Sunday, January 10, 2010

Markets in Everything: Auction-style Shipping

( -- In 2001, Matt Chasen's mother wanted to send an antique dresser from Ohio to Texas, but was staggered when she received a $1,000 shipping quote -- far more than the dresser was worth. Unable to find a cheaper option, she never sent it.

One year later, Chasen reserved a nine-foot truck to move from Seattle to Austin. When he arrived at the rental center, the only one left was a 20-footer, so he took it. Standing in the back of the cavernous vehicle, he thought of his mother.

"I thought, 'Wow I wish I could have gotten in touch with people with half-empty trucks to move my mom's dresser,'" he recalls.

The idea: Inspiration hit Chasen, 34, like a Mack truck. Why not create a sort of eBay for shipping, a Web site that would make the process cheaper and more efficient by taking advantage of all the empty trucks on the road?

So he started six years ago and has brokered $125 million in shipping fees.


At 1/10/2010 1:07 PM, Blogger sethstorm said...

The problem is that it makes shipping costs more unpredictable. Never mind the questionable hit on quality.

At 1/10/2010 1:29 PM, Anonymous gettingrational said...

Individul results may vary but the concept is brilliant.

I looked through the site and was attracted by the bid to haul a striper -- yeah, I read it to fast; this was a bass fishing boat.

I may drive to Kentucky to haul a 60 lb. alfalfa hale bale to Plant City, FL. The current low bid a few minutes ago was $1891 !

At 1/10/2010 1:45 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hear that SEIU and the Democrat party are going to insist that anyone shipping goods join the union, or at least pay union dues. So much for personal initiative.

At 1/10/2010 3:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chasen's a freight consolidator. Not exactly a new business. If I understand this article correctly, what is new is Chasen is consolidating non-professional shippers. One question though: if I put my antique dresser in your mostly-empty 20-foot truck, brokered by uShip, who guarantees that (a) the truck actually goes to its destination, and (b) that you don't steal my antique dresser?

At 1/10/2010 5:06 PM, Blogger KO said...

Great idea. In college I would have glady trucked some extra freight to help defray the costs of renting a car or truck to or from school. Or paid to just move what I had.

It appears that most of the shipping is done by commercial companies trying to fill up capacity. It seems kinda like which is basically selling excess capacity.

At 1/10/2010 11:39 PM, Anonymous Lyle said...

Moving companies have always done this internally, now some one has decided to disintermediate the moving companies. This follows the trend of moving middle men who add little value out of the supply chain. (See travel agents for most travel...)

At 1/11/2010 2:50 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It appears that most of the shipping is done by commercial companies trying to fill up capacity

Which is strange, because companies like Mayflower have always done freight consolidation internally. If the two of us have half a semi's worth of stuff each, it's all going in one trailer. What do they need uShip for?

If I understand Priceline, they actually buy rooms in advance, while I doubt uShip is buying shipping capacity in advance.

uShip taking VC money made no sense to me. Service businesses are the classic low up-front costs, grow from internal cash sort of businesses. Keep it lean, which at 50 employees uShip isn't.

At 1/11/2010 12:09 PM, Anonymous feeblemind said...

I agree that it is a great idea in the abstract and is apparently working well. Still, I wonder about the legality of someone just renting a truck or a trailer and charging people to haul freight. Hauling cargo for hire as opposed to hauling your own cargo (not for hire)falls under separate sets of regulations. It probably would work great until you get caught.

Re randian's case of the antique dresser: Wonder if insurance would cover the dresser in a rented trailer if the dresser was being hauled for a third party that was paying for the service? What would happen if the trailer was wrecked and the dresser was destroyed?

At 1/12/2010 9:46 AM, Anonymous DrTorch said...

Love it!

I heard a presentation at the MITEF a few years back by a company called, doing something similar w/ professional carriers.


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