MIAMI – Uber, Lyft, Airbnb—they all had to start, somewhere, right? The next big thing to hit the gig economy could be right here in South Florida.
"About three years ago, we were watching Local 10," Laura Borland said. She recalled seeing a news story where someone’s doorbell camera caught a thief stealing a package from the front porch of a home. That’s when the idea hit her.
"I just thought out loud, wouldn't be great if there was a neighbor of ours who would be willing to receive it?"
Borland said it took three years of development, but Vyllage, the app she created, is now available in the Apple and Google Play stores.
Vyllage is a network of pre-screened homeowners who make money by allowing their neighbors to use their address as a shipping address for purchases they make online, or by phone.
Borland likened her app to Uber and Lyft, but instead of hailing a car and driver, hail a home and a homeowner to receive packages for you.
More than 70 percent of homeowners report carriers have left packages on their porches.
Nearly one out of every five US homeowners have fallen victim to porch pirates, according to a study done by Ring, a video doorbell company.
Not surprising, during the holiday season package theft increases as more shipments are made and left on people’s porches when no one is home.
Borland said the main benefit of her app is peace of mind.
"If nothing is ever left outside, then nothing can be taken,” she said.
"UPS trucks come in here three to four times a day,” said Borland referring to her own Sunrise neighborhood in Sunrise. “They're making 20-30 stops. What if you were the central home to receive [those packages]?"
Borland said Vyllagers pay a $14.95 fee to become the package hub for their neighborhood, and make $3 to $5 per package, or delivery they receive. The platform makes .99 as a flat fee.
She showed us how the app works. Once logged in, users estimate the size of the package they want to have shipped.
“Small packages are $3.99, $4.99 for medium, and $5.99 for large,” Borland said. Some homeowners may not have enough space to accommodate large packages. For that reason, Vyllagers are able to set their capacity.
Through the app, users are able to also select their carrier.
The app featured icons for UPS, FedEx, USPS, DHL, and Amazon. There was also an "other" icon. “That could be, like, your floral delivery," Borland said. You can also note whether the package is fragile, or perishable.
A map pops up allowing you to see the Vyllagers available to receive your package. Once you’ve picked the Vyllager of your choice, entered your shipping information, you checkout using PayPal.
"Once your package is received, you receive photographic proof of delivery,” Borland said. “You get a text showing the condition of your package, the time it was received, and you have 48 hours to pick it up from your neighbor." That text isn’t generated until the photos are taken and the package has been signed for.
Borland said her app offers another benefit. "While their neighbors are walking their dog in the evening, they just stop by their neighbors’ and knock, they pick up their package, and somehow, dialogue takes place, community is fostered."
She said her goal is to have a Vyllager in every zip code in the country.
Vyllagers have to own their homes and undergo a background check. People who use the service also have to provide identification.
Borland said her app launched about a month ago and is free to download.