Tech companies and Ardmore aren’t necessarily synonymous, but a multi-generational team with expertise stemming from barbecue, burgers, and SATs is looking to change that.
Buddy Simon former owner of Ardmore staple Budro’s Ribs, fellow restaurateur and son Patrick Simon, and Plainview senior John Habeck are in the midst of launching ShipHike, a new ride-sharing mobile app that provides on-demand shipping services.
While the Simon’s still have ownership stakes in the restaurant business with Diamond Dawgs operating in Norman, Patrick Simon said he’s all-in on his next chapter, taking on the shipping industry with a Silicon Valley approach from the ShipHike home office in Ardmore.
The idea for the app, which is like Uber for shipping small packages, came to Patrick Simon in 2016 during a road trip back from Colorado. He was driving with his dad, and as he gazed at the endless trains of FedEx trucks clogging up Interstate-40, the light bulb flashed.
“Patrick woke me up in Amarillo and he said, ‘listen to this idea, what would keep us from throwing somebody’s bicycle or furniture in our truck and driving it down to Oklahoma City and making a few bucks?” Buddy Simon recalled. “The ball just rolled from there.”
They went to work on streamlining the shipping process, hoping to shift the power from big corporations and into the hands of everyday people. A commuter driving up Interstate-35 could soon become a delivery driver and the recipient could get stuff the next day. That was the idea, Patrick said.
In the following months, Patrick and Buddy brainstormed on reasons why the idea wouldn’t work. They crunched the numbers, looked at the barriers to entry, but Patrick said he couldn’t find a fatal flaw.
"Uber really changed everything," he said. "10 years ago this idea would be thought of as crazy. But if people are willing to trust their lives, getting rides from strangers, why wouldn't they trust their stuff getting sent in a car with a stranger."
With the idea picking up steam, Patrick Simon took a leap of faith.
He handed over the managerial reigns of Diamond Dawgs to one his most trusted employees and moved into his dad’s house in Ardmore.
"It's was a little a scary to be honest," Patrick said.
But soon, the Simon's found the missing link to push the company over the top.
A high school kid came by the garage and complimented the car parked in Simon’s garage, noting the specific engine type.
The compliment made an impression. And after speaking with John Habeck, the Simon’s found their future business partner.
“Kids, they don’t just come up and talk to you like John did,” Buddy Simon said. “He’s a special kid. Everything just fell into place.”
The concern for the Simon's is how to keep the tech-wiz close to Ardmore as Habeck mulls over attending the University of Tulsa on an academic scholarship.
But with a Baby Boomer, a Millennial and a Gen-Xer, ShipHike had its team. And from then on it was about turning the idea into a working app.
The three-man team began traveling to Austin and Silicon Valley.
“Meeting with these venture capitalists and developers, they talk in code — It was fake it till you make it,” Buddy Simon said.
Soon the ShipHike team picked up on the lingo of Silicon Valley and found a developer to design the website and the app.
It took several months, but ShipHike.com is live and the app will launch May 14.
While some apps have ventured into the ride-share shipping sector before, with Uber shutting down its courier service in recent months, Buddy Simon said what sets ShipHike apart is their background in the restaurant industry, particularly customer service.
“If something goes wrong, I talk to people on the phone,” he said. “In the restaurant business, I’d go up as the owner and talk to people about their meal. We plan on having the same approach, care and attention to detail with the app”
And while ShipHike will be launching nationwide on May 14, Patrick Simon said the focus of his company will always be on his home in Ardmore.
“It’s about generating jobs for people in small towns like Ardmore,” he said. “Times are hard. Wages are low. ShipHike isn’t about making a bunch of money, it’s about doing something important and changing the industry.”