App Interview #1: Carlos Suarez on going from app ‘idea’ to app-based business
Truxx is an app that matches pickup truck drivers with people who need to move stuff, and gets them paid — Uber style. We sit down with founder Carlos Suarez and get some insights on what it takes to take an app from idea, to launch, to growing company.
If you’ve ever purchased a pickup truck, you might have noticed a distinct rise in the number of requests you receive that go something like “are you free Saturday to help me move my <big heavy object> to my new place in <an inconveniently far away neighborhood>?”
You can’t really blame people: fitting a refrigerator into a two-door Honda Civic is a task that even an army of clown-engineer hybrids would struggle with.
But what if a friend with a truck was just a phone tap away for those heavy-duty jobs? And what if the drivers themselves could make some easy cash for their troubles at the same time?
This is the very idea behind truck-sharing app Truxx, which caught our attention last week and caused us to reach out to learn more.
Here’s what Truxx’s founder Carlos Suarez had to say when we asked about the inspiration — and struggles — behind bringing his app-based business venture to life:
1. In your words, why did you start Truxx, and what problem does it solve?
Carlos: “One day I bought a 40-inch TV at Target and when I took it out to the parking lot to load it into my Ford Focus, the box was way too big to fit. While I struggled to get it into my car I realized that there were a lot of large vehicles around me and I wondered if I could pay someone to take it home for me.
I told my buddy about this event and he shared a similar story with me. In his case he did have a large SUV, but his snow blower broke down and he needed to get it to a repair shop ASAP and didn’t want to load this sharp, dirty, rusty object into his nice SUV. While talking we both mentioned that it would be great if there was an Uber that could do this. We decided to try doing it ourselves, but he got cold feet and I decided to continue.”
2. What was your biggest challenge in getting your app developed (time, budget, development staff, etc.), and how did you overcome it?
C: “All of the above. I have never started a company before, and while I had some coding experience, I had never built an app this complex. I did what I always do with any project and researched as much as I could. I found out how to find a corporate lawyer, incorporate, find advisers, pitch, recruit evangelist, recruit FREE staff etc. I partnered with a developer in Tampa, FL whom I found on Angel List, a talented graphic designer that I worked with and we designed and built the first iOS version.”
“Once it’s built, you should be using [your app] as much as possible so you can find the flaws, and there will be many.” — Carlos Suarez, on making an app launch successful.
3. What has been/is your biggest challenge in promoting or marketing your app post-launch?
C: “We launched BETA in Syracuse NY, where we are based. Unfortunately Syracuse is not a very good social media town and since we had no money for traditional media it was very slow.
I hypothesized that NYC would be much easier to market with social media, so initially to gain drivers I turned to Instagram. I needed people with trucks and as it turns out, people that own trucks are very proud of them so they take pictures of them and post them on Instagram. All I had to do to get my first NYC drivers was search hashtags like #longIslandTruck or #BrooklynTrucks, and start liking their photos. They would see that “Truxx” was liking their photos and tap on our profile and see what we were about. That was the easiest way to get drivers.
Users are more difficult, but what has worked great for us is to join Facebook garage sale groups and comment under pictures of large items for sale, offering our service. We also implemented a growth hacking technique that offered $5 off their move if they shared on Facebook, which works great.”
4. What does a healthy, successful Truxx look like one year post-launch, in your eyes? That is, as much as you’d like to publicly reveal, where do you want the company to be at that time?
C: “Truxx’s mission is to empower people to help others in their community by searching for a need and filling it. We think that Truxx can offer to customers a delivery service that rivals some of the largest players, and for small “two guys and a van” operations we can help them level the playing field with the big guys as far as customer acquisition.”
5. What’s one piece of parting advice you would give to anyone who wants to create and launch an app?
C: “Once you have the idea, hypothesize how users will use it, then build it as fast as you possibly can. Once it’s built, you should be using it as much as possible so you can find the flaws, and there will be many.”
6. When you grab your phone from your pocket, is it iPhone or Android?
7. Finally, I have to ask: Do you personally drive a truck?
C: “Before the app launched, I sold my Focus and bought a used pickup truck. I was the first Truxx driver. I still own the truck but we have over 900 drivers and I don’t use it for Truxx as much as I did in the beginning. That said I did a gig in January ;)”