San Francisco startup Move Loot entered the Triangle with daily emails, warehouse open houses and ads on WUNC and social media. It left quietly, with only an email June 29 announcing operations would cease here, and nationally, July 7.
July 8, 2016
Move Loot Shuts Down in the Triangle, Nationally
After fast growth and large venture capital raises, a San Francisco startup with East Coast operations in Durham closes shop.
Raleigh-Durham was a testing ground for the Y Combinator and Google Ventures-backed used furniture marketplace when it opened shop here in the fall of 2014. The founding team had a local connection—two graduated from UNC-Chapel Hill in 2011. A general manager was hired to help determine if the business could build as big a following in a growing East Coast city as it had in just a year in San Francisco.
Things appeared to be going well—six months in, the company expanded to serve the Charlotte and Atlanta markets from the warehouse in Durham.
What made Move Loot different from Craigslist or buy-sell groups on Facebook was the full suite of services it provided to buyers and sellers of furniture. Sellers submitted items online and scheduled free pick up. Move Loot used professional studio equipment to photograph each item, providing detailed descriptions of any blemish and then stored the items until they were purchased.
Buyers could simply browse the selection, make a purchase online and schedule delivery. Move Loot kept a percentage of each sale.
But what was simple for customers required a lot of coordination on the back end. There were warehouses to manage, trucks to maintain, drivers to schedule, customers to contact, marketing dollars to spend, a website to update and technology developed to manage the entire operation.
According to a story last week in Business Insider, where former employees were quoted, there was also pressure to raise money and add cities, and perhaps too fast for the business model to be perfected.
The startup raised $22 million over its three years in business, including $10 million last August.
In his LinkedIn profile, Raleigh-Durham GM Mike Althoff wrote that he was promoted to director of operations around that time. Over his tenure, he hired a team of more than 30 people to handle marketing, fulfillment and operations. He also wrote that he closed two distribution centers and executed changes in operations to account for the closures.
Those changes, along with the startup’s regular experiments and product launches, are reflected in a string of emails to customers. In September, Move Loot launched a design services offering to help customers undertake their home decorating projects. And in October, it refined the submission and payout process, and launched a removal service for any furniture items that didn’t meet criteria to be sold on the site.
In November, the site widened its submission process to let retailers sell items. Then in February 2016, a new submission process eliminated the furniture pickup, professional photography and storage, letting sellers photograph and list the items themselves and earn up to 40 percent more per sale. Pick up only happened after an item sold.
Business Insider said there were rounds of layoffs and a lot of customer service issues around that time.
The company stopped sending emails and posting to social media in May. Its Twitter account no longer exists.
I reached out to Althoff to get his take on the announcement, but it appears he’s already left the company—an automated email reply was directed to a general address at Move Loot. I’ve reached out, and will update this story when I get a reply.
To make things right with customers, Move Loot said it would pay out all accounts by July 7th and make good on all shipments.
As a bonus, it has referred all of its customers to a New York marketplace of home services called Handy. The companies have partnered to provide Move Loot users an hour of free Handy services, which include home cleaning, repairs, moving or furniture assembly.
As for buying and selling old furniture? Looks like its back to Craigslist.