Creating a courier community
"I enjoy technology and the fact that it creates efficiency to make our lives more simple" ... Erin Mulvey.
When Erin Mulvey bought a chest of drawers in Bellingen in northern New South Wales a couple of years ago, she was stumped about how to get her new purchase back to Sydney.
She rang trucking companies and got quotes ranging from $250 to $600. “You just didn’t know who to trust,” she says.
A couple of years later and Mulvey – who has neither a programming nor a transport background – has developed LoadMax, an online marketplace for moving goods that won’t fit into boxes, by connecting people with something to move with transport companies.
The site aims to provide low cost goods transport by selling space in trucks that might otherwise have gone unused. For example, an empty truck might be returning to rural NSW after dropping off a load in Sydney and the owner will be glad to take a load to help offset the petrol costs.
Users post on the site what they want moved and when, and truckers can bid for the work. Like eBay, users can post feedback on the service they’re received.
LoadMax takes a cut of cost of moving the goods – 9.9 per cent for inexpensive loads, and a lower percentage for larger loads.
To get the site underway, Mulvey had to create a market. She initially targeted active sellers on eBay and at the same time cold-called and emailed truck drivers to get them looking for jobs on the site.
“It does help to improve [transport companies’] business because it’s all about backload and filling up capacity. If they’re going in that direction anyway and they don’t have their truck full it fits perfectly,” Mulvey says.
Mulvey envisaged that the site would mostly be used to move furniture – its first shipment was a tennis umpire’s chair – and mainly appeal to consumers. But it has expanded significantly since its launch 12 months ago, and now moves cars, boats, horses and, containers. Businesses have also started using the site, with some mining companies using it to arrange the transport of heavy machinery.
When Mulvey spots a gap in the market – someone wanting to move something but not getting any quotes – she’ll contact transport providers in that area to tell them about the site.
The site is “better than breaking even” and has never had a day where it hasn’t attracted at least one new customer, says Mulvey. “In terms of a wage, it does support me and obviously the maintenance and the search engine optimisation,” she says. “But it’s only in the last three or four months that it’s taken on a life of its own and actually been viable economically in terms of paying for me and paying the costs. It’s pretty good for a start-up.”
“I enjoy technology and the fact that it creates efficiency to make our lives more simple, the fact that LoadMax users don’t have to call around to get quotes. The transport providers come to you and then they’re reviewed. I think that’s amazing,” says Mulvey, 33, who has previously worked in advertising and as a drama teacher.
She has also founded another start-up, digital scrapbook app ArcLife, part of which US media giant Time Inc is using on licence.
Mulvey developed and funded the site with her own six figure investment from the proceeds of ArcLife. She turned down an offer of venture capital last year – “because it was such an early investment in the start-up they were asking for a lot of equity” – but is now considering another offer.
Nor has she so far joined a start-up incubator. “I think it’s better to try it out yourself for a long as you can. Everything comes with strings attached; they’re great opportunities, but you have to weigh it all up,” she says.
Next, the site will expand its reach to Australia’s west coast – and then to try to do for international shipping what the site is doing for Australian trucking.
The main difficulty Mulvey found was with working on her own. “Eighteen months ago it was a bit of a lonely adventure and some people didn’t really understand what it was about,” she says.
But that’s quickly changed. “Just at the moment there’s a bit of a tech start-up boom, which is really exciting. When I started 18 months ago, it still hadn’t taken off, but now there’s a lot of different things you can tap into like incubators and there just seems to be a bit more of a buzz going on.”
“It’s been a pretty amazing journey. I’ve been very lucky,” she says.