An exclusive Tech Tribune Q&A with Ryan Hanson (co-founder and CRO) of Dispatch, which was honored in our:
- 2022 Best Tech Startups in Minnesota
- 2020 Best Tech Startups in Bloomington (Minnesota)
- 2019 Best Tech Startups in Bloomington
Tell us the origin story of Dispatch – what problem were you trying to solve and why?
When my business partner Andrew Leone and I first dreamt up the idea for Dispatch, we were focused on a gap in the distribution chain. Specifically, Andrew noticed the amount of time and money that service-based small businesses were wasting every time one of their skilled technicians had to leave a jobsite to pick up a part or tool they needed.
From the data we’ve collected over the years, we’ve estimated that an average one-way delivery takes around 55 minutes. This means that every time an employee leaves a jobsite to pick up parts or supplies, they’ll likely lose approximately two hours of their day. That’s valuable work time that could significantly delay a project and every project scheduled after it. Plus, the cost of skilled labor continues to rise. Having highly-skilled, well-paid employees making deliveries simply isn’t a good use of resources. The other option, working with traditional courier services, isn’t always viable either. We’ve found that traditional couriers often lack the technology and transparency to offer efficient on-demand deliveries.
Once we realized this, Andrew and I started imagining the impact on a company’s bottom line if technicians could continue working while drivers who specialized in same-day deliveries brought the necessary part to the jobsite. Skilled employees could get one more job done each day, increasing revenue. Then we started thinking about how we could leverage technology to streamline the entire distribution chain – that’s when Dispatch was born.
What was the biggest hurdle you encountered in your journey?
In the beginning, Dispatch had a fleet of cargo vans in each market. We quickly realized that owning a fleet was inefficient for our business model. Even though we use a sophisticated algorithm to route deliveries, our in-house fleet competed with our independent contractor drivers. After internal discussions and number crunching, the decision was made to sunset the Dispatch fleet. We needed to make the change that we consistently talked to our customers about, which was that managing a fleet was too costly and time-consuming. Luckily, this effort paid off as we switched the focus full time to our independent contractor drivers.
Around the same time, COVID-19 created unprecedented challenges across all industries with us being no different. Luckily, we were fortunate to be able to adapt. As part of our core value of “People First” and to protect our employees, independent contractor drivers, and customers, we pivoted to a work-from-home policy and contactless service model. Making these adjustments allowed us to continue to operate safely as an essential business.
What does the future hold for Dispatch?
Right now we’re hyper focused on expansion and opening up new markets all across the country. We currently operate in 57 cities and recently expanded to both California and New York. Our goal is to operate in 75 markets by the end of 2022 and more to come in 2023. We’re looking forward to continued growth and leading the last-mile delivery space.
What are your thoughts on the local tech startup scene in Minnesota?
The Twin-Cities metro area as a whole has a strong ecosystem of tech startups. As technology advances, it’s great to see businesses popping up that are utilizing tech to create solutions for pain-points in all types of industries. It’s an honor to work alongside these Minnesota-based tech companies.
What’s your best advice for aspiring entrepreneurs?
Figure out what your values are and use them to guide your business. At Dispatch, we have a set of core values that drives everything we do for our employees, partners, customers, and drivers. Operating in accordance with our values helps us stay grounded and on track with our growth goals.