Atlantan gets big backers for Roadie delivery service

UPS, a fund tied to Google’s chairman and other investors are pumping $10 million into a Buckhead startup that has launched a business connecting people who want stuff delivered with people who are already driving in that direction.

Called Roadie, it promises another way to use technology to give consumers more competition for their business while giving workers – in this case people who happen to be driving near potential pickups and deliveries – a new way to make money.

It’s another example of what some consider “the sharing economy” that includes ride service Uber, lodging rental company Airbnb and others.

Roadie will announce today that it has raised funding from Atlanta-based UPS’s Strategic Enterprise Fund, Google chairman Eric Schmidt’s TomorrowVentures, former chief executive of Atlanta-based tech success Internet Security Systems Tom Noonan and others.

The company was launched less than a year ago by Marc Gorlin, 42, who co-founded Atlanta-based Kabbage, which provides fast, automated loans to small businesses. Roadie has about 20 employees, Gorlin told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

“The shipping industry is evolving rapidly. There’s a radical shift in consumer expectations thanks to an on-demand economy where everyone expects everything now,” Gorlin wrote in an email. “We’re making it possible for people with stuff to send to tap into excess capacity in vehicles already heading that direction.”

A UPS spokesman declined to comment.

Roadie is not the only business using technology to expand the pool of people who can make deliveries. Others have carved out niches, from delivering groceries and carting take-out from restaurants to intercity delivery such as locally based Kanga. Others, like Shype, aim at a broader customer base. And Uber has begun a limited delivery service.

Gorlin said the company expects to eventually be available nationwide. But to start, it will only accept shipments (called “gigs”) initiated in Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, South and North Carolina, Alabama, Louisiana and Arkansas.

So far, he said, Roadie representatives have tried to spread the word to crowds at college football games, concerts and festivals, giving out t-shirts and other items emblazoned with Roadie’s name.

Gorlin said delivery will cost $11 to $150, depending on factors including urgency and size. A 100-mile delivery might cost in the “low $30s,” Gorlin said. Drivers keep 80 percent of the charge; Roadie gets the remainder.

Gorlin said the idea came to him as he was frustrated trying to quickly get tiles shipped from the Birmingham area to a condo in Florida. He wondered if a system could be set up enabling him to find someone going from Birmingham to Florida who’d be willing to deliver the tile.

People hoping to ship anything from tiles to a birdcage can use a Roadie app (available through iTunes Store and Google Play) to be connected to interested drivers who sign up in the Roadie system and are willing to carry the shipment. The customer has to send a photo of the shipment in advance. Transactions are paid digitally through the Roadie system.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.