From K-State to Silicon Valley: Wildcat startup finds success in the tech world

Harrison Proffitt (left) and Ben Jackson, founders of Bungii, pose on a company truck. (Courtesy Photo by Bungii)

Moving can be a pain, especially for people who don’t have access to large vehicles that can carry everything they need to move. However, two Kansas State alumni have found a way to make moving easier for people across the country with a simple phone app.

Bungii, an on-demand truck service that can be accessed from a smartphone app, was co-founded by 2015 K-State graduates Ben Jackson, marketing and statistics, and Harrison Proffitt, business marketing and biology.

Together, these two entrepreneurs have taken their company from K-State Launch, a campus entrepreneurial competition, to the boardrooms of venture capitalists.

The concept for Bungii was born in May 2015, after multiple friends had asked Jackson to use his truck in the same day. He then took this unique dilemma to a classmate, Proffitt. After discussing it, the two found an idea: offering an on-demand truck service to the market to solve this problem.

Competing in the fall 2015 K-State Launch competition, the two won first place. Since their success in 2015, Bungii has received numerous awards from technology and startup journals recognizing their unique business. Most recently, Startland News named Bungii the number one Kansas City startup to watch in 2019.

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Future Bungii founders Ben Jackson (left) and Harrison Proffitt pose with their prize for winning the K-State Launch competition in fall 2015. (Courtesy Photo by Bungii)

“K-State Launch was a vital part in Bungii’s success,” Jackson said. “When we are pitching Bungii, sitting in a conference room in a high-rise in front of very successful businessmen whose job it is to poke holes in your idea and tell you why it is not going to work, those types of meetings are substantially easier to have and less nerve-wracking after you have done that on stage in front of an audience and a panel of judges.”

Following their success at K-State Launch, the two were encouraged by Chad Jackson, director of the Center for the Advancement of Entrepreneurship and dean of the College of Business Administration, to continue with their entrepreneurial dreams.

“The last summer of college at K-State, Harrison and I went against our parents’ advice and gave up some substantial internships to prove that people would pay us for a business like this,” Ben Jackson said. “That summer, we had a successful test market and we completed over 350 deliveries, proving that there was a concept for this.”

The two then moved on to the Kansas City area after collecting data from their summer in Manhattan. Eight months later, Jackson and Proffitt were officially ready to launch their Bungii app.

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The current staff at Bungii poses for a group photo in their headquarters. (Courtesy Photo by Bungii)

“We were so excited for this app, and we thought it was going to be a game changer and that the floodgates would just open once the app was released, but that was the furthest thing from the truth,” Proffitt said, recalling the day the app launched. “We launched to crickets, with only a couple people using our app over the first week. It was one of the biggest punches to the face that we ever had.”

With results below expectations, morale was low between Jackson and Proffitt.

“We could have waved the white flag, but Ben and I put our heads down and thought about where can we find our customers and how can we lower this customer acquisition cost,” Proffitt said.

The two then set out to try and find a solution. They sat with a 10-minute timer on as both thought up ideas for how to find customers, writing everything down. After the timer rang, they compared ideas, crossed out which ones would not work and narrowed it down to two or three.

“I don’t think there is ever a single greatest challenge, just a bunch of fires that you need to put out one day at a time,” Proffitt said.

With new ideas and inspiration, the two then expanded their reach by partnering with local furniture stores, building name recognition and not letting this challenge stop them.

Before long, customers began to use the app and Bungii quickly expanded from its headquarters in the Kansas City area to new markets in Atlanta, Washington D.C., Baltimore and most recently Miami.

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The current staff at Bungii poses for a group photo around a pickup truck. (Courtesy Photo by Bungii)

With this new momentum, Jackson and Proffitt now have their eyes set on their next city for expansion.

“We’re on the cusp of another major expansion, but the details remain under wraps for now,” Jackson said.

Proffitt said his future goals are to be in every major city by 2022 and a household name by 2025.

“We’re currently in the middle of a funding round to launch the app across the country as soon as possible,” Proffitt said.

When asked about what makes an entrepreneurial venture distinct from others, Chad Jackson said there are two components. First, it’s the team and entrepreneurs drive and determination for the company. Second, it’s finding a customer need that can be solved.

“They clearly identified a gap in a marketplace, a space where customers had needs, and they were able to satisfy that need in the right way,” Chad Jackson said. “Those two things combined together are what really separates them apart.”