By Christian Kreznar
“Moving is an $18 billion industry that people loathe.”
It’s a dire pronouncement, but Bellhops CEO Luke Marklin is almost unrelentingly positive. As of today, the moving services startup has expanded to 31 metro areas, maintained near perfect levels of customer feedback, and secured $51 million in venture funding (the latest round, a Series C led by Advance Venture Partners and announced today, brought on $31.4 million). “It’s a big industry with very little technology, and a big opportunity to disrupt,” he says.
At its core, Bellhops is a matching service, connecting people looking to move with drivers and loading crews through a single interface. Users give their zip code, property details, and preferred dates to receive estimates and schedule the trip. They’re then connected with the truck owner-operators and movers who are registered on the app (“Bellhops” in company speak). Underpinning the platform is a rigorous battery of reviews that track the performance of individual Bellhops. Scores determine which workers are kept on, promoted, and given access to preferential jobs. “We have over 30 pieces of data on every move – reviews from customers, Bellhops review each other – it manifests in a report card you can evaluate in real-time,” says Marklin. “Traditionally, the problem with the industry is a lack of hospitality. Moving is an intimate process – people are inviting us into their homes.”
Bellhops’ tech solutionism is paired with a corporate culture that stresses a polite, hardworking demeanor – ensured with the aforementioned reviews and a lengthy vetting process. Think Southern hospitality by way of Big Data. (In a local news PR coup, Marklin was able to showcase the company’s culture, giving a car to a 20-year-old Bellhop who’d walked 20 miles to his first day of work.)
If it all seems familiar, it’s no coincidence. Marklin is an ex-Uber executive, and Bellhops is openly following their playbook: rapid expansion, promotional rates, and copious data collection. And, just like Uber, its revenue streams are propped up with significant venture capital. Bellhops declined to comment, but Forbes estimates total revenue for the company is in the low double-digit millions, a figure dwarfed by their $51 million in venture backing.
Bellhops was founded in 2011 by Cam Doody and Stephen Vlahos in Auburn, Alabama. Initially a college business, the two had early success marketing their services to freshmen during move-in. By 2013, Doody and Vlahos had graduated, and with seed funding from Chattanooga’s Lamp Post Group, developed the base tech that Bellhops now operates on. The team followed the money and set up shop in Chattanooga, where the company is still headquartered.
The new platform brought them attention and further funding. In late 2014 the company completed its Series A, a $6 million deal led by Binary Capital that also brought on names like Alexis Ohanian and Garry Tan of Initialized Capital Management. Only a year later they closed their Series B, a $13.5 million round led by Canaan Partners with further buy-in from their earlier backers. Read more at Forbes.com
Walter Carr and Bellhops named as a favorite moment of 2018
When Walter Carr's life was transformed by viral altruism this summer, he was a 20-year-old college student who regularly walked miles to work in Birmingham, Alabama, because his 2003 Nissan Altima constantly broke down. On the evening before his first day at Bellhops in July, Carr realized he'd have to walk 20 miles...
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