For a little more than a year, Washio has provided a simple way for lazy consumers to do their laundry, by placing an order via mobile app. Now it’s speeding up the process by enabling them to have true on-demand pick up of their goods.
Before today, Washio customers were asked to schedule a time for pickups to be completed. Pickups could generally be scheduled within 24 hours, but the service wasn’t what you would consider truly “on-demand.”
The company is changing that. With the latest update to its app and launch of what it calls “Washio Now,” customers will be able to place an order and have their laundry or dry cleaning picked up within the next 30 minutes (or, at the very latest, within the next hour).
The new version of the app also drastically simplifies the ordering process. Since users generally don’t have to schedule in advance anymore, the app pre-fills the order screen with a customer’s default address and the next available pickup time. That enables one-click access to the service.
Washio now also provides the same sort of real-time tracking of a customer’s pickup so they have an ETA of when to expect their driver to arrive.*
CEO Jordan Metzner says the company spent the last six months updating its routing algorithm to provide speedier pickups and deliveries. The service now dynamically routes drivers based on where they are scheduled to make drop-offs and where pickup orders are being requested in real time.
“We always dreamed of making Washio as close to on-demand as possible,” Metzner said in a phone conversation. “What we’ve learned… is that availability is important to the customer.”
Only about 30 percent of all orders are scheduled more than a day in advance, Metzner told me. The other 70 percent of orders are placed for same-day pickup. Delivery returns generally happen 24 hours later, depending on when a pickup happens.
Enabling real-time pickup meant doing some logistical acrobatics, however. Unlike Uber, where drivers have free time in-between giving rides to passengers, Washio routes drivers based on where they had previously been scheduled to make deliveries. Dropoffs can’t be re-routed since drivers already have a customer’s laundry in their car, so the algorithm dynamically routes pickups based on which drivers are nearby or scheduled to be nearby.
Since routes are constantly changing, Metzner says the company has simplified the driver’s schedule. Whereas it previously had a queue of stops, the app now shows drivers only where their next stop is. The end result is less confusion and more simplicity in providing directions for where to be and where to go.
Doing so also makes the whole process more efficient: Whereas drivers previously were making somewhere between two and four stops an hour, Metzner says that thanks to the new routing algorithm, drivers are now making up to nine stops per hour with the new routing algorithm in highly dense areas like San Francisco.
Starting today, Washio Now will be available in all the markets it operates in, which includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Chicago, Boston and Washington, D.C. As it expands, it’s hoping to bring the same sort of real-time availability to other markets.
Washio has raised more than $13 million in funding from a list of investors that includes Canaan Partners, Sherpa Ventures, Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures, Three Six Zero Group, Ashton Kutcher, Guy Oseary, Ron Burkle, Nas, Anthony Saleh, Larry Rudolph, Jay Brown, Zod Nazem, Troy Carter, Scooter Braun, Yael Cohen, Tom Ryan and Frank Cooper.
* Washio likes to call its drivers “ninjas.” I do not.