans to build out its product.

Where did the idea for Zootly come from?
It was basically born out of frustration. Our founder Rudy Callegari was trying to move a couch one day and could not find help. That is the impetus of where the company came from. From there we expanded our view on exactly how we can participate not only in residential moving, but in last-mile logistics.

Can you talk about the specificity of taking on a vertical like “movers” and what that can imply for other verticals.
The biggest difference is around the regulation. Particularly in New York State, household goods  moving (which would be the residential movers), is extremely heavily regulated to protect consumers. A lot of what we had to do is really figure out how to be compliant with those regulations.

The other difference it is a really fragmented industry in that there are a couple big players but no one has significant market share where you can look at them and say they have 40 percent of the market. There are a lot of small operators that operate independently, they have a few loose industry organizations, but other than that don’t really talk amongst each other and they are also very illiterate when it comes to technology. It’s almost like the industry that time forgot.

What’s Zootly’s coverage area and what are your expansion plans?
Currently we are within 100 miles of New York City and are about to launch in New Jersey. We have plans to go national in Canada in late spring this year and we are working on some partnerships that will take us not completely national in the U.S. but give us coverage in 15 states. We are hoping to do that in late spring, early summer.

All of it is through super-regional partners. These are larger relocation companies that operate in multiple jurisdictions. We are working on deals with three super regional relocation companies right now that are going to give us a big footprint across the U.S.

How are the dynamics of the moving business the same or different from other verticals?
Traditionally, everybody has a horror story of moving. One of the bigger things we have to be aware of is building a trusted brand in this space and letting people know we are doing things differently.

We are only working with partners we’ve done a significant amount of vetting. Aside from the standard stuff to make sure that they are registered with the Department of Transportation correctly and that they have their insurances for both moving and for the vehicles, they have workers comp and all those sort of standard things. We do a lot more detailed vetting around customer service feedback through premium sources like Yelp and Angie’s List and the Better Business Bureau, but then we also do a much deeper dive into the company to make sure the principals of the company have not been involved in previous bad dealings in the industry or have a number of lawsuits for companies they may have ran in the past.

We are very concerned with who are partners are and the reason for that is we are very concerned about the brand we are building. Because we are aggregating fleets, we have to make sure every partner shares our view around customer service.

What are the key trends contributing to the growth of Zootly?
There’s a couple of things we are learning as we go through here. Number one, the app economy and the use of the app around some of the use cases we are involved in are a little limited. When people think of residential moving they’re thinking of a number of things and typically are doing research either on a desktop or a laptop. We are seeing web traffic to our website.

We are launching a true on-demand server that will truly be [for example]: you are out at an antique shop and you want to buy the china hutch and the antique shop doesn’t provide delivery and you are wondering how you are going to get this thing home. That’s really going to be the sea change in how people shop and how people actually get the larger items back to their house and where they need to go. For example you may be in a furniture shop and they say yes the piece you want is in the warehouse, however, the delivery window is Saturday between 3:00 and 5:00, and you say “What if I wanted to send a van out there right now to get it from the warehouse?” You could actually do that.

On commercial side we’re looking at a number of scenarios where if last mile is part of their value chain, they are reconsidering whether or not they actually want to keep vehicles on their balance sheet or just want to augment with a service like Zootly. We can do business cases where we can take a look at what their cost of operating is on these vehicles and we can tell the with certainty it would be a heck of a lot cheaper to basically use us by the hour to facilitate what you’re doing.

We had a conversation with one really unique company. He used us 10 or 12 times. What he does is he makes custom ductwork for HVAC installations. He goes to a house or a building where he measures everything. He goes back to his workshop and fabricates it but he doesn’t keep a truck. So every time he has to do a delivery of his custom fabrication, he uses us to do that. He is an innovative young guy who is at that place where he doesn’t want anything that isn’t germane to his core business and would rather pay for utilization.

I think there’s going to be more and more of those models where when you look at the grand scheme of things it doesn’t make sense to keep any asset, whether it be a moving truck or a car or anything that you are only using limited amounts of time. You pay per use. I think more and more people are going that way.

Let’s talk a little about the on-demand aspect and timeframes for folks needing help.
It’s the supply side conundrum. We’ve partnered with a company that can have 40 vans with different configurations of crews (some have one man, some have two men). They are going to be on our network. It’s one of those things where we are in the growing pains where we need to be sure there is a constant supply for the demand.

What we will figure out shortly is exactly how do we incentivize. When you think about the Uber model, you never see an Uber ad for consumers, all you see is drivers wanted. All their incentive programs are to keep drivers on the road and to put more drivers out on the road. On the on demand side, we are going to be in that same situation where we are going to have to find that happy medium where we are incentivizing people with guaranteed minimums to be available, but we don’t want to do it to a degree where we are not matching supply with demand. As it grows, we are going to have to do more of that and more of that balancing act.

Right now what we are aiming at is a 30-second SLA for a response. So as soon as you click here is my pick up location and here is my drop off location and request a van, we want to have a 30 second response time to say yes we can do it and we want to have a 20-minute service level agreement with our consumers and partners that within 20 minutes that van will be at your location.

Liz Taurasi is a Street Fight contributor.