Written by Deena Douara
You know you’re onto something when other entrepreneurs are working towards the same fresh idea you are. And you’re onto something else if you all meet and like each other enough to collaborate.
Such was the case with Fetchit, which is “Uberizing” delivery services, matching van and truck owners with Toronto-area residents who need to move stuff. Like, now.
Mike Barcz has been moving stuff since college. He worked in construction and found that his truck came in handy as friends tried to move between residences and storage facilities. He formalized the business a bit with a website and Kijiji ads until a fluke (albeit mundane) light-bulb moment: having accidentally double-booked a move, he hired a friend to do the second booking. That was the moment a side gig became a business in the making.
Barcz and co-founder/CEO Matt Karabela have known each other since they were two young Polish kids living on the same Oakville block. Karabela studied and worked in engineering until he co-founded the friends’ first business together, which they’ve since put aside.
“We realized there wasn’t anything like this,” says Karabela, “so we put it into app format and made it available to everybody.”
He explains that there’s a significant gap in the market — something many Torontonians need not be told. Fewer urbanites own cars and yet, a lot of stores don’t offer delivery or don’t offer “satisfactory” delivery — either pricing it too high or offering inconvenient five-hour delivery windows. Alternately, one can scour sites like Kijiji for movers but there is no credibility or insurance and prices are all over the place.
With Fetchit, drivers receive ratings and are typically available within 15-60 minutes of on-demand requests, or users can schedule drivers in advance. Rates are standard and cash doesn’t exchange hands. In addition, drivers are vetted before joining the roster and you know who you’re getting and where they are.
Customers have used the app to pick up secondhand furniture, move junk to the dump, donate pieces to charity, and deliver goods from big box stores.
The idea is fairly intuitive. So much so that cofounder and CTO Samir Begic was working toward the same business model when he met Karabela and Barcz. What he lacked was a team and while Fetchit was farther along they lacked someone with advanced programming skills — collaborating made sense to everyone.
Meanwhile, Evgeny Shumilov was a student investigating whether such a business would be viable. When he saw a Fetchit ad looking for drivers, he reached out. Again, the two “clicked,” and Karabela says he’s excited to take Shumilov on full-time once he graduates.
“The pressure is on to grow fast,” says Karabela, who left a stable engineering job because he wanted to be challenged and force himself into an uncomfortable position. “I hated coming home and watching four hours of TV.”
Karabela and Begic both have a lot on the line — mortgages, wives, and kids — but they’re hoping that their good idea plus business support from HalTech and DMZ, a vibrant tech community, and provincial support for startups will help them expand beyond Toronto and into national and northern U.S. markets later this year.
“There are incubators all over the place. With all the networking opportunities and competitions — you end up with a pretty big reach,” says Karabela. He says HalTech has helped introduce the team to Microsoft and other key industry leaders, and also helped them prepare for such meetings.
“It’s easy to get caught up in running a business without a plan,” explains Karabela. “But you have to know what your path is.”
HalTech would force them to forge that path and plan — to do not only the fun stuff like talking to customers, but also the necessary work of financial projections and revisiting the pitch deck and business plan as many times as it takes.
To get through it all, Karabela says “we keep each other in check…. There’s no time to waste.”