The Connector

Locate Express connects customers with service providers. And a new partnership has the future looking bright.

Nothing ventured, nothing gained. That’s pretty much how Doug Joseph has lived his life. As an ad man. A music promoter. A real estate investor. And now, a technology entrepreneur.

“I’ve been working for and by myself for most of the past 25 years,” he says. “I’m a hardworking guy. I like to get out there and make something happen.”

Screenshot of Locate ExpressDoug’s latest venture is Locate Express, a software platform that helps customers find licensed service providers — carpenters, plumbers, taxi drivers and more — with a click of their mouse. Once customers make the request, Locate Express providers respond within minutes (even seconds) from a phone app.

For customers, this means no more unreturned phone calls. For service professionals, it means access to a stream of customers ready to take action.

“The world is so different from a marketing perspective for these guys,” Doug explains. “It used to be easy. Make sure you’re in the phone book, run in the classifieds and you’ll be ok.”

But the internet and an expectation of instant gratification has changed that, according to Doug. “It’s so highly fragmented.”

And while Locate Express may be a great solution, its founder has discovered that the marketing challenges faced by individual service providers exist for him, too.

“It’s so hard as a young company to get the word out, even within a small community,” he says. “I can’t get my neighbors to use my platform. Attorneys, who I’ve paid tens of thousands of dollars to for their services, have never even tried Locate Express.”

Doug soldiered on. He poured thousands of dollars of his own money into developing a software system that works seamlessly for both customers and services providers. After all, he was essentially building out an “Uber for home services” before Uber was around to learn from.

Sure, instant delivery services are available today, especially in big cities. There’s InstaCart for groceries, Homejoy for housecleaning, Shyp for mailing services, and many others. But five years ago, these concepts were just getting started in Silicon Valley and had not yet made their way to the Treasure Valley.

Doug and his team (all contractors, working remotely from Boise to who knows where) were inventing the future both in terms of a business model and technology.

“The technology is the fun part,” he says. “You’ve got an idea, and put some smart people together to build it. It’s thrilling. It’s fun. It’s a blast,” Doug says, pausing to catch his breath. “But getting the business model right has been incredibly challenging.”

In his search for the right business model, Doug recently began looking for opportunities to put his core platform to work in new ways.

His effort to, in his own words, “make something happen” has led to an exciting new partnership with Portland, Ore.-based Rodda Paints. With more than 100 stores, Rodda is the largest paint company in the Pacific Northwest. And soon, Rodda customers will be able to use a customized version of Locate Express to find highly qualified painting contractors.

Locate Express owner Doug Joseph using a Locate Express kiosk
Doug Joseph using a Locate Express kiosk at the State Street Rodda paint store.

“Right now, if you’re a paint customer and you ask the salesperson if they know a good painter, they’ll send you over to a bulletin board filled with business cards or scratch out a phone number on a piece of scrap paper,” Doug says. “Soon they’ll go to an in-store kiosk and be connected with qualified contractors.”

This new approach will be better for both customers and Rodda.

“Once that customer walks out the door, the salespeople don’t know what happens,” he says. “We’ll help them track progress and ensure that the contractors who get the jobs are doing a good job, and the local manager will know exactly which homeowners actually end up using Rodda paint.”

Doug’s ability to seize this opportunity comes, he says, because he self-funded Locate Express from the very beginning. While this approach has made it difficult to fund the build-out of his consumer-facing brand, not being beholden to investors or banks means he can now respond to opportunities quickly.

“As a small, one-man company with no outside funding, I have to find niches where I bring value to an organization,” he says. “I am the low-cost operator, and this is my advantage. I can work with Rodda paint and give them very affordable licensing deals.”

After five years in business, Doug expects Locate Express to finally reach profitability soon. But it was his previous investments that allowed the company to keep going long enough to find its footing. He’s grateful to have been able to harvest some gains from the recent stock market run-up to fund his life and his business.

“Business and life are all about the allocation of time and capital,” Doug says. “Has this been the best allocation of time and capital? I don’t know, but I’ve got time on my side to make the business go. I’m confident it will.”

Note: Find a fixer-painter-plumber-builder at locateexpress.com or at Rodda Paint stores around the Treasure Valley.

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