Moving, whether in-city or cross-country, can be a logistical nightmare, adding to the existing stress, both positive and negative that already often surrounds the process. It’s something many companies have tried to tackle in the past, looking to make it easier to book movers or rent vans for long, one-way trips. But startup Moveline thinks that previous solutions have been inadequate, and that only now with the help of mobile tech and cloud-based services are we able to come up with a service that truly addresses the major pain points of moving.
But to move forward, Moveline wanted to make sure that it could learn from the past. That’s why the Roanoke, VA startup got key early input from Chip Lawrence. Lawrence runs Lawrence Transfer and Storage, a Virginia company founded in 1932 that specializes in providing moving vehicles and services, and plays a big role in United Van Lines, which helps connect moving companies across the U.S. to ensure that inventory can be moved back and forth between independent regional transportation companies.
“Lawrence’s grandfather was one of the founders of [United Van Lines,] and Chip has been an innovator within that system for a long time, but those countries have sort of grown and stopped caring so much about the agents and the network, it’s sort of started to dissolve,” Moveline co-founder and CPO Kelly Eidson said in an interview. “The van line model is something that had a really good use in the past, but now with the way the industry’s changed and the regulations have changed, the industry’s open for consumer products and open for change in how companies interact with their customers.”
When Lawrence didn’t see the changes need being made on the United Van Lines side of the equation, he set out to find a better solution and looked around for a technical solution. Out of his initial interest, Moveline was born when he approached a Virginia ad agency where Eidson was working. Eidson teamed up with co-founder and CEO Fred Cook, and the company grew from there.
Moveline offers one-stop move planning for consumers, part of which is suggesting moving companies and truck rentals, providing full pricing breakdowns, and creating an online move inventory tracking system. The process is designed to improve on the current practice of having moving company agents actually enter homes and do an in-person tally of their house contents to give them an estimate on what a move will cost and involve. It’s also meant to make sure someone moving can keep track of all their options in one place.
“It’s a process that drains people’s energy,” Eidson explained, describing why Moveline thinks there’s plenty of demand for a tool like the one it’s offering. “And if someone’s moving, it’s because something important is going on in their lives. They’re getting married, they’re breaking up, they’re starting a new job. It’s always a matter of wanting your focus to be on the thing you’re really excited about, but then having the moving process being a distraction.”
Users of Moveline take video or connect directly with the startup’s employees via FaceTime to do their moving inventory; the startup uses a combination of automated tools and trained employees on the backend to analyze their moving needs based on what they see, and users don’t have to have strangers come into their houses to conduct manual inventories before giving quotes. The process is labor-intensive, Eidson admits, but she also says that they’ve already streamlined things considerably; whereas once it used to take two days to do an accurate inventory via video, now it takes only a few hours. Plus, once it’s complete, users have access to an itemized inventory of their stuff they can use to keep track of things during the move, or employ again if they move multiple times during a year without changing out much of their stuff.
The company is starting out serving moves to, from and within the New York area, but will be slowly expanding its geographic focus via beta pool signups. It makes money by taking a percentage of the total contract value from service providers who connect with customers via its service, and has backing from incubator TechStars NYC and other private investors. The biggest challenge for this startup will be scaling, but if it can find the right formula to do that effectively, there’s plenty of opportunity in this space.