How To Dodge Flying Pianos

“Hold on for dear life” is not the best motto to live by…

but that was our rallying cry heading into our first major city expansion: Atlanta.

We knew we were going to be stretched a little thin but we’re young! And have energy! And can work our way through anything!

It worked pretty well when launching K.C. It should work again, right?

Wrong. Atlanta was the next big test for our small, growing startup and we were unprepared to say the least.

Flash forward to one week post launch: word was spreading quick and the response to our expansion was overwhelming, literally. There were far more people using the app than any of our models projected… and that posed a huge problem.

It sounds like a dream, having too many customers, but we are a surviving testament that when supply can’t keep up with demand, headaches begin crashing down like a cartoon piano from the sky. It took about 10 seconds of mental math to realize we didn’t have nearly enough drivers.

How were our models SO far off? It didn’t make sense. We didn’t know what else to do but circle up around the whiteboard and start brainstorming. Three hours, six cups of coffee, 26 Google map distance calculations and five census reports later, we had a few answers.

Atlanta has three minor details that intersected at the right (some would argue wrong) point: it is dense. It has a metro area that is spread out. It features extreme traffic. Driving in Kansas City is nothing like driving in Atlanta.

Later that day, we had our theory confirmed when  one of our Atlanta drivers told us it would take 50 minutes to go ten miles. We swore we heard him wrong. That can’t be real life. How could people live like that?! Here come the cartoon pianos.

From there, it only seemed to get worse. Our phones were ringing off the hook. We couldn’t keep up with all the emails. Our whole team was working 12 hour days, seven days a week trying to keep customers happy and put together the puzzle of driver availability. After a week or so, exhaustion slammed into repeating problems and we began to question ourselves.

Did we launch too soon? Should we have picked a market that was closer Kansas City? Is Bungii actually scalable? What are we even doing? At what point is it worth putting out a fire if it seems like everything has already burned down?

It was one of those look-in-the-mirror-and-decide-what-you’re-made-of moments. The easy choice was to shut Atlanta down and focus on a city closer to home, like St Louis. That is what we all wanted to do. But for some reason, we didn’t.

We wish we could say that out of the sheer ingenuity of our team we discovered a silver bullet and solved the problem overnight. But that wasn’t the case. We kept working, kept picking up the phone, kept chopping and after a couple months we looked up and realized the cartoon pianos had stopped falling. To the surprise of everyone, Atlanta was operating more smoothly than our hometown, Kansas City.

To make a company work, you must be committed to where it is now and where it will be in the future. What Atlanta taught us is that there is rarely ever one major breakthrough or homerun moment. Improvement comes in the form of small tweaks and persistent effort over time.

We can’t pinpoint the exact reason Atlanta began to succeed. But we do know this: each adjustment built upon the last adjustment until the strain of launching new city turned into the success of launching a new city.

And before long, Bungii was searching for city number three.