For two years in a row, the Kauffman Foundation has ranked Montana the #1 state in the nation for startups and entrepreneurs. Stories like how DropTrip came to be make it easy to see how the state’s startup ecosystem - and the depth of talent it attracts - is putting Big Sky Country on the map for big opportunities.
The original DropTrip team - CEO Doug Warner, VP of Marketing Nathan Williams, VP of Products Hauwa Yusuf, and Design Lead Shawn Farnum, all met at Startup Weekend Bozeman in October of 2013. Doug Warner pitched his original concept for a company that would arrange for international outdoor gear exchanges based on his less-than-stellar experience of trying to find suitable mountaineering equipment while traveling overseas. Nathan and the rest of the team saw incredible market opportunity in the idea, and joined Doug’s team.
As Nathan recalls, “we’d all experienced various levels of frustration trying to find the right gear while traveling, or having to pay what felt like exorbitant amounts of money trying to get our own gear to our destination…we saw how finding a solution to that frustration could scale to a global business model.”
Over the next 54 hours, the team transformed that concept into a robust business idea for a person-to-person delivery company that could alleviate the pain point of shipping bulky or awkward (i.e. expensive) gear of all kinds, and DropTrip was born. At the end of Startup Weekend, DropTrip was declared the winning startup concept - and the team saw the potential to continue developing the business with a headquarters in Bozeman.
Over the next 12 months, Doug, Nathan, Hauwa, and Shawn engaged in intensive market research to determine DropTrip’s viability. That research ultimately set them on the path of identifying the real pain points linked to shipping experienced by individuals and businesses. They developed a web-based, mobile friendly platform (with an app on the way) where users could post what they wanted shipped or picked up and how much they wanted to pay; and other users could then directly connect about delivery logistics and easily and securely get paid once the delivery was complete. (More recently, to improve trust and security, the DropTrip team also set up a new standard of insurance available to all users, at no extra cost: $5,000 of insurance for each eligible shipment and a $1 million liability insurance policy for the Traveler). That original product went into a closed beta user testing phase in early 2015. Nathan remembers the team being impressed by the huge initial success:
“Even in closed beta, we were able to ship $25,000 worth of stuff regionally among our user network…everything from specialty coffee, to strollers and huge industrial tools. It was incredible how diverse the uses were.”
Events like the Made in Montana Tradeshow also proved to be incredibly valuable resources for DropTrip. Nathan recalls that specific event as being the turning point in recognizing that providing small businesses a shipping alternative for heavy/bulky or fragile products was truly their sweet spot in the market. He also used a local example to drive home just how valuable DropTrip has been to the small business market:
“Bozeman’s Montana Sweater Company had this very large, custom-designed retail display stand in Missoula, and the cost of shipping it back to them was prohibitive. So, they were basically stuck, just waiting until one of their team members happened to be traveling that way so they could pick it up. Then they heard about DropTrip. They posted their shipment need and offered to pay someone $45 to bring it to Bozeman. The display stand was claimed that day and delivered a couple days later by a Missoula carpenter coming to Bozeman to visit family.”
DropTrip has now entered the open beta phase, where the general public is welcome to join the rapidly growing community of users who are shipping and delivering goods all across the nation. According to Nathan, ensuring those networks are connected in a reliable, meaningful, and useful way is the top priority for DropTrip at this time:
“Connecting communities in powerful ways to save them time and money is really our ultimate goal. That can be duplicated all over the world.”
DropTrip is also working on developing technical features that will allow for major growth and scalability. Montana is their first market, with user communities currently active in other states including Colorado, Oregon, Minnesota, and Washington. Once DropTrip feels like the strength and fluidity of their networks has been adequately proven, they’ll take the platform worldwide.
As Nathan points out, multiple global market factors are converging to make the timing right for a product like this:
“Market analysts are predicting the Sharing Economy is the next Industrial Revolution…it’s already influencing national and international economic policies. And, shipping is ripe for disruption…not to mention that DropTrip allows for more sustainable shipping practices by tapping into unused space in a vehicle already making a trip.”
For savvy financiers looking to leverage a great opportunity, DropTrip is currently seeking investment. They’re also asking people to sign up and tell their friends about the platform’s potential (more users = a more useful network for all of us). Anyone interested in learning more about either of these opportunities should visit http://droptrip.com/ for more information.