An inventive entrepreneur has found an extra use for you and your commute, writes Craig Butt.
BEING stuck in traffic is not usually a time when we come up with many ideas. For Rob Emmett, a traffic jam was just the thing that gave him the inspiration for a start-up.
While stuck in his car, he noticed all the vehicles around him that were almost empty and he thought of all the space going to waste.
So with the help of his family, he created MeeMeep, a social moving website that helps people move items without having to hire a courier.
"It made perfect sense to build a business around hooking into that spare capacity," Mr Emmett said.
"There are obviously some win-wins all around from a consumer point of view - from someone who is wanting stuff moved and someone who is moving stuff."
Anyone who signs up to the social network to deliver listed items can be a "mover", while one who lists anything they would like delivered is a "shaker".
Shakers post jobs for any items they would like moved to another location, specifying where the item should be picked up and taken to, when they need the job done and how much they will pay for its delivery.
Movers then bid for the job. Once the item has been delivered safely, the fee is transferred to the mover's bank account.
Since MeeMeep went live in October, more than 500 people have made accounts on the website and almost 300 jobs have been done, helping people deliver everything from Christmas presents to an antique mirror.
Mr Emmett has discovered the platform is carving out a niche among people who need to move large, heavy items, in some cases interstate.
MeeMeep does not fit the stereotype of the web start-up.
Mr Emmett, 45, divides his time between the fledgling business and his mortgage and finance business, Collins Home Loans.
MeeMeep's website is also something of a family project. Emmett's wife, Jodie, 46, oversees operations and business development and their nephew, Will, 23, is in charge of marketing. Rounding out the core team is George Mackey, 61, an IT industry veteran who came out of retirement to work on the website.
Mrs Emmett said the multi-generational make-up of MeeMeep's team had been of benefit.
"Each generation brings something different and something of value to a particular issue or problem," she said.
"There is a synergy of cross-generational sharing, learning and a recognition between each of us that we all have so much to offer."
The website is still in beta, with an official launch six months away, but in that time the team hopes to grow the MeeMeep community and add features. The group has so far used social media to publicise the site and build a community around the social moving platform. The team is encouraging its users to log their journeys on the website, so if a mover regularly takes the same route to work or is planning an interstate trip, MeeMeep will recommend items to deliver.
An iPhone app is also in development and is scheduled to launch this month. That will allow people to manage MeeMeep jobs in real time.
MeeMeep is one of many start-ups made possible by new technology and the growth of social media. Mrs Emmett said the website had been built using the concept of collaborative consumption, in which people exchange goods or services peer-to-peer online.
Businesses based on the collaborative-consumption model include Airbnb, a service that allows people to rent spare rooms to tourists for a weekend, and TaskRabbit, a marketplace where people can find others to do simple errands.
The collaborative-consumption model, which Time magazine last year called one of the 10 ideas that will change the world, is disrupting existing business models by taking out the middleman.
Collaborative consumption works for Mr Emmett. Having ditched his car for a Vespa for his commute to the start-up's office in Melbourne's central business district, he has used the business to earn himself a bit of extra money.
"I've made one or two envelope deliveries on the way home," he said. "I've even got spare capacity in the boot of my Vespa."