By Gary Dinges
Updated: 5:05 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2012
Published: 8:10 p.m. Monday, Jan. 9, 2012
Austin and Austin-based company uShip.com are front and center in a new reality TV series that debuts tonight.
The A&E Network’s “Shipping Wars” focuses on six shippers whose livelihoods depend on transporting bulky, out-of-the-ordinary items — including a 13-foot-tall metal horse made of car bumpers and a larger-than-life “Little Shop of Horrors” Venus’ flytrap — listed on uShip.com.
The site, launched in 2004, connects truckers with businesses and consumers who need their belongings hauled cross-country. Assignments go to the lowest bidder.
“Trucking is a tough, competitive business,” said Matt Chasen, uShip’s founder and CEO.
“‘Shipping Wars’ gives viewers a glimpse into the life of independent American truckers, the unpredictable jobs they face, and how they turn the unshippable into the ‘uShip-able.'”
The site has flourished, in part, because it makes shipping odd-shaped goods affordable, according to Rob Adams, director of Texas Venture Labs and the Venture Labs Investment Competition at the University of Texas McCombs School of Business.
uShip was born while Chasen was attending McCombs.
“Their whole business model is odd sizes — stuff that goes off the charts with UPS and FedEx, whose shipping models are based on standard sizes,” Adams said. “With uShip, shipping nonstandard items can be done on a mere mortal’s credit card.”
A&E, which is home to a number of highly rated reality TV shows, including “Hoarders,” “Storage Wars,” “Intervention” and “Dog the Bounty Hunter,” has picked up 10 half-hour installments of the show, which is produced by Austin-based Megalomedia. Depending on viewership, additional episodes could be ordered for a second season.
With commercials for the show in heavy rotation, uShip stands to benefit big time, Adams said.
“This is great news for them,” he said. “You could literally never afford to buy this kind of exposure.”
As of October, the most recent figures available, the company reported $240 million in transactions since 2004. There are 225,000 registered transporters on uShip.com, who have placed 6 million bids for 1.9 million jobs.
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