Almost four years ago when we met Marc Gorlin at a little MODEX booth in Atlanta, his company was nearing their three-year anniversary. We were immediately hooked by their business model, which was a fairly familiar one: just like Uber or AirBnB, Roadie had taken the rising idea of crowdsourcing and applied it to another ever-expanding hole in the marketplace: shipping.
“We literally use the crowd of people that are going across town, a couple states away, or across the country,” Marc, the Founder and CEO, explained to us back then. “We allow them to make money by going where they were already going anyway.”
Drivers are paired with parcel deliveries for businesses or individuals, and they transport the packages to their destinations–– oftentimes providing faster, same-day delivery than many major postal service providers. The company had already delivered to more than 9,000 cities nationwide — that’s a larger footprint than Amazon Prime –– before the Covid-19 pandemic ever hit.
“And you don’t have a choice, really, to do it,” Marc explained in regards to the need in the delivery industry to drive more and more efficiency. In 2017 Amazon lost nearly $7 billion in shipping that they didn’t recuperate in fees (which is three times the profits some major corporations like Target see in a single year).
When we caught up with Marc at MODEX 2020 two years later, Roadie was showcasing a new partnership with Delta Airlines. Users could schedule packages to be picked up by Roadie drivers, flown on Delta airplanes, and then picked up by Roadie again for last-mile delivery.
Back in 2018 when we first met Marc, there were already 75,000 drivers on the Roadie platform–– as of 2021, there are now over 200,000. According to Marc, the pandemic helped Roadie sign on more retailers who quickly needed to find a way to get orders to shoppers who were avoiding stores.
The wide variety of Roadie’s driver locations and vehicle types means unparalleled adaptability. “You can flex… because there’s an unlimited capacity, and almost no other delivery workforce has this,” Marc explained. “There’s 250 million vehicles with 4 billion cubic feet of capacity–– more vehicles than UPS, FedEx, and the U.S. Postal Service combined.”
But it looks like that comparison is about to change somewhat.
Now, in the midst of their search to break into the same-day delivery market to keep up with competitors like Amazon, United Parcel Services (UPS) has taken notice of Roadie and has moved to buy the platform.
“Today is a great day to be a Roadie,” Marc wrote in a post on LinkedIn, linking to an article in the Wall Street Journal about the big news. “I couldn’t be prouder of our team for having built something that now has the potential to change to face of logistics worldwide.”
Roadie’s fleet of gig drivers can address some of the limitations faced by standard UPS delivery, such as irregular package sizes, perishable items, and even shopping bag handling. According to the Wall Street Journal, Roadie will continue to operate under its own name. Goods transported by Roadie won’t cross into the UPS network, and goods shipped via UPS won’t enter the Roadie network.
The deal is expected to close by 2022.