I have never been very good at spotting good business ideas, but I do have an okay eye for pegging the bad ones.
Thus, I wasn’t surprised to see that Washio, an Uber wannabe for laundry service, has washed out, swirling $16.8 million in venture drain down the drain with the rinse water. Their demise announcement began by reminding us of their mission:
We started Washio some 4 years ago with a simple goal in mind: to clean the world’s clothes. That mission began from our kitchen counter, and led us through an incredible journey over the last few years as we became the nation’s largest dry clean and laundry service. We served our loyal customers in six cities across the country, 7 days a week, morning noon and night, with 24-hour turnaround for clean clothes. A proposition that still, to this day, does not exist in the offline world. (Source: getwashio)
Unfortunately for Washio, getting your laundry picked up morning, noon, and night – and getting it back in 24 hours – is not all that compelling a mission. I mean, just because it relies on the use of a smartphone app, this is no ‘I’m drunk and it’s 3 a.m., I have no cash, I’m calling an Uber’ situation. Laundry emergencies do exist, but they’re few and far between. And – get this – for many of those emergency situations, you may be able to save your very own day by – get this – washing something out by hand. Of course, this doesn’t cover dry cleaning, but most dry cleaners provide day-of service if you get something there in the morning. And whether you’re paying for wash and fold, or plugging in the quarters and washing your own, the cities that the Washio service was offered in - Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, Oakland, SF, Washington DC – are places “where most people probably live within a ten minute walk of some place they can drop their dirty laundry off.” (As I wrote in my May 2014 post making fun of Washio.)
Of course, the entire “value proposition” of Washio is that you don’t actually have to get your ass in gear and go someplace and actually engage in a human-based transaction (dry cleaners or laundry drop off) or a low-tech, machine-based on (the laundromat).
Washio had company, of course. Doesn’t every ambition young entrepreneur want to be the Uber of whatever, so why not laundry? So what’s become of these Washio competitors?
Brinkmat’s now part of Delivery (which also does restaurant, grocery store, and packy delivery). Spotless City’s last FB posting is from 2012, its website defunct. Sudzee seems to still be around, but they haven’t yet Uber-zied: San Francisco, only. Prim, as Tech Crunch had it, “threw in the towel.” Cleanly looks like it’s still in the biz, but it’s not around here.
All these laundry pick up and delivery services. Talk about solving a problem that really doesn’t need to be solved.
Although maybe it’s just the me who actually LIKES to do laundry talking. I just can’t think outside the detergent box, I guess.
My read on this sort of service, back in 2014 was:
…And Allen Ginsberg thought he saw the best minds of his generation destroyed…Well, I guess it beats the best minds of [the millennial/Gen Z] generation focusing on weapons of mass destruction…But an app to summon up someone to pick up your laundry…?
Somewhere, Allen Ginsberg’s weeping.
Anyway, after washing and folding over 21,000 tons of laundry, Washio is done for. And I can’t say I’m in the least surprised. Sometimes you just have to separate your own darks from whites.
Laundry pickup and delivery services were by no means the worst of the laundry-related startups. That would have to have been Washboard, an almost surreal service that delivered two rolls of quarters (for $27) so that you could do your own laundry. The market spoke quickly on that one. Back in their brief day, they were better at generating publicity – including my post, Washboard Abs(urd) - than they were at business. They washed out in a matter of a couple of weeks.