There is a certain luxury that comes with living in the center of startup land. Part of that is the platter of on-demand food delivery services at our fingertips. Startups like Instacart, Google Express, Farm Fresh to You and Good Eggs show up with the groceries. Forage and Blue Apron deliver the goods, plus instructions on making the meal yourself.
Then there’s the ready-made food options. Caviar, Sprig, Zesty, DoorDash, Seamless, Postmates, Wunwun, Eat24, SpoonRocket, and Munchery. There’s at least 10 different on-demand food delivery services waiting for us to crave a burrito within the 7×7 of San Francisco. Or perhaps a cookie.
This was partly the inspiration for Doughbies, an on-demand, freshly baked cookie delivery service from 500 Startups that promises to deliver right to your door in less than 20 minutes. That is, if you live in SoMa or the Mission districts of San Francisco.
For those outside Silicon Valley, this is arguably ridiculous. For those inside, it certainly makes it easy to cram our faces with a dozen chocolate chip and sea salt cookies almost as soon as we have a hankering for them.
Doughbies co-founder Daniel Conway smiled sheepishly and explained that he intends to expand delivery locations in the near future. As in to the Lower Haight or maybe the Marina. Though, he said if you ask nicely or make a big order and happen to be in a neighborhood nearby, you’ll probably bypass the required zip code parameters anyway.
He and technical co-founder Mariam Khan have been testing the concept for a couple of months but officially launched the service a few weeks ago.
Both have been working around the clock since launch, baking, fixing the site, packaging cookie orders, even delivering the cookies themselves when they didn’t have enough drivers. The site delivered on-demand Santa costumes in time for the boozy delights of SantaCon two weekends ago. It was santa hats last week. This week it’s a tote bag. There are plans to add other festive things every once in a while, but cookies, of course, are the main focus here.
“We’ve maybe delivered 100 cookies this week so far,” Conway told me last week. He estimates he’s working maybe 80 hours a week at the moment to fulfill all the orders, many of which are gifts right now. The two founders seemed upbeat, despite the grilling schedule.
Perhaps it’s a sugar high. Conway recalled a day a few weeks ago where he vowed to Khan that he wouldn’t eat any more cookies that day. He admits to eating six of them shortly after.
I happily wolfed down three ginger snaps covered in white chocolate and Christmas frosted decor myself right in front of Khan and Conway as we chatted. Neither of them blinked. The snaps are, admittedly, a perfect doughy, buttery, sugary ginger explosion in your mouth. And oven warm at delivery.
Doughbies wasn’t always a simple 20 minute cookie delivery service to two specific SF neighborhoods. The original idea hooked in-home bakers up to an online, etsy-like marketplace where they could sell their goods. But the marketplace idea was slow and unpredictable.
People would write in and ask the founders for same day delivery, especially in the afternoon. A lot of those requests were for cookies. And Conway, a boyish 20-something from Orange County, had fond memories of his mom sending him cookie packages in college. “I wanted to share those cookie recipes,” he said. Thus the Doughbies delivery component was born.
The marketplace still exists, but it now takes a backseat to the cookies-on-demand situation.
Doughbies handles the entire cookie-making and delivery process from start to finish. The baker shows up at a rented kitchen space in SoMa around 6 am every morning. The founders and some other helpers come in a bit later and start packaging cookies, the original chocolate chip and sea salt and the special holiday ginger snaps, into little cardboard boxes tied up with red and white bakers string to get them ready for delivery.
Orders open up at noon and end at 4 pm every day, Monday through Friday. Drivers pick up the orders and send out a text note to the intended recipient that the cookies are on their way. Those gifting cookies to someone else in the city can write a personal note for the person receiving the cookies. Warning: the driver will read that note, out loud, to the person you are gifting.
It’s not a very big delivery window, but Conway says that’s intentional. He’s trying to limit things so the company can scale properly. This is also why delivery is in only two neighborhoods and there are only two kinds of cookies.
I tried the service myself just to see if it really did get there within 20 minutes. It didn’t. It took 35 minutes. The delivery guy added an extra batch of cookies on top of my order for going over the 20 minute limit so I’m willing to let that slide.
And honestly, it’s wacky that fresh baked cookies are even delivered in 35 minutes right to my door, simply because I live in the startup test kitchen of the world, anyway.