How many times have you been in an Uber or Lyft and wanted a few Advil, or a 5-hour Energy? While some enterprising ridesharing drivers occasionally try to sell essentials (or non-essentials like tablets and digital cameras), there really isn’t a structured way to facilitate this… until now.
Enter Cargo, a startup that wants to turn drivers’ vehicles into little mobile shops. The startup has raised $1.75 million in seed funding from Techstars, Detroit Venture Partners, Fontinalis Partners and Rosecliff Ventures.
Here’s how it works:
After drivers sign up for free, Cargo sends them a custom display that rests on the center console and holds a selection of snacks and essentials. On the top of the display case is a URL and identification number that is different for each car.
Passengers go to the URL, enter the vehicle code and browse the menu and checkout using a credit card or mobile payment option like Apple Pay. Once they pay, the driver gets a notification on their phone that the transaction is complete, and can pass the items back to the passenger.
The setup is essentially a business in a box, letting enterprising drivers earn more money without having to lay out funds or manage any inventory. Cargo tracks sales and automatically sends a replenishment of inventory when supply is running low.
Drivers get paid $.50 cents for each item they distribute — which adds up. The top 30 percent of drivers sell about 500 items a month, and the majority make at least $100 a month on average, which is, of course, on top of what they make from driving.
Cargo pays per item instead of a percentage of sales because some of the items distributed are free for riders. Jeff Cripe, co-founder and CEO of Cargo, explained that the startup is working with brands looking for a new way to distribute new items and samples to an engaged audience. So some of the snacks available for passengers may be free, with Cargo and drivers still getting paid by the brand.
Because riders still order those free items through the mobile menu, Cargo knows the demographics surrounding that transaction, like time of day and location where the item was requested, which they can share with the brand. For example, wouldn’t Trident want to know that their new gum flavor is most requested after 10pm right before riders are dropped off downtown at a club?
The startup is operating in New York, Chicago and Boston — but has gotten driver requests from 49 states.