New shipping company starts at ASU

SMACK! A package labeled “fragile” is thrown aggressively into a moving van as crowds of students rush to pack up their dorms and head home for the summer. Every year, pieces of furniture or treasured belongings are broken or mysteriously vanish.

What if there was a way to ensure your favorite lamp or customized skateboard made it safely to its destination? Introducing Kaargo, an eco-friendly solution to your shipping needs.

The service is similar to Uber, except for packages instead of people. Using the app or the website, customers can either post a shipment or find a trip, depending on what’s available. Drivers post their route for the day and pick up items that are on the way.

For example, if you need to ship some books to your parent’s house, you would simply enter your current location and then the books' destination. If there is someone in your area planning on driving near the books' destination, the Kaargo driver can come pick up your items and deliver them ASAP. Plus, there’s no need to place your items in any sort of packaging, which eliminates a portion of the waste created by typical shipping methods.

Kaargo is working to bring its services to Arizona State University, so State Press Magazine got the inside scoop from its owner, Sarayu Srinivasan.

SPM: How did Kaargo get its start?

SS: I was actually looking to invest in a company like Kaargo when I was a VC (venture capitalist) and couldn’t find it. I waited, believing somebody would start it, but years passed with nothing. The idea for Kaargo kept resurfacing. And resurfacing. So I knew I had to start it. That said, I’d been thinking about the broader space, watching developments for almost 15 years as an investor and before that when I was on the operational side.

Some of the early seeds for Kaargo were planted when I was in college. I wanted to send stuff home before summer, two crates of books, cooking equipment, a heavy rug, a fish tank, so I could leave on a trip. I didn’t have a car and had no way of finding out who did. I also didn’t know who was going to my destination and might be open to drive my stuff. So it was UPS, FedEx or nothing. They were expensive, and I wasn’t sure if my stuff would arrive in one piece. Just YouTube Fedexfail or UPSfail to see what I mean - it had happened to me. I had to spend more money - which I didn’t have - on costly packaging. It costs a lot to transport a heavy rug and pots and dishes. In the end, I didn’t ship my stuff commercial; I stored it at school.

Years later, when we started Kaargo, it was not only to create a marketplace for excess capacity and to provide personalized, choice-driven service for people vs. an impersonal carrier, but also it was about offsetting the costs and impact of owning a car by maximizing utility and carrying something for a fellow community member. It was about reducing the crazy packaging waste and impact on the environment. By the time we launched, there was a much bigger social mission behind Kaargo than a simple marketplace.

SPM: Why did Kaargo choose to launch and pilot at ASU?

SS: I was invited to be the keynote speaker at the Startup Summit last fall and so I had the chance to experience ASU firsthand. I was blown away. I was very impressed with the students, faculty and campus. As the largest university in the country, I was surprised to see it ranked as the most innovative as well. The outreach to the native, local and under-served population, the first School of Sustainability, the beautiful eco-friendly campus, Dr. Crow’s leadership and all of the progressive initiatives together made it an overwhelmingly natural choice for us to launch our university vertical at ASU. In addition, one of our investors is Dr. Craig Barrett, patron of the Barrett Honors College. I was so impressed with my visit, in fact, that I agreed to act as an EIR (Entrepreneur in Residence) teaching, judging and mentoring on campus.

ASU’s large population, dispersed campus, local/regional/national student body, commitment to the environment and sustainability, focus on entrepreneurship and social impact, and the need for students to earn money/offset car ownership as well as transport stuff all the time - groceries, furniture, stuff from and to home - all made it a strong partner to launch with.

SPM: How can people, specifically ASU students, get involved with Kaargo?

There are two ways.

First: to use the platform and tell others about it. The platform will be most useful at scale, so in addition to posting, searching and buying, it’s important to encourage others to do the same. Spread the word that you’ve posted trips or shipments and keep coming back. Building a robust marketplace will take some time, but at scale, ASU will have a powerful platform on its hands.

If you’re driving, moving in or out or heading to Costco, post your trip with code ASU, or search for shipments matching your drive. Earn money.

If you need to send something home or pick up an item from Wal-Mart and don’t have a car, search for matching trips or post a shipment (with code ASU). Get on-demand delivery and support a fellow student.

Second: it’s to come work with Kaargo!

We are looking for ASU students and alumni - seniors, graduate students, alumni for leadership roles, undergraduates for everything else - to help build Kaargo at ASU. You’ll have the opportunity to not only work at a mission-driven startup but, in some cases, help build and lead a Kaargo team at ASU.

In all cases, whether a manager or ambassador, you’ll gain experience at a pedigreed startup with a seasoned team, make meaningful and relevant contributions daily (no getting coffee here to pay dues - you’ll be making waves from day one) and deep ties to ASU.

If you’re interested, send your CV and a cover letter explaining your background and the roles your fit for to jobs@kaargo.com with the subject line Kaargo/ASU State Press in the subject line.

SPM: Why should people choose Kaargo over a different shipping method?

Kaargo is an alternative option to existing commercial carriers. It’s a more responsible, greener way to deliver and drive and also may be more efficient, faster and cheaper. Kaargo is particularly useful for shipping oddly-shaped, heavy or fragile items.

By leveraging a shared resource model, a trip that is already happening, as captured in our tagline, “Somebody’s already going there,” Kaargo is maximizing capacity utilization of an expensive asset, your vehicle.

Kaargo eliminates the numerous trips a commercial carrier UPS, FedEx, DHL would make to complete one delivery or shipment, by using an existing trip, and in turn reducing traffic and pollution and the total negative impact on the environment (all to ship your one package!)

Kaargo also creates income for people. Owning or renting a vehicle is costly. Offset that by doing what you already do: driving to Costco or heading home for a weekend - and help a fellow ASU Sun Devil out in the process. It’s a win-win-win situation.

SPM: What are some of Kaargo's plans for the future?

We’d like to provide a meaningful, sustainable utility platform for people to maximize their excess capacity: to transport things, earn money and leave the world a better place in the process.

We’d like to help create more time for students by providing them with a way to earn income doing what they already do - driving somewhere - and give up meaningless, dead-end desk or waitressing jobs, freeing up time for academic or social activities. We also want students to feel like things they send or items they have “delivered” from stores are being handled with care by people they trust.

Ultimately, we’d like the ASU Kaargo partnership to be so successful that it is the example for other universities. And beyond. Eventually we’d like everyone to see Kaargo as an alternative to commercial carriers.

While we are working with a handful of other schools, we hope to pilot the Kaargo platform most successfully at ASU and, of course, put ASU on the map yet again for another social innovation. But we need the help of the ASU community to do this.

SPM: What are the ways in which Kaargo helps the environment? Are there other benefits?

First, users eliminate commercial carriers on the road. UPS, FedEx, DHL and other carriers usually end up undertaking multiple trips by road and air in order to deliver your stuff from point A to B. By eliminating these trips with one existing trip, Kaargo lessens the pollution, traffic and carbon emissions and ultimate impact on the environment.

Second, by promoting a shared resource model, Kaargo is maximizing the capacity utilization of a very expensive asset: your vehicle. Your car is not only costly in terms of money, but also in impact to the environment and our lives.

Third, using Kaargo eliminates the need to buy wasteful and harmful packaging such as brown boxes, peanuts, bubble-wrap, Styrofoam and plastic packing material and other completely wasteful materials. At scale, eliminating this unnecessary waste - if each ASU student used Kaargo just once instead of a commercial carrier - can have a massive impact. We’re told that by 2040, there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish… Let’s not let this happen.

Fourth, Kaargo provides a source of income and personalized service to community members. Users can be sure their precious things are being carried with respect and care. Drivers know they are providing a needed and important service and creating peace of mind while making money.

Fifth, Kaargo frees up time by doing what you already do: picking up things at Wal-Mart for another student, driving their surfboards down to spring break and eliminating the need for dead-end jobs and to focus on what matters.

Sixth, Kaargo creates a community.

Seventh, Kaargo is a great way to ship anything but particularly things that might be oddly shaped, heavy or fragile. Think musical instruments, kitchen or sports equipment, furniture and rugs, chandeliers and glass ware, toys, crates of books, etc. 


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