Bharat Pulgam and his partners were still students at the University of Minnesota in 2018 when they launched a concept called Runerra, an app that connected someone who needed a few things from a store with someone who was already headed out shopping. In 2018, Runerra participated in the Target + Techstars retail accelerator program. When the app launched in early 2019, it focused on college campuses. But business came to a standstill as schools shut down because of Covid-19.
“We found that we had a unique opportunity in neighborhoods … to connect neighbors,” says Pulgam. Customers pay nothing to use the app, now called Pikup. Pikup makes money by charging monthly subscription fees to its retailers. It has now raised close to $1 million from angel investors, and nearly 1,000 Twin Cities neighborhoods are on the app. Local retailers using the service include Target, Kowalski’s, and Caribou Coffee. Pikup also won the high-tech division of the 2020 MN Cup.
In 2021, Pikup is rolling out a feature allowing customers to place delivery orders with restaurants. Restaurants will make deliveries themselves, allowing them to build new customer bases. Pulgam adds that Pikup won’t charge partner restaurants the same steep fees that other third-party delivery services do. “People are stuck at home, and they want to support businesses,” Pulgam says. “Pikup is a great partner for that.”