Chalk this up as the latest instalment of ‘Fear And Laundry In London‘. Lavanda, co-founded by Guy Westlake, who was previously same-hour delivery company Shutl’s Head of Marketing, is the latest startup to buy the on-demand laundry ticket and take the ride.The company, which pitches itself as the ‘Uber for laundry’, sees its official launch today, and has raised $265,000 to fund a further UK roll out beyond Central London, as well as native apps for iOS and Android “in the coming weeks”. As it stands, Lavanda is only accessible via its mobile optimised website.
Investors include Ned Cranborne (Partner at Samos Investments), Tom Allason (Founder, Shutl), Stephen Romney (CTO, Shutl), Jack Waley-Cohen and Michael Dent (co-founders, what3words) and Hugo Adams (co-founder, 3 Kinds of Ice).
We’ve got a very different model from everyone else in the space Guy Westlake
It does this via what Westlake calls a network of hyper-local self employed ‘Lavanda Pros’ who undertake either/or both the delivery and laundry itself, and are provided with any specialist equipment and training. They undergo the required labour in their own homes and are typically work-from-home mums or people, such as child carers, who are already doing laundry as part of their job.
This differs from many of Lavanda’s competitors, who focus more on the convenience of advance booking via a mobile app, and collection and delivery, but outsource the actual work to partner laundrettes or industrial out of town laundry services. In contrast, Lavanda doesn’t even take advance bookings.
“We’ve got a very different model from everyone else in the space,” says Westlake. “Lavanda is a platform that enables people to become entrepreneurs who can earn flexibly by offering an on-demand laundry service to their local community. This ‘hyper-local’ approach allows us to offer a genuinely on-demand experience, at an affordable price point.”
Laundry In Any Direction, At Any Hour.
In a low margin sector like laundry, the cost of doing a very fast, convenient collection for the consumer is simply too much for most models Guy Westlake
“In a low margin sector like laundry, the cost of doing a very fast, convenient collection for the consumer is simply too much for most models to sustain. As a business, Lavanda has been designed from the ground up with this in mind,” he says.
There’s also the issue of convenience, in which Westlake thinks Lavanda can compete. “We believe that urban life is too frenetic and spontaneous to be governed by rigid collection and delivery windows, so we aim to provide a service that offers 100 per cent flexibility to the customer at no additional cost. Our unmatchable convenience proposition is priced at a similar level to other players in the space, and is in many cases cheaper for a household’s regular weekly laundry needs.”
Interestingly, Washio itself is iterating, and now offers true on-demand booking, which suggests Westlake may have a point.
We Can’t Stop Here, This Is Laundry Country!
However, with only modest backing, and a plethora of competitors, Lavanda faces a battle on the marketing front. Notably these include ZipJet, founded by the ruthless Rocket Internet startup factory, and Laundrapp, which recently picked up £1.5 million in backing, enabling it to run a high-profile TV and radio ad campaign, as well as advertising on billboards in London’s tube network.
Others in the space include Ignite100-accelerated Washbox, and Spyn (now part of Wayra Accelerator), both of which follow the Washio model. There’s also ihateironing.com, which partners with local dry cleaners who handle collection and delivery, but under the ihateironing brand, and LaundryRepublic, which operates a 24-hour “locker-based laundry and dry cleaning service”, negating the need for a customer to be home for pickup and delivery.
“Location and proximity to the consumer is key for a truly on-demand service, so the less targeted and more expensive channels (such as TV, Radio, etc.) don’t offer us much value at this stage,” says Westlake. “The nature of our model means we already have our own hyper-local marketing engine – our community of Pros – who enable us to market the service at low cost. The convenience aspect (speed of collection and on-demand delivery) plus the quality of the experience then generates additional word-of-mouth. We’ll obviously be continually readdressing our marketing channels as we expand.”