The truth about Shift

Jul 07 | 2019

Steve Jordan heads off to darkest Islington in London to meet the entrepreneurial owner of Shift Group Ltd, a new moving company that is threatening to disrupt the established industry.

The truth about Shift

The Mover received a press release from a venture capitalist company, Fuel Ventures, announcing that it had provided a £2.5 million investment to a company called Shift Group Ltd. Shift is a moving and logistics company started in February 2018 that claims to have 4,000 self-employed drivers working for it and have turned over £1.7million since it started just over a year ago. Mark Pearson, founder of Fuel ventures, is also a director of Shift.

Jacob CorlettJacob Corlett, the company’s young entrepreneurial owner was quoted as saying that his company was: “Embarking on disrupting a multi-billion industry and won’t stop until we’re market leaders.”  This is a bold claim, so I was intrigued to find out if any of the claims are true rather than accept the press release at face value.

I met Jacob in a Starbucks on Islington High Street.  He told me his story.  Apparently aged just 17 he started a van and man moving company called Van Plus that grew over four years to operate 35 vans and drivers in central London.  Jacob said that it was a profitable lifestyle business but was never going to grow exponentially so he started Shift, which is a marketplace through which drivers with spare capacity can be matched with customers for their mutual benefit.  He now claims to have 30 people working from the company’s office in Plymouth who have been able to attract the drivers and says he has contracts with retailers and a major self storage company.

The principle is simple enough but uses clever software to log each driver’s daily routes and then match them with customers’ requests.  Most customers are, for example, students moving stuff around, people taking items into and out from store, people buying goods online and requiring transport, etc.  Drivers are paid depending on the extent of the deviation from their published route.  Customers are charged depending on what the system thinks they might be prepared to pay. The two are not connected so it’s possible for the job to cost more than Shift is getting, or be very profitable; Jacob wants to be able to accept every job and so expects some ‘swings and roundabouts’. 

The service looks at the problem of moving items from the customer’s point of view. They say what they want to move, to where and when, rather than a moving company telling them when they are available.  Will it work?  Who knows.  If the published figures are to be believed then Jacob seems to be well on the way, however the company is not yet old enough for reliable figures to be publicly available.  But Jacob accepts that he is not trying to compete with the established moving industry.  It’s just small loads on 35cwt vans. 

So, there is no threat to the moving industry is there?  Probably.  Disrupters have a habit of creeping up on established industries. Only when it’s too late to do anything about it do you realise that they have taken your business away.  I recommend that moving companies, especially those in London, keep a close eye on Shift Group Ltd when it publishes its first full year’s accounts (due in December 2019).  Maybe they will get a surprise/shock.  And if not this time, sometime soon it will happen.  It might also be worthwhile signing up to be a Shift driver to help prevent those pesky empty runs.

Photo:  Jacob Corlett

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