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The start-up turning space into a commodity

Ever thought society could be making better use of vacant space in cars, buses and trucks as they move from place to place? That’s exactly what the four founders of the MeeMeep start-up are attempting to change, by creating a marketplace where people can sell this unused space and help with the delivery of products. Here, co-founder Will Emmett discusses the ups and downs of launching a business in the collaborative consumption space.

Once MeeMeep’s founders had identified the space that was available for sale, they then had to find things to move – which Emmett said took longer than expected. They knew parcels and packages were being sent between locations all around the world, but wanted to find a niche for MeeMeep to service.

“We eventually discovered a huge market of items being traded in online auctions that were pick-up only. Pick-up only items sold online are a huge pain point, as often the cost of having them moved can cost more than the item itself,” he said.

Now, MeeMeep is driving down transport costs associated with pick-up only items by up to 60 percent, making these purchases more accessible to buyers. Emmett told Dynamic Business the decision to specialise in this area is serving the business well.

“Initially we considered opening up MeeMeep to allow people to do a range of tasks. However, specialising [in delivery and the moving of items] has allowed us to create some fairly special partnerships and projects that we will be launching very soon,” he added.

When asked what “special partnerships” are in the works, Emmett clammed up. He’s unable to go into details at this stage, but did reveal the start-up is working on a partnership with a major Australian online retailer to handle the delivery of its pick-up only sales.

Staying focused

Despite this early decision to focus on a niche, Emmett said the start-up has faced its fair share of challenges – though he believes the story is similar for every new business.

“There are so many challenges with launching a start-up, it’s difficult to point out the single largest,” he said.

From building a brand and customer base from nothing, to getting the technology and product development side of the business right, Emmett said MeeMeep’s faced it all.

“I find the best way to overcome these challenges is to stay focused on core goals and focus only on what is important to the success of the business. It can be very easy to get distracted.”

The emotional trials that come with running a start-up are something Emmett has found especially challenging, though he said it doesn’t take long to learn the tricks to dealing with the ups and downs.

Launching a start-up is often described as a roller coaster ride and I can attest to that. Keeping the faith for others around you and yourself when things aren’t looking good, builds a very thick skin very quickly,” he added.

Although it can be a wild ride, Emmett said potential business owners and entrepreneurs should recognise that life is short.

“Go for it … I can’t stand hearing from people ‘I had this really good idea… but now someone else is doing it.’ If you have an idea, why not at least begin to explore the possibility of making your idea a reality.”

Everything is risky

When asked what the biggest risk facing his start-up is, Emmett has a simple answer – everything.

Financial and capital implications, opportunity, cost of time spent, reputation risk and product risk – and of course, is what you build attractive to consumers?”

The secret to managing all of this is to only take calculated risks and seek advice from people who’ve done it all before. As for lessons learned, Emmett says start-ups need to realise the importance of focusing on their core business levers, and continually drive toward these.

“Many people’s idea of a start-up is Facebook, Airbnb, Instagram or Pinterest. However, what people don’t see are the years and years of refinement behind each of these products before they become mainstream or the thousands of start-ups that don’t blow up across the world overnight. It’s a very busy space out there and it can take time to find your niche and the main levers that drive your business.”

And rest assured, Emmett will be practicing what he preaches. He and his co-founders plan to continue capitalising on the niche that forms the core of the MeeMeep business. 

“Our growth strategy is focused on creating a delivery solution for consumer to consumer transaction and online auction platforms before we begin to compete against other forms of mainstream transport,” he said.

But keep you eyes peeled, because the MeeMeep co-founder expects that within 3-5 years the start-up will be the delivery partner of choice for some major websites and their users.

“We very much intend to become a global brand,” he said.

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Lorna Brett

Lorna Brett

Lorna was Dynamic Business’ Social Web Editor in 2011/12. She’s a social media obsessed journalist, who has a passion for small business. Outside the 9 to 5, you’re likely to find her trawling the web for online bargains, perfecting her amateur photography skills or enjoying one too many cappucinos. You can follow her on <a href="https://twitter.com/#!/dynamicbusiness">Twitter @DynamicBusiness</a>

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