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Moving, whether it’s down the road or to the other side of the country, can be pretty damn stressful. Quite aside from the pain of leaving somewhere you may have come to regard as your home, there’s the hassle of finding movers who’ll treat your stuff with respect.
One company trying to make the second of those things a little easier is MoveThisStuff.
Headquartered in Johannesburg, the startup helps people find movers based on factors including how far they’re moving, what kind of stuff they’re looking to move, and what kind of movers they’re looking for. Once they’ve put in all that information, users can a booking based on the quotes available to them.
Fixing a problem
One of the most common pieces of advice you’ll hear given to entrepreneurs looking to get into the startup space is to identify a problem and solve it. And that’s exactly the approach MoveThisStuff founder and CTO Percy Lawrence has taken.
After overhearing a friend complain about how long it would take him to find a good mover, Lawrence had a light-bulb moment and decided to apply his skills as a software engineer to the problem.
While building the business, Lawrence entered the first annual #Hack.Jozi Challenge in 2015. And it’s from there that the MoveThisStuff story really starts to swing into action. Lawrence was one of the runners-up, receiving R350 000 to kickstart the company’s growth.
Perhaps more importantly though, he was introduced to a new business mentor in the shape of Clive Butkow. A seasoned investor, Butkow is the former COO of Accenture and one of the founding members of Grotech — a recently launched R100-million disruptive startup fund.
Shortly after Butkow became Lawrence’s mentor, he was hunted down at the South African Innovation Summit in Cape Town by Michaela Hogan, then in charge of another moving startup called Move Aid.
After explaining her business needs to Butkow, he realised that they were perfectly matched with Lawrence’s (Hogan was looking for someone with technical knowledge, while Lawrence needed someone to be the face of the company). After a couple of meetings, it was clear that the business chemistry was there. It didn’t take long before Hogan and her business partner Paule Welgemoed had moved to Johannesburg and two companies had merged under the MoveThisStuff banner.
Hogan took up the mantle of CEO, with Lawrence as CTO, and Welgemoed as customer relations manager.
The disruptive power of knowing nothing
By their own admission, the three MoveThisStuff founders knew nothing about the moving space when they got into it. Lawrence, as we’ve already covered, comes from a software engineering background. Hogan meanwhile came up in marketing and sales, and Welgemoed comes from a service customer support and operational background.
“We realised there was a need and a demand for a service like movethisStuff in the market,” says Hogan. “We saw the opportunity and started building the solution”.
While that lack of experience invariably means a steep learning curve, it can actually be an advantage for prospective entrepreneurs. For one, you’re not constrained by the “well that’s how it’s always been done” mentality that can plague incumbent players.
One thing they did know however is that, if they were to achieve their vision, they would have to get everyone from the big multinational movers to your typical “man with a van” on their side. Of course, getting the suppliers onboard means nothing if the people wanting their stuff moved don’t like the service they receive. The company’s bid to achieve that balance is evident in its business model.
Unlike other quote aggregators, MoveThisStuff doesn’t make money by selling your information to the more than 350 service providers on the platform. Instead, movers have an unlimited number of quote requests and only pay for business accepted.
MoveThisStuff also tries to make things as simple as possible for both potential movers and the moving companies. Distance, for instance, is calculated using Google Maps and inventories can be built using pictures. The aim of such features is to make it easier to calculate quotes quickly and to enable movers to provide a full breakdown of the costs involved in a move.
That, the company says, is particularly useful for “man with a van” type movers, allowing it to foster job creation in the space.
And to make sure no one uses the platform for nefarious purposes, MoveThisStuff has borrowed a few tricks from Uber. Movers and moving companies can rate each other, and anyone wanting to provide a moving service on the platform is vetted by the same company Uber South Africa uses.
Plans for the future
Right now, MoveThisStuff is largely bootstrapped, with the only funding having come from Lawrence’s #Hack.Jozi challenge prize. According to Hogan, the company is looking to raise funding as it expands its market reach and team beyond the three founders.
At present, most of the movers on the company’s register are based in Johannesburg, so it would like to expand its national presence. And from there, it wants to grow into Africa and, eventually, the rest of the world. It’d also like to expand into the office removal market and provide quotes for more specialised services. For now though, Hogan says, MoveThisStuff is happy to focus on one thing at a time right now.
Any funding the startup gets will also have to go into consolidating its early-mover advantage. Right now it’s closest competitor is Fastvan, but the market could get very crowded very quickly.
It also can’t ignore the threat posed by its chief rival. While Fastvan competes in more verticals than MoveThisStuff, it does already have an app, something which MoveThisStuff is still developing.