on demand

Houston-based B2B delivery startup plans Texas takeover

This Houston startup has cut out the middleman to provide businesses quick, cost-efficient deliveries through a tech-optimized platform. Photo via tuyatech.com

A Houston startup is set to disrupt the same-day delivery sector with its innovative marketplace platform technology that connects businesses and delivery professionals, enhancing customer experience and reducing costs for clients.

Houston-based TUYA Technologies is transforming the B2B same-day delivery industry by connecting businesses with delivery professionals with the recent launch of their proprietary digital platform that cuts out the middleman and increases efficiency in same-day deliveries.

"We're interested in building technology that makes the movement of packages, parcels, and pallets of things move expeditiously across the city of Houston, not the next day, or second day like some of our competitors," says TUYA's CEO and co-founder, John Oren. "Our technology is focused on delivering packages in one or two hours and connect businesses directly to delivery professionals that own the equipment."

The company has launched in Houston and is used locally by more than 300 registered customers and 70 independent delivery professionals with more than 1,500 deliveries per week.

TUYA plans to continue to expand in the Texas market as they continue to raise capital, closing their most recent funding round at $16.9 million in September 2019. They are planning to launch their technology in the San Antonio market in a week quickly followed by their expansion into Dallas and Austin after that. Their goal is to expand its services across the 21 major cities in the U.S.

"Our management team is geared to bring our business plan to reality by expanding and introducing our new technology to new markets," says Oren.

TUYA has simplified the process by removing middlemen and adding new technology. To order, businesses can use the TUYA website or the TUYA Shipper App, removing the need for customer service representatives to take orders. There they can also select preferred delivery professionals to deliver their orders. The technology allows the client to get upfront pricing, real-time delivery tracking updates and even speak with drivers directly.

"In today's world, we all want our stuff delivered, conveniently, efficiently, and most importantly economically," says Oren. "The business that is able to develop the cheapest cost will beat the competition. Our technology is geared to extract this locked up value by removing added logistics costs involved in getting something picked up in one business and delivered to another."

The TUYA platform also provides drivers with the flexibility to drive at their own schedule and work multiple deliveries at once, reducing their downtime and increasing the number of deliveries. This added freedom allows delivery professionals to choose the deliveries they want without restrictions while using TUYA's optimized routes for efficiency.

TUYA Technologies began in 2015 after Oren realized the necessity to update the B2B delivery sector to the low-cost and speed-driven delivery needs of the 21st century. Oren, who started his own delivery business more than 40 years ago says he saw little innovation in the market, with companies wasting valuable time and efficiency.

"The waste inherent model of the 1970s was still being applied to today's industry, thus wasting time, effort and resources," says Oren. "I knew that integrating the right technology could turn the same-day delivery industry on its head."

TUYA co-founders invested $12.5 million of their own capital, along with an additional $20 million. After a period of market research, they began acquiring local delivery companies such as Hot Shot Delivery and Primer Delivery Services, providing same-day delivery to retailers, supply companies, and wholesale distributors among others.

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Building Houston

 
 

Cheers Health has expanded its product line as it evolves as a wellness-focused brand. Photo courtesy of Cheers

Houston-based startup Cheers first got a wave of brand devotees after it was passed over by investors on Shark Tank in 2018. In the years since, Cheers secured an impressive investment, launched new products, and became a staple hangover cure for customers. When the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted businesses, the company rose to the occasion and experienced its first profitable year as drinking and wellness habits changed across America.

Cheers initially started its company under the name Thrive+ with a hangover-friendly pill that promised to minimize the not-so-fun side effects that come after a night out. The capsules support the liver by replacing lost vitamins, reduce GABAa rebound and lower the alcohol-induced acetaldehyde toxicity levels in the body. The company's legacy product complemented social calendars and nights on the town, providing next day relief.

With COVID-19 lockdowns and social distancing measures, the days of pub crawls and social events were numbered. Cheers founder Brooks Powell saw the massive behavior change in people consuming alcohol, and leaned into his vision of becoming more than just a hangover cure but an "alcohol-related health company," he says.

When the pandemic first hit, Powell and his team noticed an immediate dip in sales — a relatable story for businesses in the grips of COVID-19.

"There is a three day period where we went from having the best month in company history to the worst month in company history, over a 72 hour stretch," he remarks.

He soon called an emergency board meeting and rattled off worst-case "doomsday" scenarios, he says.

"Thankfully, we never had to do any of these strategies because, ultimately, the team was able to rally around the new positioning for the brand which was far more focused on alcohol-related health," he says.

"We found that a lot less people were getting hangovers during 2020, because generally when you binge drink, you tend to binge drink with other people," he explains.

He noticed that health became an important focus for people, some who began to drink less due to the lack of social gatherings. On the contrary, some consumers began to drink more to fill the idle time.

According to a JAMA Network report, there was a 54 percent increase in national sales of alcohol for the week stay-at-home orders began last March, as compared to the year prior.

"All of a sudden, you have all of these people who probably aren't binge drinking but they're just frequently consuming alcohol. Their drinks per week are shooting up, and they're worried about liver health," explains Powell.

Outside of day-after support, Cheers leaned into its long-term health products to help drinkers consume alcohol in a healthier way. Cheers Restore, a dissolvable powder consumers can mix into their water, rehydrates the body by optimizing sodium and glucose molecules.

For continued support, Cheers Protect is a daily supplement designed to increase glutathione — an antioxidant that plays a key role in liver detoxification — and support overall liver health. Cheers Protect, which was launched in 2019, became a focus for the company as they pivoted its brand strategy and marketing to accommodate consumer behavior.

"The Cheers brand is just trying to reflect the mission statement, which is bringing people together through promoting fun, responsible and health-conscious alcohol consumption," says Powell. "It fits with our vision statement, which is a world where everyone can enjoy alcohol throughout a long, healthy and happy lifetime,."

At the close of 2020, Cheers had generated $10.4 million in revenue and over $1.7m in profit — its first profitable year since launch.

During the brand's mission to stay afloat during the pandemic, the Cheers team was also laying the groundwork for its entry into the retail space. When Powell launched the company during his junior year at Princeton University, bringing Cheers to brick-and-mortar stores had always been a goal. He envisioned liquor and grocery stores where Cheers was sold next to alcohol as a complementary item. "It's like getting sunscreen before going to the beach, they kind of go hand in hand," he says.

"When we spoke with retailers, specifically bars and liquor stores, what we learned is that a lot of these places were hesitant to put pills near alcohol," he says. Wanting an attractive and accessible mode of alcohol-support, the Cheers team created the Cheers Restore beverage.

Utilizing the technology Cheers developed with Princeton University researchers, the Cheers Restore beverage incorporates the benefits of the pill in a liquid, sugar-free form. The company states that its in-vivo study found that the drink is up to 19 times more bioavailable than pure dihydromyricetin (DHM), a Japanese raisin tree extract found in Cheers products and other hangover-related cures.

"What we figured out is that if you combine DHM — our main ingredient — with something called capric acid, which is an extract from coconut oil, the bioavailability shoots way up," says Powell. He notes the unique taste profile and the "creaminess" capric acid provides. "Now you have this lightly carbonated, zero-sugar, lemon sherbert, essentially liver support, hangover beverage that tastes great in 12 ounces and can mix with alcohol," he explains.

The Cheers Restore beverage is already hitting the Houston-area, where its found a home on menus at Present Company. The company has also run promotions with Houston hangouts like Memorial Trail Ice House, Drift, and The Powder Keg.

Currently, the beverage is only available in retail capacity and cannot be ordered on the Cheers website. As Powell focuses on expanding Cheers Restore beverage presence in the region, he welcomes the idea of expanding nationally in the future to come. While eager customers await the drink's national availability, they can actively invest in Cheers through the company's recently-launched online public offering.

Though repivoting a company and launching a new product is exciting, the process did not come without its caveats and stressors. While Cheers profited as a business in 2020, the staff and its founder weren't immune to the struggles of COVID-19.

"I think 2020 was the first year that it really became real for me that Cheers is far more than just some sort of alcohol-related health brand and its products," says Powell. "Cheers is really its employees and everything that goes into being a successful, durable company that people essentially bet their careers on and their family's well-being on and so forth," he continues.

"It really does weigh on you in a different way that it's never weighed on you before," says Powell, describing the stress of the pandemic. The experience was "enlightening," he says, and he wants others to know it's not embarrassing to need help.

"There is no lack of great leaders out there that at long periods of their life they needed help in some way," he says. "For me that was 2020 and being in the grinder and feeling the stress of the unknown and all of that, but it could happen to anyone," he continues.

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