Can The "Lyft Of Moving" Take The Pain Out Of One Of Life's Most Hated Activities?

The newest entry in the sharing economy is NextMover, a Santa Barbara startup that aims to be your affordable, reliable "friend with a truck."

Moving sucks. It's exhausting and stressful and expensive, and cutting the exorbitant costs means either taking chances on Craigslist, or imposing on family and friends.

Santa Barbara startup NextMover aims to ease these pains as a convenient, vetted marketplace for "your friend with a truck"—essentially a Lyft for moving that connects movers in need of help with truck owners looking for extra work.

Alexander Kehaya & Max James

President and CEO Alexander Kehaya had the idea for NextMover last summer after a friend complained about the trauma of moving his family to a new house. As a high school Spanish teacher, Kehaya had built an entrepreneurship program at the school where he worked, teaching startup methodologies to high school and middle school students. "I've always had a million ideas for businesses I'd start, and in the past couple of years have used marketing validation techniques popularized by Steve Blank to validate my own ideas," he says. Kehaya thought NextMover might be the one, so he recruited longtime friend Max James, as well as one of his own entrepreneurial-minded 15-year-old students, to present the idea at Santa Barbara startup weekend last November. NextMover took the top prize and raised $65,000 on the spot, and has been operating in Santa Barbara for local moves since January.

Truck owners, whose vehicles can range from pickups to larger commercial trucks, sign up and go through a vetting process that includes interviews, a background check, and vehicle inspection, before they're activated in the service. Consumers then visit the site and can choose among truck owners depending on their budget and needs, and can also see bios and user ratings.

"We first started with only pickup trucks, 'your friend with a truck,' because we realized that there are a lot of pickup trucks that aren't being utilized and that perhaps people would be interested in using that to make some money on the side," says James. "We have made a pivot since then and moved to more of a larger, open marketplace. The people with pickup trucks that want to make some money on the side can still do that, but the marketplace is also for small businesses, or people who have a larger vehicle or a box truck that they use for other things. Our platform is so easy for them to use that they are willing to try it out and use their trucks when it is convenient for them."

Diversification of vehicles has also carried over to pricing. Initially, when it was just pickups, NextMover charged a flat fee of $35 per hour, with the truck owner keeping $20 and $15 going to NextMover—but as consumers have different needs, truck owners now set their own prices for movers to consider and NextMover takes 20%.

"When we switched to this open marketplace, we got good feedback from the truck owners and also on the consumer's side: Not everybody needs just a pickup," says Kehaya. "There are some people that would like it if you had a trailer. They would pay more money for that because they've got more stuff to move. Sometimes they want two people to come and help them, not just one guy and a truck. It really opened up the services that we can provide."

There are, of course, limitations to moving with NextMover. It only works for local moves, and is less ideal for people with large houses who truly need full-size moving trucks and comprehensive service. "And we can't move pianos," says Kehaya. "You're better off with somebody who has all the straps and equipment for that." But Kehaya believes the demand for the convenience and cost savings that NextMover provides is plenty large for local markets.

"Our original hypothesis was that the low cost would be the biggest value proposition for our customers," says Kehaya. "On the average we are about 50% cheaper than similar services. But it turns out that's really third on the totem pole. The convenience and the community aspect are the things that people consistently tell us when we show them our website and talk about what we do. When I ask people, 'How would this benefit you?' they say, 'It's convenient, and it's somebody from my community that comes to help me move.'"

While NextMover is currently assuming insurance responsibility for its early moves, the company does ask truck owners to carry commercial insurance, which many already do as handymen or other small business owners.

"Professional moving companies don't always step up and take care of you," says James. "We are going to do that. That's something that's really important to me. I had a friend who hired a traditional moving company that quoted him $2,000. They showed up and they charged them for every single dolly they brought out of the truck, every box, every piece of tape, everything and it doubled the quote. Part of the thing that our platform provides is security for everyone in the sense that the price is what it is. It's a rate you set ahead of time and if it's processed through our system, nobody's going to come to you and say, 'Hey, we are holding your house hostage until you pay us for it.'"

NextMover is currently operating only out of Santa Barbara in order to perfect the system on a small scale, but the company is currently preparing for a new round of funding to expand to other cities. Kehaya says they've already signed up a few hundred truck owners in other cities, such as Austin, that they will have on hand to vet when expansion is possible.

"This is an extremely fragmented market," says Kehaya. "There are just a lot of old incumbents that are ripe for disruption, and we're really excited about that."

[Images courtesy of NextMover]

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