You're no doubt familiar with ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft, and delivery services like Doordash, Uber Eats, and Instacart.
These services work via an app on a smartphone, allowing users to request a ride, or a delivery, anytime, and in almost any medium sized city or larger.
But it didn't used to be that way. DoorDash and Uber used to be exclusively focused on the big cities and the coasts. And there used to be places, decently sized communities like Cape Girardeau, Missouri, that they didn't serve.
Cape Girardeau, Missouri, population 40,000 has about 130,000 in it's MSA. The city is the economic center of Southeast Missouri and also a college town as the home of Southeast Missouri State University.
Located approximately 100 miles southeast of St. Louis and 150 miles north of Memphis, they had almost everything a small city could need... except delivery and ride services.
Local residents were required to use their phones as phones and to call for deliveries from the few restaurants that offered it, and had to use their own cars to travel to stores to buy things. Oh, the horrors!
In 2017, that all changed.
carGO Technologies launched there to provide delivery and ride services. Made by local coders, marketed by local biz devs, and funded by local money, the service was a huge hit. So much so that they eventually expanded into other neighboring cities.
But then, what had seemed so promising, suddenly hit a wall. As carGO tried to expand into larger markets to support its business model and growth, it came face to face with Uber, DoorDash and other competitors, companies who were internationally funded and losing billions of dollars a year. And then COVID-19 happened.
Ultimately, the costs to continue funding growth and the search for a sustainable business model became insurmountable and the company ceased operations in early 2021.
Why, you might ask, are we talking about a failed startup in south east Missouri on a show about economic development ?
My guest today made the jump from economic development at a chamber of commerce, to startup CarGO, and then back to economic development for the state of Missouri.
Along the way, he learned not only how to be entrepreneurial, but how talk to entrepreneurs in their own language. He understands what keeps them up at nights, what they care about, and most importantly what they don't care about at all.
Enjoy the conversation. I did.