ZipJet is offering a technology-based alternative to the weekly wash for affluent city-slickers, time-poor fashionistas and knackered parents.
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Between 1980 and today, the number of UK launderettes dropped 75%. Now on-demand services like Zipjet are filling the void with a fast efficient service. Here, founders Lorenzo Franzi and Florian Färber, both 33, describe their plans to convince people to outsource their washing and ironing again.
Describe your business so my mum could understand it.
ZipJet app is an on-demand laundry and dry cleaning service that revolutionises the way laundry is done - we liberate consumer tedium and helping customers to unlock new time. Instead of using traditional launderettes, orders are placed through ZipJet’s website or state-of-the-art smartphone app.
Founded in October 2014, ZipJet started in London, then opened Berlin and is now expanding across Europe. It already has secured funding from Rocket Internet, which has built many successful Internet companies worldwide, including Zalando, Groupon International and eDarling.
In May 2016 it launched a same day Express delivery service for busy Londoners - the first such service in the UK.
Where did you get the idea for your business and why did you think there would be demand?
We both have backgrounds in consulting. Hailing from Belgium and Germany respectively, both united to take on one of the key culprits of the modern time poverty phenomenon: laundry toil.
Given their experience working for multinationals, both Lorenzo and Florian were familiar with the difficulty of finding time to do laundry/visit dry cleaners during the working week.
The two therefore identified untapped potential in the laundry and dry cleaning market, where they realised that, by introducing an on-demand solution, this would alleviate consumer tedium and revolutionise how we go about doing our dirty laundry and dry cleaning.
Lorenzo is responsible for Operations, Finance & Investor Relations at ZipJet. Florian heads the Marketing department as well as Product & IT.
How has the business developed?
A year and a half on, our two man team has morphed into a laundry liberation movement, employing over 50 people in London and Berlin, with expansion imminent to other European capitals. Today we have approximately 25,000 users and we experience a 15% growth month-on-month.
With further expansion on the horizon, we all share the same vision: of a world where convenience is king, and laundry toil a strange relic from a dystopian past.
Launderette businesses are closing down across the UK, yet 1 million homes don't have a washing machine
Is there a big opportunity here and what do you hope to achieve in future?
Around 1 million households (4%) in the UK do not own a washing machine and 10 million households (40%) do not have a tumble dryer. Interestingly enough, the number of launderettes in the UK has fallen from roughly 12,000 in 1980 to 3,000 in 2014. Hence the tremendous opportunity to disrupt the sector via a mobile driven, digital proposition like ZipJet.
Looking ahead we want to focus on perfecting our service. We want to deliver quality that speaks for itself, above and beyond marketing. This quality should underpin our new brand direction, which will have a more sartorial, aspirational feel. Subsequently we will look to expand to new territories and/or service areas.
What have been the major bumps in the road and how have you overcome them?
ZipJet’s three service categories - Lite, Plus & Express - are unprecedented on the market, allowing our customers to tailor their service to suit their need. Our Express service is a great example of this. Same day turnaround cannot be matched by our competitors, given the technology required to ensure this is logistically feasible.
However, just like other on-demand services like Uber and Deliveroo, punctuality in cities with high levels of traffic is probably one of our major obstacles. In this context, the roll out of our brand new proprietary algorithm helped us improve accuracy, now hovering over 95%, and getting that demand/supply mix right.
How have you marketed the business?
Our audience is made of three main customer segments. Our principal audience is comprised of businessmen & women that regularly require dry cleaning. These individuals are quintessentially cash rich and time poor.
In London, this demographic inhabits the City and Canary Wharf throughout the day, retreating to affluent suburbs in the evening.
Urban fashionistas are a secondary audience. This demographic is predominantly comprised of individuals working in the arts and (international) students from affluent backgrounds. Typically, this demographic has delicate garments that require specialist care.
Last but not least, frenetic families are a further audience for ZipJet. This demographic is receptive to technology and recognise the benefits we can bring.
The key to marketing success lies within identifying customer demographics and customer intent correctly. Examples of successfully implemented ABL marketing include Pub Poster Marketing, Tube Billboards, Print Ads etc.
What is the hardest thing about running your own business and what makes it fulfilling?
Our biggest challenge is to focus on the most relevant things and build a company people like to work for even in times of high daily speed and pressure from the outside, like from investors. Apart from that we have smaller daily challenges like traffic jams in Soho, construction work on the road and so on.
One time one of our drivers got locked up in one of our facilities. That was interesting too. It makes it fulfilling, because if you make your hands dirty and you feel the sweat, you will be rewarded with daily visible results.
What was your biggest mistake?
Trying to expand and scale to fast, without having found the perfect to fit the market. Never ever listen to the pressure from outside. In early days it is just you and the customers to tell you if the product is ready.
What sets your business apart from the rest and how have you nurtured that point of difference?
Whilst our competitors focus on marketing spend, our emphasis is on developing cutting-edge tech - take our algorithm, built in-house, which underpins our operations.
We are taking on the time poverty phenomenon: we want to unlock new time for consumers, so that they can enjoy pursuits that are meaningful & contribute to joie de vivre. Needless to say, laundry does not count among these!
Our Express service is unprecedented in the market. We are able to respond to ‘laundry SOS’ calls at the drop of a hat, with same day turnaround.
Technology and service are points of difference for ZipJet
How do you recruit, how do you inspire your people and what incentives do you give them to stay loyal?
We strongly believe that people are the core of every business. You never build a business alone, it is actually the people who make the difference if you will fail or succeed. In our case this starts from the drivers and goes on to every single department.
Therefore we recruit selected, but if we are convinced we act super-fast. Employees in our case are loyal because they believe in our vision, they are companions instead of “workers”. We are looking to develop them with clear career path instead of burning them out.
We do this by providing a positive working environment, we constantly reward and reinforce them as well as let them be part of the story by actively involving them in the business strategy.
Do you rate government support for growing businesses and why?
I think there should be more governmental efforts to support entrepreneurship. If we want to catch up with Silicon Valley, government institutions need to play their part in setting up an innovative environment.
What are your top three tips for people starting a business today?
Have a clear initial vision - Focus on that one thing - build a great product first before already conquering the world
Stay lean and try to find companions instead of employees
Learn from your mistakes - it is ok to do some, but you need to iterate fast