From Uber to Washio

A new pay-by-the-pound laundry service is attracting big money from venture capitalists in the US.

Uber, the on-demand taxi and rideshare service, has spawned many copycats. But few are more unlikely than Washio, an Uber-like startup in the laundry business, reports

Customers pay US$1.60 a pound to have their soiled laundry picked up by a contractor, taken to the laundromat to be washed or dry-cleaned, and brought back within 24 hours. Those US$1.60-a-pound pickups are already worth a lot of money, since venture capital investing firms such as Canaan Partners, SherpaVentures and AFSquare have injected US$16.8 million into the startup.

Co-founder Jordan Metzner claims that he now has tens of thousands of clients, which explains that after only a year, Washio has 35 employees and more than 150 drivers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, DC.

The idea for the company came from Metzner's own experience. "I’m really bad at doing my own laundry," he told "I saw the rise of companies like Uber and the whole on-demand economy and I dreamt to myself, ‘I wish I had someone come by and pick up my laundry at the click of a button,’ and that’s kind of where it all started."

Underlying the growth of Washio and other Uber-lookalikes is the spread of smartphones, which have now reached a penetration of 60% in the United States. Metzner claims these devices allow for a level of coordination between consumers and contractors that would have previously been impossible. "With a company like Uber, if they didn’t have mobile phones their whole business wouldn’t exist," says Metzner. "I think the same is true for us."