Back in March we wrote about Zaarly, a startup that lets you post an odd job and find someone to complete it for a modest fee. It, and similar services like TaskRabbit, have honed in on a key idea: there are a lot of intelligent, hardworking people who have some spare time and would love to make a few bucks during their off hours. And there are also plenty of people who would love to skip running to the dry cleaners when they have a report due the next morning by 7AM.
Now there’s a startup called Zipments that’s offering a similar service with a slightly different twist: they’re focusing exclusively on courier jobs (or, as they call them, logistics). Need something delivered in a jiffy? Fire up Zipments, set a price, and someone will (hopefully) be ready to deliver it within the hour.
In short, Zipments is looking to create a crowdsourced courier service that lets you send things across town on the cheap. The service has been live in Grand Rapids, Michigan since May, and starting today it’s expanding to Chicago and New York City.
The interface for Zipments, which is currently web-only but has mobile apps in the works, is pretty straightforward: you describe the job, mark out the start and end points on a map, and say how long it can take (the specified time needs to be reasonable). You can set an initial price, but other users are free to make other offers (either higher, if they think the job is worth more than you’re asking, or lower, if they’re facing a lot of competition). Choose someone to serve as your courier and they’ll be sent your phone number, pick-up/delivery addresses, and other relevant information.
The word “courier” may remind longtime TechCrunch readers of ill-fated startups like Lickety Ship, which were essentially aggregators of professional courier services. The difference here is that Zipment isn’t relying on these professional services, so the prices involved should be lower.
Of course, that comes with a tradeoff: Zipments isn’t doing much to guarantee that your order will be completed properly (there’s a small risk that someone could actually run off with whatever you want delivered). The service does a few things to address this — you need a Paypal account to register, for example, so users aren’t anonymous. And each user has a profile where you can leave a poor review if you have a bad experience. But for the time being, even the company isn’t recommending that you use this to transport highly important or valuable goods. And in the future, they’ll be looking into offering insurance and bonding options for these more sensitive jobs.
Zipments doesn’t appear to have any competitors that are focusing exclusively on these courier tasks, but if it takes off, it isn’t hard to imagine TaskRabbit or Zaarly launching a similar product (and you can obviously post delivery jobs to both of those services today).