How TechStars Gave an iPhone Relocation App a Boost
The startup: Moveline, founded in late 2011 by Frederick Cook and Kelly Eidson, is a free iPhone app that helps people with the process of relocating. The company graduated last June from the New York City incubator of startup accelerator TechStars. Each year TechStars selects about 60 companies from thousands of applicants in New York, Seattle, Boston, San Antonio and Boulder, Colo., investing $118,000 in each.
What it is: Moveline began as a B2B service, helping moving companies exchange shipments. But Cook, who serves as CEO, and Eidson, head of product and marketing, saw an opportunity to target consumers. "The internet and technology has changed so much of our lives, but moving was an area where that hadn't come about," Eidson says. "There weren't really any brands that consumers trusted or that were really iconic, and there weren't really any products that people were using that made the process any easier than it was 50 years ago."
With Moveline, users send in a video walkthrough of their home; the app creates an inventory of their possessions and estimates how many boxes will be needed to pack everything. Users can then submit the inventory for quotes from Moveline's network of providers and book their move--all through the app. The service is currently available for moves originating in New York City.
Getting in: Joining an incubator was not the founders' original goal. "We were going to build a company no matter what," Cook says. "Probably the reason we got in, and every other company got in, is [because] not one of them wouldn't have built their company otherwise."
TechStars founder and CEO David Cohen, who selected and mentored Moveline, saw great potential in the concept. "Fred had applied to TechStars once or twice before with different businesses. We really liked him, but [he] had never quite gotten there with the previous businesses," Cohen says. "Moveline had it all: a great team, a big idea and an interesting early prototype. We jumped at the chance to work with the team on an idea that we felt could have tremendous impact."
The goods: Eidson says the biggest perk to the incubator process is the connection to people who can propel growth. "We met so many people, even in just the first month," she says. "It was like speed-dating with a bunch of really smart experts in different areas."
During their three-month incubation, TechStars companies get access to venture capitalists, angel investors, veteran entrepreneurs and media. The prestigious TechStars name has helped Moveline expand its network, the app's founders say--especially useful as they get down to the business of fundraising.
Lessons learned: Be willing to pivot, and be open to feedback. In an incubator, praise and criticism will be coming at you from all directions, Eidson says, so it's vital to sit down and discuss conflicting opinions. "You have to work as hard as you possibly can, take advantage of as
many opportunities [as you can] and recognize you're in a really unique situation--and you're never going to be in it again," Cook says. "If you don't pour your life into it for that period, then you're doing your company a disservice."
Looking ahead: Moveline recently raised a $1.5 million seed round of funding, which it will use to expand the company to other major cities, add more staff and enhance the product.