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Startup Spotlight: 71lbs

Startup Spotlight is a new feature in Business Monday. We want to feature startups that have hit significant milestones and look ahead to their next challenges. In coming months, we hope to both feature tech and non-tech startups at various stages to shine a light on our entrepreneurial diversity. If you think your startup should be featured, please email businessmonday@miamiherald.com.


Concept: A“set-and-forget, then collect” system that allows companies to automatically track and collect on the $2 billion a year in unclaimed FedEx and UPS late shipping refunds

Story: After 15 years in shipping, logistics and e-commerce, and being on both sides of the table, first as a shipper with Jamba Juice and then as a carrier, running the retail and e-commerce practice for FedEx, Jose Li, 41, has seen the differences between how large shippers operate, with million-dollar budgets, tools and resources, and how millions of small business lack the knowledge, information or tools to handle shipping and logistics in an efficient manner. 71lbs.com’s vision is to help democratize shipping and logistics for small- and medium-sized businesses.

Launched: 2012

Team: Jose Li (founder and CEO), Kevin Cook, Yensy Hall and Dalay Ferrer. (pictured here; photo by Joe Rimcus Jr. of The Miami Herald)

Financing: $500,000 in seed funding from The Pritzker Group, OCA Ventures, Idea Fund Partners, Excelerate Labs (now Techstars Chicago) and Tamiami Angel Fund I.

Key milestones reached: Reached 300+ customers; completed seed round; onboarded several partners including Etsy.com, BigCommerce.com, US Messenger and others.

Biggest startup challenge: Hiring great talent. Seeking developer, marketing specialist and salesperson.

Next step: Continue to acquire customers in a scalable way. Next target: 1,000 customers within 6 months.

Investor’s advice: Troy Henikoff is CEO of TechStars Chicago, formerly Excelerate Labs, an accelerator Li participated in last summer. “I love recurring revenue models, and this one is a no-brainer,” said Henikoff, also an investor and advisor in 71lbs. To reach Li’s goal of 1,000 customers within six months, Henikoff advises: “Testing, testing, testing. We can get 1,000 customers, but how do we do it in the most efficient way possible? By always testing! ... Jose is a tenacious, scrappy entrepreneur. Let me be 100 percent clear that is one of the best compliments I can give an entrepreneur, as it is that level of energy and determination that is required to be successful.”

-- Nancy Dahlberg