When Ben Jackson was in college, he was everyone’s go-to guy with a truck. Anytime a friend bought something from Craigslist or needed to move across the quad, he was the one to call. After one day when he did four runs on his ’99 Ford Ranger, he wondered if there was a better way to automate this process.
After the customer takes a photo of the item they need moved, the app alerts suitable, vetted drivers in the area about the job. The driver helps load and secure the item in the truck and the customer can follow it via GPS to its drop-off location.
Though they’re now quickly scaling, back at the inception of the startup, Jackson and Proffitt hit a few obstacles before they were able to validate their idea. After a few costly missteps that stemmed from selecting developers that weren’t a good fit and delays in delivering an MVP, Bungii was delayed a whole year before its first iteration.
Jackson shares that learning to invest in your product and not taking shortcuts when it comes to talent was his first essential lesson as a startup founder. As a B2C founder, the second was to go where your customers are.
Bungii launched to “not so great fanfare,” shares Jackson. The team decided to push through the uncertainty brought on by not seeing an immediate onslaught of new customers and try out various customer acquisition models instead.
“The only other option left was giving up,” says Jackson. “I’m not sure if was providential or stupidity but thankfully we didn’t the let the doubt and uncertainty of our failed launch dictate how we responded to it.”
A week after launch, they decided to flip their customer acquisition model and put the app in front of their target customers at a local flea market. For 12 hours a day, the team pitched their product to those buying furniture and large-scale items that might be in need of a truck.
“A week after launch that we had to reassess everything — the product market fit, customer acquisition, user expectations, need states, etc. Post — (failed) — launch, we spent the next few days identifying the top 10 channels that we thought could lead to customer acquisition,” says Jackson.
“Then for the next six months, we attacked the list. Hitting the pavement at the flea market was at the top of our customer acquisition list so we started visiting it virtually immediately.”
The list led to a solid customer acquisition model that now allows them to quickly expand to other markets — most recently, Atlanta.
“It’s important to cycle through different customer acquisition approaches because every new market is different,” says Jackson. “Each city has a unique culture and identifying exactly what makes a city tick is extremely important for us. The first phase of our city launch plan is spending a couple weeks with our team physically in the city. We step into each new market trying to see things from the local’s perspective.”
According to Jackson, the new model has allowed them to grow four times faster month over month.
“The silver lining to our failed launch was that we had to be extremely intentional about customer acquisition. Because of that, we learned exactly which channels directly lead to revenue and which ones don’t,” says Jackson.
“We used what we learned in Kansas City as a playbook for our launch in Atlanta, which ended up going better than any of us expected. Our city launch playbook is far from complete as it will continue to be refined with city launch in but it gives us a solid starting point when entering new markets.”
That playbook worked, and the Bungii team raised a $3 million funding round in late January. The funds are earmarked for further expansion.
After a visit to Atlanta in December 2017 and touring the Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC) following an investor recommendation, Jackson saw potential for scaling within the Atlanta market and gaining essential knowledge from the Georgia incubator.
“ATDC has been the difference between coming into Atlanta completely blind and having a fantastic support structure on day one,” says Jackson. “When we initially came to Atlanta, we didn’t know anyone. Thanks to ATDC, we have successful entrepreneurs (the EIRs) connect us with top talent from Georgia Tech, introduce us to corporate partners, recommend top VCs and even sit down with us and help think through business challenges.”
Shortly after, they joined ATDC as a Signature company and moved their operations to Atlanta. “Being an ATDC company is absolutely a game changer,” says Jackson.
The truck rental startup continues its expansion in Atlanta and will be unveiling a new city within the next month.