When Roadie first hit the streets, founder Marc Gorlin saw an opportunity to create a logistics marketplace that was somewhat of a “UPS, eBay and Airbnb spun together.”
Seven years later, Roadie is now officially under the UPS banner.
Roadie started with the premise that there is a “natural resource of regular people and regular vehicles” that have extra space as they travel throughout the city, Gorlin told Hypepotamus. What made the idea so powerful was that it scaled a network of drivers that gave businesses the same-day delivery tools that have traditionally only been available to the likes of Amazon.
That helped small businesses and large corporations like Delta and The Home Depot work through logistics and local shipping challenges.
The pandemic showcased just how important a network of drivers can be for businesses of all sizes. Roadie helped Tractor Supply, Advance Auto Parts, and even the craft supply company Micheal’s get omni-channel capacity up and running during the early part of 2020.
“You might not think that sidewalk chalk and Rainbow Looms are essential items. But if you have a bunch of kids trapped at home, they become pretty essential pretty fast,” Gorlin said.
While Roadie’s airline business dried up at the early part of the pandemic, retailers could not scale delivery options fast enough. That helped Roadie become an essential network for customers and businesses alike.
“Our drivers were awesome. They essentially went from doing side hustles and gigs to becoming essential workers overnight. They were delivering groceries to people that couldn’t go to the stores. Sidewalk chalk and rainbow looms aside, we were delivering cleaning supplies, food, and prescriptions,” Gorlin said.
BEHIND THE ACQUISITION
UPS and UPS Capital have had a long relationship with Roadie, including joining in on investment rounds since 2015.
Gorlin also had a previous relationship with UPS through Kabbage, the FinTech giant he built in Atlanta with Kathryn Petralia and Rob Frohwein.
In addition to the capital investment, Gorlin said partnering with UPS for insurance provided necessary “credibility” to those looking to send items using the Roadie network early on.
The UPS acquisition of Roadie officially closed in October of this year. Though exact numbers were not disclosed, Gorlin said that UPS “took care of all of our employees in a way that you don’t typically see in an acquisition.”
The acquisition looks like a natural fit for two companies tackling very different problems in the logistics space. Roadie drivers have the capability to deliver oversized items and perishable goods, as well as take on 2-hour delivery options that traditional “hub and spoke” systems like UPS can’t manage.
The acquisition made sense, Gorlin added, because “the goods transported by Roadie are not going to cross into the UPS network, and UPS packages aren’t going to cross into the roadie network.”
BUILDING IN ATLANTA
It’s no surprise a startup looking to shape the future of transportation infrastructure would be born in Atlanta. Roadie’s first HQ is less than 10 miles from “Mile Zero,” the traditional crossroads for the Southeast’s railroad network.
Roadie scaled quickly both in Atlanta and across the country, but Gorlin said he is proud that “a lot of OGs” have stuck around to make Roadie an Atlanta success story.
“My startup advice, in spite of what everybody else says, is you need a designer and a lawyer first. You’ve got to have somebody to make it look like something bigger than it is and show people the path forward. You’ve got to convince investors and employees and all these customers. And then you need someone to keep it street legal from the get-go.”
Now, the Roadie team is ready to go and scale with UPS. For Gorlin, the acquisition is a chance to ensure Roadie is on streets and highways for years to come.
“This is my fifth startup. So for a founder like me, you want to build something that actually lasts,” he said. “UPS is one of the biggest shipping logistics companies in the world. There’s a chance decades from now that my great-grandkids are going to get a Roadie delivery. And that’s pretty cool.”
* * Featured Photo: Marc Gorlin after being named Entrepreneur Of The Year® 2021 Southeast Award winner.