Reluctant Startup: The Strain of Moving a Vision Into Reality

As PricePoint celebrates eight years on May 24, Ryan looks back at his reluctant startup.

“I have to start a company… $%*#.” This unwelcome epiphany eventually launched my startup, but nearly killed it from the outset. It was 2008 and the startup concept was just starting to creep into the mainstream, still years before the media attention of Shark Tank, The Social Network, Silicon Valley, etc. I was cognizant of the startup path, but certainly didn’t see myself walking down it.

When I realized my core idea naturally suited this emerging startup paradigm, I nearly abandoned the idea altogether. I suppose I’ve always had a bit of a recessive entrepreneurial gene, but my entire career path positioned me as a cog in the corporate wheel. Starting a company would require a much broader spectrum of skills, wearing many hats, spinning many plates. Where would I even start? It was not appealing and practically a non-starter.

Nonetheless my mind kept fixating on what I saw as a big opportunity hiding in plain sight of the entire industry – to simplify international move pricing. I started negotiating with myself, looking for alternatives to starting a company from nothing. I spent a few months exploring the idea of partnering with an existing company in the industry, relying on them for bankroll and the myriad of overhead resources. However, that thought exploration only reinforced that the idea could only be properly executed as a startup.

Why? The fundamental reason was independence. Many of the mobility industry’s dysfunctions can be traced back to conflicts of interest within the supply chain. The industry did not consciously create these issues, rather it’s just how the industry naturally evolved. There was room for further evolution, but it had to be independently driven from outside the industry – with an insider’s insight. I also believed the solution could be beneficial to all, buyers and suppliers.

The idea was all about simplification. International move pricing is too complicated. I spent most of my career experiencing this pricing pain from various perspectives in the industry: mover-to-mover pricing, mover-to-corporate, mover-to-RMC, and freight supply chain. I became particularly obsessed with the mover pricing dynamics with corporations and RMCs, largely from years of experience deeply immersed in exhausting and often pointless pricing exercises. There was inefficiency, ineffectiveness, and countless pain points. I believed it could be solved, somehow…

Roughly 10 years ago, I was working on yet another tedious corporate RFP when my truest eureka moment hit me. As I slogged through the RFP pricing construction, I lamented how the pain of the process was essentially all about price conversion. I first had to gather pricing from my global agent/freight network, for which there were no universally established industry pricing protocols within the industry – international moving tariffs are like snowflakes, no two alike. I then had to do some Excel magic to convert all that pricing data into the unique pricing format for that particular RFP. I was living in spreadsheet hell, endlessly reshaping round pegs to fit square holes. I remember thinking to myself… this would be a lot easier if the corporate clients structured their pricing the same way movers do. That passing thought hit me like a thunderbolt and I’ve now spent 10 years actualizing that insight.

The standard we hold ourselves to is always ‘would I want to participate in this if I were a mover?’

A key part of the early strategy was the core realization that we could solve two big problems with one well-designed software solution. Although the ultimate objective was to solve and simplify mover-to-corporate pricing, we first focused on solving the inefficiencies of mover-to-mover pricing. In short, such pricing was unstandardized and highly analogue (email spot quotes, manual PDF tariffs, spreadsheet hell). PricePoint v1 was focused on enabling movers to create firewall-secured pricing tariffs in our cloud database, then automating mover-to-mover price calculation from those tariffs. This entailed standardization of service inclusions/exclusions, and software automation of a myriad of calculation complexities like currency exchange, weight/volume conversions, minimum densities, break-points, yada yada… mover stuff. The PricePoint v1 marketplace was launched on May 24, 2011.

As industry adoption of PricePoint grew within the mover community, we now had the necessary stepping stone to begin shifting more attention towards solving the original motivation: simplifying mover-to-corporate and mover-to-RMC pricing. Referring back to that original eureka moment, we could enable corporate pricing to be structured the same way that movers structure pricing themselves, via PricePoint. This creates tremendous efficiency benefits for both buyer and supplier, while also enabling rational, reliable, and fair pricing terms for both parties. Having spent 10+ years on the mover’s side of the table, it was equally important that we focus on creating a mover-friendly environment. The standard we hold ourselves to is always “would I want to participate in this if I were a mover?” For movers who truly embrace integrity and can envision the industry’s future, the answer is yes!

Despite a myriad of struggles, I look back and am staggered by how far PricePoint has come. Hundreds of movers have joined us, and now a steady stream of RMCs are becoming “powered by PricePoint” as well. However what’s most satisfying to me personally is the growth of our team. My past startup reluctance was in essence a recognition of my own individual limitations. Now our present and future is being built by a team of exceptional like-minded pioneers who are empowered to take the original vision beyond what I could see or do myself. It’s fun to watch. Keep watching us.