Bill's Startup - Wharfie

I just woke up (thankfully) and have our weekly team meeting starting in ten minutes. I don’t normally sleep ten hours but I did last night. This past weekend was a lot of fun and I was exhausted. Ten hours of sleep feels great. It’s not a normal thing for me.

Since I don’t have time for a regular post today, I’d like to suggest that everyone read a post the Bill McNeely wrote on Bill is a regular here at AVC and most of the regulars know that he’s been struggling to get his life going in the right direction since coming back from Iraq in 2011.

Bill quit a steady but low paying job at Target to do a startup.

There is so much to Bill’s story that I don’t know where to start. Since I am running out of time, I’d just like to wish Bill well on this effort and encourage everyone else here at AVC to do the same.


Comments (Archived):

  1. Anne Libby

    I wish you and yours the best, Bill.

  2. pointsnfigures

    Go Bill. We can’t take the hill with you, but we are with you in spirit.

  3. ShanaC

    He’s going to be so surprised when he sees this…(also, what is the delivery radius, its not on the site)

    1. Aaron Klein

      AVC appears to have crashed his site…I can’t even get on it.

      1. Donna Brewington White

        Same here. Love it!

    2. BillMcNeely

      Excellent point on posting delivery radius. We are starting in 10 of the more affluent neighborhoods/sections of Dallas. We will work up a graphic and get it posted as soon as my pro bono designer/coder Zaki Saadeh can find free time.

      1. ShanaC

        ok! (I figured you weren’t delivering to ny for 15 dollar a pizza 🙂 )

  4. awaldstein

    Brave and bold.When you are in NY ping me. I’d like to move this online connection to a real world handshake.

    1. BillMcNeely

      Arnold I am looking forward to it. I would to see you start posting again over on your site. 🙂

  5. laurie kalmanson

    i remember kozmo and urban fetch; the whole office called for dvd’s and the swag — cookies, t-shirts — was everywhere. free delivery. no business model for revenues; purely based on exit strategy.i have no doubt that there are enough people in dense cities willing to pay a delivery fee for this to make sense. vc network scalable sense? who knows. but get the dry cleaning, run an errand, update the logistics of bike messengers? yes!

    1. Anne Libby

      I still have a Kozmo shirt.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        jealous. i have the mug.

        1. Anne Libby

          The messenger bag would be a real find!

          1. laurie kalmanson


          2. Anne Libby


          3. Kirsten Lambertsen

            Awesome! God, I LOVED Kozmo.

          4. laurie kalmanson

            same same, and i dont know why i loved them more than urbanfetch

          5. laurie kalmanson

            the web agrees…

          6. pointsnfigures

            there are two similar services I know about. in Chicago, and

    2. awaldstein

      The issue of course is how big the market is for goods and services that don’t have delivery built and priced in? I really don’t know.

      1. laurie kalmanson

        valet, convenience; maybe not 100x investment vc scale, but create jobs for the founder and 50 people — local and reliable is a model

        1. awaldstein

          Many independent delivery services become the back end for built in deliveries. Wholesaling delivery is a model.There is tech involved of course as the process of getting receipts for deliveries and tying that back into inventory and billing is surprisingly non trivial.

          1. laurie kalmanson

            smart angle; i was sceptical of the multiple taxi services, but thinking of them as a front end to logistics is a whole other level

        2. LE

          Agree. In the end the idea is to make money. Just carve a niche out of the existing services that are doing the same thing. The market is there. Gaining customers isn’t really that hard in something like this (to repeat my other comments extending credit is going to be an issue.)

          1. laurie kalmanson

            branding, differentiation, reliability

      2. LE

        The issue of course is how big the market is for goods and services that don’t have delivery built and priced inAlso even assuming the market is big is it cost effective to market to that market and retain them as a customer? How exactly do you gain the customer? It’s not by putting up a web page. How does the action of hiring them become habitual? [1]But more importantly is this something that would be used repetitively so that someone thinks “let me call courierco to pick up that bottle of wine that I need”? And how many times is that action going to happen anyway? I think “out of sight out of mind”. So my feeling is that unless you are using courierco for something else on a regular basis this won’t come to mind.That said (as I said in my other comment) this idea is doable. It may not be VC investible but Bill can almost certainly build it into a business that will support his family. The biggest issue I see is extending credit to business customers and collections. Gaining the customers is a matter of spending time cold calling on the obvious suspects. (I’ve done this type of thing.)[1] How to you get repeat customers? A law office is a repeat customer for example. And for that matter any office full of people who generally can’t leave during the day (other than at lunch) is a potential customer. But how do you make them see you as a resource for the service offering? (There are actually many ways to do this and if you are an entrepreneur then that is what you will figure out.)

    3. Dave Pinsen

      That those two companies went bust despite plenty of VC doesn’t give you any doubt?

      1. laurie kalmanson

        it could be the opposite of vc: strong, stable business; local and grounded. free delivery was an exit strategy business model. charging for it brings customers who value the service. thumbs up.

        1. Dave Pinsen

          Maybe a delivery service could work as a sort of remora fish on one of the ubiquitous ride sharing startups: you pick up that pint of Ben & Jerry’s for a customer after dropping off your ride.

          1. laurie kalmanson

            coordination, logistics, trip planning

        2. Anne Libby

          If I remember correctly, Fred has said here before that Kozmo did work in some local markets.

        3. BillMcNeely

          Logistics is hard. It should not be treated as swag 🙂

          1. laurie kalmanson

            lol xlent point; an army travels on its stomach. also, furniture. i’ve been amazed at exhibits of the chairs and tables armies carried…

      2. LE

        That those two companies went bust despite plenty of VCPlenty of restaurants go bust despite the fact that they are opened by people with enough working capital to make a go of it. Because they screw something up in their execution, product, location and all of that.While the failure could be confirmation that the idea is not good it could also be that the aforementioned execution was not good.Bill is not going in and trying to raise money for a VC funded iteration of something that was already done and failed. He’s essentially starting a courier service from the ground up (from what I can tell). Rome wasn’t built in a day despite what people might think as a result of the money that is thrown at some ideas allowing them to lose other people’s money.Attached is a shot of a window in a local franchise that apparently is having money problems. The idea is a good idea that is working elsewhere. Yet the current owner can’t pay +-$4500 rent [1] that he owes so the landlord comes down hard and fast. While this type of thing doesn’t happen with a McDonalds grade franchise that doesn’t mean that this franchise concept isn’t a valid concept if executed correctly.[1] Investigating a bit I found out he has other businesses just is trying to play games with the landlord and apparently the landlord is better at this type of thing.

        1. BillMcNeely

          To investors we describe ourselves as Uber for local courier services.

    4. Richard

      Good time to point out the difference between building a business and building a scalable startup. Both are noble and both can be (very) rewarding. But there are differences. Not suprisingly, a business requires an indepth understanding of a profit and loss statement and an immediate focus on (paying) customers.PS Be sure to take out liability insurance (metlife etc.).

      1. laurie kalmanson

        exactly. bike messengers were a business for a long time; the internet and fedex disrupted a lot of that — it could be back around the edges. people in cities who have more money than time = the market for running errands.i like this better than taskrabbit, which has a race to the bottom feel for labor. this is simpler and cleaner.

      2. BillMcNeely

        Good point. My goal at the outset has to be getting revenue in the door. The scaleable piece will have to come in later

        1. Richard

          How did you back out the $15? Compete on quality/service/reliability not on price. Focus on a core group (hospital equipment) or a core time (6PM-2AM).

    5. BillMcNeely

      Hey Laurie. In 6 months I can’t tell you how many sales did not happen because people did not want to drag the kids through Target anymore.

      1. laurie kalmanson


  6. Aaron Klein

    He had me at “I decided not to be a victim and do something about it.”I wish I had the money to invest in Bill. I know I’ll be rooting for him!

  7. Dave Pinsen

    It shouldn’t be this hard for an apparently smart, diligent man to make a living. It shouldn’t be necessary for a man with PTSD to roll the dice on a long shot startup idea.

    1. Matt A. Myers

      Well, luckily there is a solution to this which will limit capitalistic systems from putting unnecessary pressure on all of these factors, which inevitably lessen the quality of life for everyone.

    2. LE

      to roll the dice on a long shot startup ideaI agree with you 100%.But I don’t think this is a “long shot startup idea”. Essentially what Bill is doing is starting a courier service.From what I can tell the advantage that he has for the offering is that it’s simple to figure out what it’s going to cost you to:Send one of our Wharfies to pickup exactly what you want and deliver it the same day.Which is $15.If I do a search for “courier Dallas” I come up with many possibilities but it’s distracting to see what exactly the cost is.So I like the simplicity of this. And I like it because it’s an existing service being offered and all you have to do is gain customers and offer a better service and be nice to the big customer. And they will call you each and every time. (Until you screw up that is). Then you can even charge more for some types of pickups (I’m talking about business customers here which is where I would eventually end up with a service like this). While I don’t use couriers today I did in a past business extensively.One of the ways to get this off the ground is to simply walk into any office building and make personal contact with the office manager and offer to do a free pickup. Even for something that they personally need. For that matter give out a coupon on the elevator to anyone wearing a suit that seems to be a lawyer. Or walk into the office with some cake for the receptionist and just give them a flyer and business card.Of course once you get into giving service to business accounts you will have issues of extending credit and collecting which is an entire job in itself.So this is by no means easy but it is definitely doable.

      1. Dave Pinsen

        I wonder if you can walk into office buildings like that in Dallas. You can’t get past security in New York without having an appointment.

        1. LE

          While I have never tried to walk into office buildings in Dallas I have elsewhere and I can assure you that this is the type of thing that any entrepreneur should be able to figure out a way to do. [1] Not to mention that there are a whole host of grade ‘b’ buildings. And other businesses where you can just walk right in. You just want to carve a piece. Bill can’t handle that much business to start anyway.You could show up with packages addressed to any particular tenant with a label and a return address. That’s off the top if that doesn’t work (“we will deliver it for you” (that’s fine)) there are 60 other ways to get in if you are creative. Office building security is not getting into a rock concert or sporting event.The idea with this is to test out various approaches and go with the one that seems to work best given the situation.[1] Now of course if the security is such that you can’t get by without an appointment then simply spend some money and send a letter or a package or stand outside the building with some free chocolate and give it to any logical target exiting that seems like a potential customer for the service.

        2. unlisted

          He should be fine here in DFW. That’s one advantage we have over other cities, is our southern hospitality.

          1. JLM

            .Western hospitality. Texas is the west with a side of the South.JLM (ATX).

          2. BillMcNeely

            I met Nolan at Tech Wildcatters a couple years ago and he made the intro to The Garage. Thanks buddy!

    3. Tom Labus

      Risk needs to be taught in school. How to assess it, deal with it an accept being pounded when it doesn’t work. People need to know that to ride any distance in the economic stream requires risk

      1. BillMcNeely

        assessing risk and the consequences of inaction were learned in a ditch during an ambush in Afghanistan

        1. Tom Labus

          And you will carry experience forever and it will serve you well. But there are legions of others who do not have that experience and they need to know that to move forward economically in this economy requires risk taking and that they need help in understanding how to do that,

          1. BillMcNeely

            I agree 🙂

          2. Dave Pinsen

            To win the startup lottery requires risk taking, but to make a living shouldn’t. When veterans came back from World War II their options weren’t limited to low-wage retail jobs or startups. That reflects poorly on our country’s leadership which has let our economy become so hollowed out.

  8. jason wright

    how does the service work?so i buy something and leave instructions for the seller to be ready for a Wharfie (what’s a ‘Wharfie’? is it a military veteran analogy?) to collect it from them on my behalf. is that it?

    1. BillMcNeely

      A Wharfie is a dock worker in New Zealand/Australia.I wanted a short logistics based name varations of ship, deliver etc were takenAt the moment the MVP concept is to send a Wharfie to pickup an item that has been paid for.I just don’t have the bankroll to do pre paid debit cards like Postmates.My logistics experiences has taught me to keep things as simple as possible and then add only neccessary complexity later.

      1. jason wright

        ah, a wharf. the penny drops :-)simple is best. best of luck.

  9. Mac

    And, you made the decision to take action. Thank you for your service to our country. All the best to you and your family.

  10. aarondelcohen

    Bill:Very inspiring. Thanks for giving me something pass along to colleagues which I’m doing now.

  11. Rohan

    May the force be with you, Bill!

  12. kirklove

    Congrats Bill. All the best with Wharfie

  13. William Mougayar

    Best of luck with it. You never know anything until you start doing it. Quick suggestion, is to get users to pre-register and enter their payment info once, then you’ll be taking that friction out of the ordering. Same as Hailo/Uber. Make it really easy to order.This could be the Uber of couriers.

    1. BillMcNeely

      To the investor set I describe myself as Uber for local courier services. We intend on rolling out an app to incorporate ehailing and payment

      1. awaldstein

        There is a cargo bike delivery service here–https://www.zipments…. app ain’t bad. Addresses the need to get a digital signature tied to a delivery receipt which maps back to internal invoices and purchase orders.A big value add.

      2. William Mougayar

        A mobile app would be great.

  14. Salt Shaker

    Awe inspiring….and thank you for your service, Bill.Obviously the demand for such a service will vary by market. In NYC a lot of competition and transport options, maybe less so in smaller cities. Presume much to be learned by Kozmo/Urban Fetch experiences, but my hunch is those companies had visions of grandeur.Brick & Mortar retail getting killed by web due to price and convenience. Wonder if stores like a Target are ripe for test marketing and outsourcing a store/door delivery service. Or better yet, build a network among smaller retailers where superior service is a key component and point-of-differentiation.Bill has retail experience w/ Target and Nordstrom, a company that excels on the service front. Need to meld and exploit those skills by building/targeting a retail network for your new venture. Service could add sig value to smaller retailers who market to a certain demo. To attract qualified retailers, the service need somewhat of an upscale image, can’t be too pedestrian.Wish you best of luck!

  15. Salt Shaker

    Flat rate pricing ($15) may be a mistake. Dynamic pricing ($10-$25) may make more sense based on price of goods purchased, time/day of delivery, distance of delivery, etc. There’s undoubtably a direct correlation between a purchaser’s outlay for goods/services and the cost/immediate need for delivery. Every transaction has an inflection point, which will vary by individual and by perceived need. Dynamic pricing also enhances Bill’s ability to craft a stronger retail network. With price flexibility the company can cast a wider net for their services, even if the margin contribution per delivery varies. All certainly testable.

    1. BillMcNeely

      When we introduce the app we want to introduce dynamic pricing. By then we will covering a bigger area and will need to be charging for base fare, distance, time/speed. In my MVP I can’t do that at the moment.

  16. Twain Twain

    Bill wrote: “My family does not understand why I am leaving a sure thing like Target (25-30 hours a week , $10 HR).”I bet, though your family understands and knows that you’re inherently BRAVE.Doing a startup is another form of bravery and your expression of that self-identity.I wish you the best of luck!

  17. Dale Allyn

    Bill, count me among those rooting for you! Good luck in this new venture. If you identify something with which I can be of help, please let me know.

    1. BillMcNeely

      Dale I will touch base with you in the next 24 hours 🙂

  18. Lee Blaylock

    Bill, I see the Warfie address and know Crooked Tree well. Happy to buy you coffee or bfast this week if you’re in Dallas and help you in any way I can. In addition to my full time gig I founded, I volunteered to get @startupgrinddfw up and running from in Palo Alto. We have an event this Wednesday (see… for more) when I’ll be talking with Tim Garcia, CEO of Apptricity, who got $50mm from one of his customers, the DoD, in an interesting story.Thank you (and the other vets on this board) for your service to our country. I used to give each year to Wounded Warriors and switched to Fisher House last year because a bigger % of the money goes to directly help vets.

    1. BillMcNeely

      Lee,I am sorry I missed the event.I am going to the VA tomorrow morning, would you be available late afternoon?Please consider The Mission Continues or Team Rubicon as possible donor recipients.

      1. Lee Blaylock

        than and I’ll look at those next Christmas.I’m jammed up today and out most of the next 2 weeks in CA and abroad, but reach out to me in mid april and I’ll help where I can!

  19. Guest

    @fredwilson @avc Thanks for this post, it means a lot.Bill has been a good friend of mine for quite some time. He works next to me here at The Garage ( in Deep Ellum. We’re all about collaboration, and are doing everything we can to assist him in his endeavor. Although I am busy with my current venture (, I help Bill whenever he asks for it. Wharfie is a ticket to an improved situation in life, not just for him, but the drivers he will employ, and the clients he serves. One of the goals for startups and entrepreneurs is to create jobs for the unemployed, to bring someone making minimum wage to $40K/yr, from $40K/yr to six-figure, and so forth. Bill has already proven the value that Whafie creates, and I’m sure that we will all be hearing good things from him in the near future.Looking Forward,-Nolan

    1. Donna Brewington White

      Great to hear this on-the-ground report. Apparently I’m not alone in this idea given the emergence of so many accelerators, etc., but community is a winning factor in startup 2.0. Even with a supportive community there is an alone factor in being an entrepreneur (and a certain amount of aloneness is probably a good thing) but hopefully we will see less carnage.

      1. BillMcNeely

        Nolan was the one that convinced me to give The Garage a shot

  20. Donna Brewington White

    All the best, Bill, and much success. Happy to help in any way I can. Meanwhile, I will share with my Dallas friends and acquaintances and Twitter/social media friends.

    1. Mac

      Bill and Fred, Donna has an excellent suggestion. If those in the A VC community, with contacts in Dallas, would reach out to them and share Bill’s information, it could really help him get some early traction. Thanks, Donna.

      1. BillMcNeely

        Thanks Mac for spreading the word!

    2. BillMcNeely

      thank you so much Donna!

  21. Joe Wallin

    I echo what awaldstein says. This community inspires me.

  22. RichardF

    Nice one Bill, I cannot wish you enough good fortune, enjoy taking control of your destiny. Rugby (football) is the proper game 😉

  23. JamesHRH

    best wishes!

  24. panterosa,

    Bill, best of luck. While it does sound crazy to quit the paycheck (even @fredwilson quotes it as one of top three addictive things), you are showing your kids some grit. And that is really key to showing what happens when the tough get going.Would love to offer help but I’m in launch mode right now, and not allowed to lose focus for a bit. I will check back in when I have bandwidth.

  25. Zaizhuang


  26. JasonBoisture

    Love your story and courage, Bill, and the support expressed in the comments here. My hope is that the Target days are transformed into a fond memory after Warfie turns into something special.I painted houses one summer, back when I had just one client but knew I didn’t want to settle for anything less than the company I knew I was supposed to create. A cherished memory is a photo of my wife and I holding our oldest baby girl after giving her first bath, and I am sunburned and dog tired in my paint-stained clothes after a day of laboring on a rickety ladder, painting some foreclosure flip in the bad part of town.I know many others here have similar stories of doing whatever it takes to make that dream come true. May God bless you in this endeavor. And thank you for your service to our country.

  27. the_rhino_cap

    I too am a veteran who has struggled with the transition. After working as an analyst, I realized I wanted to create something, so I’m in the process of building It’s extremely unfortunate that there really are not that many resources for veteran entrepreneurs, especially in technology.

  28. Taylor McLemore

    Bill, the entire Techstars Patriot Boot Camp family is by your side for support!

  29. Peter Fleckenstein

    Bill – You post has had a profound impact on me. As a Marine Vet I am going through similar challenges. You have reinvigorated me and are an inspiration! Semper Fi!

  30. Simon Clark

    Bill, I just read Fred’s post and wanted to wish you all success from London, home of great football teams and hopeless referees. This will be a great adventure, I hope you have fun along the way.Simon

    1. BillMcNeely

      Thank you so much Simon!

  31. awaldstein

    I can’t throw him work but this community response inspires me.I’m putting a few sessions of Office Hours, advisory services that I sell as a helping hand to Bill as part of the community.

  32. awaldstein

    Yup–There are many of these in New York. I can’t think of one name.But everything from the restaurant to the pet food store deliver. In a carless culture, its simply part of cogs.Honestly the biggest bridges to getting goods in the city that don’t deliver are CitiBike and ZipCar. If I really want those gluten free bagels from the East Village on a Sunday morning and don’t want to walk or cab it, i bike it or grab a ZipCar for an hour.

  33. awaldstein

    Makes me think that at times like this a dynamic fund raising mechanism would be interesting.Instant pitch and ticker to raise pre seed with a lower threshhold.When I invest I’m a stickler and insane about details. When I support, I just want to do that which feels good. I do this all the time for causes and projects that I care about.

  34. Emily Merkle

    no simoleons here but willing to lend social media labor…

  35. laurie kalmanson


  36. Drew Meyers

    You read my mind. I’m in the same funding boat…a “private” kickstarter, perhaps?

  37. BillMcNeely

    I had thought about doing another crowdfunding project on RepayVets or Indiegogo

  38. laurie kalmanson

    awesome. will help w social media. kickstart?

  39. Drew Meyers

    Happy to help as well. If there is some sort of real estate angle in this, I can certainly help Bill crystalize exactly what makes sense for that crowd…agents are a great segment to have onboard for any product, since their living is made by networking/socializing.

  40. leigh

    Throw me his email address, and I’ll kick in positioning and marketing strategy — I see @lauriekalmanson:disqus will do the social media portion so i’m sure between the two of us we can create something that will work for them

  41. awaldstein

    Something different.Less formal, in community, raise. More impromptu.

  42. laurie kalmanson

    aaaaaah. that could totally work.

  43. awaldstein

    along the lines that i was thinking.

  44. leigh

    I’m in with that as well.

  45. BillMcNeely

    Hey Leigh!Thanks for the kind offer. I will be in touch 🙂

  46. leigh

    Great feel free to connect to me on linkedin … My contact info is there 🙂