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Everything old is new: Startup breaks down barrier between moving stuff and moving people

A Portland-based peer-to-peer delivery startup underscores what everyone knows but doesn’t always point out about the origin of sharing economy businesses – they draw on century-old practices common in developing countries.

“Our model came from the third-world,” said Jonny Perez, marketing coordinator for Rynly, a company that launched in Seattle and Portland this past November.

Perez said the founder, who is from Shanghai, “saw the efficiencies, the affordability, in China and Taiwan, and that’s where he got the idea.”

Rynly — the name means “power to the people” in Mandarin — is pretty secretive, even by startup standards. None of its executives would be named on the record. Perez also declined to disclose funding sources, other than to say “we are not worried about money.”

What sets the company apart, Perez claims, is its efficiency and competitive rates. The service charges a flat rate of $5 or $10 for packages up to 25 pounds. Customers order online, and items – packed into one of Rynly’s five standard containers – are picked up at the user’s location, usually within two hours.

Rynly’s driver network draws mostly on an existing pool of Uber and Lyft drivers, and the occasional passerby who is driving across town or between cities and wants to make extra money.

If an Uber driver is going across town to pick up a passenger,  he or she can drop off a package as well. A Portlander heading to Seattle to visit family can sign onto the app and carry a package up the I-5 corridor.

It’s a tech-enabled version of a pickup truck one might see in some South American cities, in which the vehicle ferries, in one trip, produce to a grocery store, kids to school and wood beams to a construction site.

Since launching in November, Rynly has acquired about 85 accounts, mostly small businesses such as a Portland bakery that sends pastries to supermarkets and a candle maker delivering to retailers. Consumer-to-consumer deliveries will be accepted as the business expands, Perez said.

A growing number of shared delivery services are coming onto the market, many in the shadow of Amazon. Seattle-based Dolly.com, for example, matches consumers who want to move their large and heavy belongings to people who are willing use their personal pickup trucks to move them.  

Customers’  expectations for on-time, high-quality service will  make or break these services, said Barbara Ivanov, director of the Urban Freight Lab at the University of Washington.

“The companies that succeed will need to offer more than an e-matching app,” Ivanov said in an email. “If Rynly and other firms can guarantee that level of service without directly controlling their drivers, they have a better chance of success.”

Perez said the on-demand delivery service has that covered. “We keep our costs low, and get it done quicker and cheaper.”

As part of a long-term plan to expand nationwide, Rynly will roll-out service next in and between the cities of San Francisco, Los Angeles and San Diego.

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Linda Baker, Staff Writer

Linda Baker is a FreightWaves staff reporter based in Portland, Oregon. Her beat includes early-stage VC, freight-tech, mobility and West Coast emissions regulations.

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