UNENDING ROAD SHOW

MARC GORLIN

MARC GORLIN KEEPS ROADIE ROLLING ALONG WITH UPS.

MARC GORLIN

Marc Gorlin, founder and CEO of the UPS owned company and delivery platform Roadie, is a storytelling engine.

To tell Roadie’s origin story, he recalls driving through Montgomery, Alabama, when the bathroom contractor at his Florida beach condo called in February 2014. The contractor said shower tiles had arrived in pieces, and the Birmingham warehouse couldn’t deliver replacements until after the weekend.

Gorlin figured someone going to Florida from Birmingham would have been willing to bring a box of tiles for $20. That weekend, the Chamblee High and University of Georgia graduate wrote a business plan for a ride-sharing app for packages, and Roadie was born.

Now Gorlin can tell stories about UPS, which bought Roadie in October 2021. As a wholly owned subsidiary of the Sandy Springs-based shipping giant, Roadie brings a nationwide, same-day delivery capability with items UPS doesn’t touch, from oversize goods to perishables. Gorlin says UPS provides the best chance for what any founder wants for his company: longevity.

“Being part of UPS is awesome,” he says. “We still call our own shots as much as I’ve ever seen possible when a really big company buys a really small company,” which has grown to more than 180 employees supporting some 200,000 contract drivers.

Gorlin was 23 when he co-founded PGP Corp. to commercialize Pretty Good Privacy encryption in 1996; Network Associates bought it in 1997. Personalization service VerticalOne and staffing firm The Lanta Technology Group followed in 1998. S1 Corp. bought VerticalOne in 2000; Lanta lasted until 2012.

Gorlin in 2009 helped launch small-business lender Kabbage, which American Express bought in 2020, reportedly for up to $850 million.

He explains his entrepreneurship with a story: “In middle school and high school, I did magic. I loved how you could make people believe in what they thought was impossible. You’re making something out of nothing. Startups are kind of like that.”

Roadie’s magic comes from its people, Gorlin says. “A lot of our folks are wicked smart, but they’re also pretty funny, and they run at problems, not away from them.”

His father, Steve, a biotech entrepreneur, taught him that every business hits roadblocks. Gorlin passes similar lessons to his children, Lily, 17, and Mills, 14.

When Gorlin accepted an Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year National Award last November, he told a story about Lily’s project for a marketing class. She sought his advice on whether to build a sharkrepellent surfboard or wetsuit. “It depends,” he told her. “Do you not want your surfboard to get eaten, or do you not want you to get eaten?”

She got an A.

Gorlin majored in journalism at UGA because his father advised that an entrepreneur’s job was communication. “You’ve got to sell employees to take a chance on something,” Gorlin’s father told him. “You’ve got to sell your first customers. You’ve got to sell your investors.”

What sells the story, Gorlin says, is making it relatable. When he talks about tile, someone tells the story back, but it’s about a child’s jersey or a grandmother’s rocking chair. “There’s a lot of people who have the same need you’re trying to sell.”

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HOW TO TURN AN IDEA INTO A BUSINESS

“There’s value in the grind. Just get started, and things will begin to fall into place,” Gorlin says. “Novelists say this all the time. You don’t have to know how the book is going to end before you start writing it. You just start putting pen to paper”.

PHOTO: Sara Hanna

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