Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Atlanta-based delivery app ships just about anything

Posted By on Wed, Apr 9, 2014 at 10:39 AM

  • Kanga
That dining room table you saw on Craigslist looks like a sweet deal, but there's no way it will fit in your car trunk. You could befriend a truck driver or rent a U-Haul truck. But Kanga, a new app-based delivery service headquartered in Atlanta, offers what it says is a simpler, cheaper solution.

Much like the popular ride-share app Uber, Kanga connects customers with independent drivers in metro Atlanta. The customer uploads the delivery request before browsing a list of willing delivery folks. The user then chooses a deliverer and negotiates a fee based on a $15 minimum.

Kanga isn't just for trunk-defying furniture. A lot of business is coming from what company co-founder Everett Steele calls "Kanga moments" - a customer realizing a novel need for a personal delivery service. This week, for example, one Kanga user who forgot his iPhone charger at home hired a driver to fetch it from his wife.

All those "Kanga moments" are adding up. Since Kanga's March 26 debut, it's attracted about 100 delivery people and 1,000 customers, Steele said. He's already plotting aggressive expansion into other Southern cities later this year.

Yet Kanga is also a work in progress because most of its use determined by customers. The company lets users ship just about anything with a few key exceptions. They won't transport "hazardous" goods or illegal materials. They've banned taxi-style service like Uber. At the moment, Kanga has banned the delivery of prepared foods, but that could change in the near future.

There are also no rules on how deliveries happen. Most delivery folks have cars or trucks, but it's not required. "We've got at least one guy on a bike," Steele said, and another Kanga deliverer is running Midtown courier duty on foot.

That flexibility makes Kanga different from potential competition. Just this week, Uber announced its own bike courier service in Manhattan called UberRUSH.

"We're not overly concerned," Steele said of Uber's move. "We don't really think [Uber's] new service offers any significant innovation beyond currently offered courier services. But I have no doubt that they will continue to do cool things in the arena of transportation."

One limitation remains the company's service area - a roughly 30-mile-wide circle centered Downtown and shifted north to cover wealthy metro suburbs while leaving out parts of southwest Atlanta. Kanga hopes to expand its reach over time, Steele said.

Besides individual deliveries, Kanga is making arrangements with local businesses to be their official delivery service for a flat fee and mileage. The company's service would be integrated into the customer's order.

App-based "sharing economy" businesses are booming nationwide. But they're also drawing increased regulatory scrutiny. Earlier this year, Uber and Lyft were targets of unsuccessful Gold Dome legislation that would have tightened driver background checks and insurance requirements.

Steele said he doesn't think Kanga, which uses some Uber and Lyft drivers, will face similar regulations. Unlike the car-share services that bucked up against the traditional taxi industry, he doesn't think Kanga is competing with existing delivery companies.

Kanga does not conduct criminal background checks on deliverers, though it may in the future, and has no special insurance coverage. Delivery drivers are required to provide Kanga with license, insurance, and driving record information. They're also subject to user feedback and GPS tracking whenever they're using the app.

"We really, thoroughly believe security comes not from background checks, but from the fact [deliverers] are being pretty heavily tracked," Steele said. "If someone were to use it for nefarious purposes, it would be pretty obvious."

Kanga pledges to pay fair market value for any items lost or damaged, but offers no special delivery insurance. "We don't want to offer it because we don't want people to think they need it," Steele said.

While Uber and Lyft are already metro Atlanta hits, they're based in California. Kanga emphasizes its local roots and hopes to support local small businesses by offering affordable delivery services. Steele also named its kangaroo mascot Hank after a certain local baseball player.

"I'm a huge Hank Aaron fan - what he did for baseball, the city, race relations," Steele said.

Kanga will have a presence at various local events, including this weekend's Atlanta Dogwood Festival and next week's Sweetwater 420 Fest. Kanga booth staffers will hold festival shoppers' purchases for free while they party, and will deliver the items home for a flat fee.

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