When Cory Bailey left politics to pursue an MBA, his goal was to work for a tech company after graduation.
He never expected to start his own.
Bailey, a 2018 MBA candidate at the University of Notre Dame’s Mendoza College of Business, is co-founder of SecūrSpace, an online marketplace for parking and storage for the transportation industry — think Airbnb for trucks and shipping containers.
“And so these trucks are taking these containers way outside of L.A. and New York and other port cities because they’ve got nowhere to put them,” Bailey explains, noting that a 50-mile trip to a temporary storage site is not unheard of in the shipping world.Typically, explains Bailey, shippers have to call and email around, wait for replies, and if no space is available, keep looking — a time-consuming and inefficient process. During peak shipping season, he says, it can be almost impossible to find nearby storage and the ports charge high fees to hold containers.SecūrSpace is a web-based solution to a problem that Bailey’s college buddy and current SecūrSpace CEO Lance Theobald encountered on a daily basis in his former sales job in the freight transport world: How can transportation brokers quickly find convenient and secure temporary truck and container parking in port cities?
‘Let’s do it’
Earlier this year the startup secured a $600,000 investment, half a million of which came from a Notre Dame alumnus, and is poised to expand this spring. The company is also among the semifinalists in the McCloskey New Venture Competition, which is sponsored in part by Mendoza. The competition will wrap up during IDEA Week at the University of Notre Dame.
On the other side of that problem are property owners such as Theobald’s business contact Ben Satterlee. His Long Beach, California, trucking firm has more than 30 acres of intermodal equipment storage space available minutes from the city’s port but no easy way to connect with freight companies with short-term storage needs.
The digital solution they envisioned — where property owners near a port can log on to a website and list their available space and shippers can search the site and book what they need — sounded promising to Bailey, whose MBA program concentration is entrepreneurship and marketing. He took the concept and ran with it.
“My initial reaction to it was, that sounds like it makes sense, it’s intuitive, let’s do it,” he recalls.
Bailey spent his first semester as an MBA student incorporating the company, networking with potential customers and developing a business plan. He and his partners, Theobald and Satterlee, also searched for a developer, because, Bailey notes, in the startup world you’re either building a product or you’re selling it.
“A lot of people will tell you that it’s a good idea, which really counts for nothing in the grand scheme of things,” Bailey says.
“You need to know whether people would actually put their money down.”
In spring 2017, Theobald’s brother-in-law came on as a part-time contract web developer. Meanwhile Bailey turned down a summer internship with Amazon.com in order to intern with SecūrSpace, a move he admits surprised many. His partners funded the internship, and he spent three months in Los Angeles talking with potential customers, plotting out business requirements and guiding product development.
In August, the site went live.
“We ran, in the last four months of the year, about $200,000 in transactions through the site,” Bailey says.
When classes began again, Bailey was invited to speak at the fall meeting of the Mendoza College of Business Advisory Council. He sent an introductory email to alumnus and council member Tom Grojean Sr., who had retired from the transportation industry. Grojean passed the email on to his son Tom Grojean Jr., a 1985 Mendoza graduate who is chairman of Hirschbach Motor Lines, who agreed to chat.
“We didn’t talk about an investment or anything,” Bailey says. “It was just like, here’s the concept. What do you think?”
Later, Grojean followed up and asked if SecūrSpace would be interested in an investment. Bailey, who was taking a venture capital fundamentals class at the time, once again found himself putting his classroom learning to work.
“That was incredibly helpful as I went through the process of negotiating valuations,” Bailey says. “Our assignments were focused on term sheets, on cap tables, all of those things. And so, as we went through the process of negotiating the investment and putting the necessary pieces together, I felt like I had a real handle and real grasp on that.”
The $500,000 investment from Hirschbach Motor Lines, plus an additional $100,000 from another investor, will allow SecūrSpace to expand faster than originally planned, Bailey says. The founders have high hopes for 2018.
“I think that our goal is to do about $3.5 million in transactions, which would, based on our projections, give us about $500,000 to $600,000 in revenue,” he says.
Planning for the future
Once he graduates, Bailey will take a full-time role as president and focus on business development and sales. The company is poised to add additional sales and developer positions this year, as well.
“So we’ve got the ability now to actually build out a real team and do this properly, rather than having to do it with a shoestring budget,” he says.
For Bailey, Notre Dame’s strong alumni network is one of the things that drew him to South Bend.
“ND alumni are an amazing resource and eager to help,” he says, noting that he now takes a much broader approach to networking.
“You never know what kind of knowledge someone will offer up or who they may know. An old boss of mine used to say, ‘Don't ask, don't get.’ It's so true.”