Interview With Kansas City Startup: Truckily Accelerating At Ark Challenge

Food Trucks are all the rage these days. Most metropolitan areas now have a plethora of delicious food available in converted bread trucks. If you’ve ever been to Austin Texas, especially during South By South West we’re sure you’ve seen some great food trucks. When we were in Chicago for Chicago Tech Week lunch was catered by a dozen delicious food trucks outside the Merchandise Mart.

Aside from big events though, finding your regular food truck can be a tough task, especially when you have a limited amount of time for lunch. Or perhaps you’re in the mood for food truck food but you’re not sure about the cuisine. Well mobile food truck apps are becoming just about as hot as the food trucks themselves. In fact, Pennsylvania startup TruckyLove has incorporated both a food trick finder and a social network surrounding food trucks.

With Kansas City startup Truckily, it’s a little more cut and dry, but the guys behind Truckily have taken into consideration the diner and the driver.

As is with most of the other apps being built in the space, Truckily provides a function that allows diners to locate their favorite food trucks by name, or cuisine. They can also do a generalized browse type function where they can see what food trucks are around them.

On the driver side Truckily provides a function that allows food truck owners to find the best spot to set up shop.

Truckily is based in Kansas City but they’re currently accelerating at the Ark Challenge accelerator in Arkansas.

We got a chance to talk with Derek Kean one of the two co-founders of Truckily. Check out that interview below.

What is Truckily?

Truckily is empowering location based marketing for food trucks. Our mission is to provide a one-touch solution to allow mobile vendors to efficiently market their business to customers in their area. By giving powerful routing, analytics and proximity marketing tools we are able to improve the number of customers at every location, saving time for business owners and increasing profitability.

In layman’s terms, how does it work?
The easiest way to explain it is: Mobile vendors can check Truckily to find a good route for their niche food/items, push a big red button to check in to each location and alert their customers accordingly, sell more food and goods. For the diners, they just need to launch the Truckily app and check out what food trucks are around, today’s menu, and favorite their truck or even their favorite menu item. From there it is all fun and food!
Who are the founders and what are their backgrounds?
The two founders are Matt Berkland and Derek Kean. Matt has been programming enterprise routing and scheduling software for over 12 years, and has participated in multiple startups during that time. Derek is a small business owner, and has worked for large marketing agencies for direct marketing and digital strategy; having also founded multiple startups in the local business and location based marketing field.
Where are you based?
Truckily is a Kansas City, MO company, founded in the Crossroads district. Currently the team is participating in the ARK Challenge accelerator in Fayetteville Arkansas, as one of 15 teams chosen to grow businesses in the food, retail and transportation industries.
What’s the startup scene/culture like where you’re based?
Kansas City is a growing scene of highly talented businesspersons and engineers. Having our hometown as the headquarters for the Kauffman Foundation is a great help towards education and training for aspiring entrepreneurs. In the past year there has been a large swell in attention to our city with the launch of the Google Fiber project, bringing nomadic developers to the area to play around with ultra high speed access in residential settings. We continue to host technology events with growing numbers, and the number of great startups is growing each day.
How did you come up with the idea for Truckily?
We were walking around San Francisco and had always heard of the great food trucks that are abound. Seeing two drive past us, we had no clue where to find them and searching through twitter/facebook was a hassle.  We went to the AppStore, downloaded a few apps each and tried to find the location. Success! We went to that location to find that there was nothing around. Lost, frustrated and hungry we came up with an app that isn’t just focused on giving users information, but giving users accurate information that adds value to the truck owner. That is how we see things at Truckily; Add value for the trucks first, and give users the right information all the time.
How did you come up with the name?
Luckily, Truckily was available. We love food trucks, so we thought back to using LOLspeak and landed on ILY (I love you), then mixed that in with “truck” and there we were with Truckily.
What problem does Truckily solve?
We want to take the marketing load off of truck owners, so that they can get back to making and serving good food. By doing so we can enable trucks to make better decisions based off of their performance at different locations, and target customers down to their likes at the menu item level.  For the user, we give accurate location information, as well as menus that can be picture-ized, loyalty and discount options, as well as the ability to book catering for parties, etc.
What’s your secret sauce?
Passion and Experience (and other secret stuff). We are passionate about two things; Great Food and Software. This business brings together both of those in a helpful way to the small business owners that rely on marketing for their livelihood, and leverages our experience in being profitable with marketing and scheduling.
What’s one dilemma you’ve encountered in the startup process?
Time. We have lots of features that we want to build, and have to work hard to timeline them to make sure we can get the first product out the door. Each new conversation we have with industry and tech contacts leaves us with new awesome features and ideas that we need to manage. If only we could work 50 hours a day.
What’s one challenge you’ve overcome in the startup process?
With many startups, ours included, the hardest part is raising money and reaching the ‘first step’ of going full-time. We were fortunate to have been accepted into the ARK Challenge this year, which gave both Matt and I the resources and connections to take Truckily to the full-time status. Now we are working to overcome the bigger challenge of raising seed capital to grow this platform into an international product for mobile vendors.
Who are some of your mentors and business role models?
Our mentor group is very large as part of the ARK, and we have had huge amounts of help from the States of Arkansas and Missouri to get grants and funding. Our mentor team consists of multiple technology entrepreneurs in the Logistics field, as well as the mobile app space and mobile retail and supply chain management. In business, my personal role models are somewhat cliche, but nevertheless inspiring; Richard Branson for always thinking different, acting now, and finding what others do badly and making his ‘excellent’. I wrote a report about Lee Iacocca in school that was based on my inspiration from his ability to see a market need, and rescue a giant company from disaster by delivering what people wanted, at a level they could both afford and enjoy.
What’s next for Truckily?
Our next move is to launch our Beta in the midwestern states, and follow that with our national release. We are well on our way to growing our team, and taking food trucks and their food out to the masses.
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