Doing Laundry In NYC Sucks—Can FlyCleaners Make It More Seamless?

The company behind this dry cleaning and laundry service app hopes to clean up in a market ripe for disruption.

If you live in New York City, you know how to pronounce Houston Street, the very best taxi-nabbing strategies, and that doing something as simple-seeming as laundry can actually be as complicated as finding an affordable apartment.

Many buildings don't have washers or dryers. And in New York's gentrified neighborhoods, it's not uncommon for coin-operated laundromat machines to be nearly as expensive as a drop-off laundry option. One new startup, FlyCleaners, is hoping to exploit this quirk in urban economics. They offer a service that's meant to be as seamless as, well, Seamless for laundry and dry cleaning

Here's how it works: Users file a service request via app, fill out a bunch of variables—darks in the mix? green cleaning?—and FlyCleaners' drivers pick the clothing up within 30 minutes and return it cleaned. Payment is handled inside the app.

FlyCleaners, which launched late last year, is currently running a test operation only in Brooklyn's Williamsburg, Greenpoint, and Bushwick neighborhoods, but CEO David Salama says the company hopes to expand to Manhattan over the next several weeks. An ex-hedge funder, Salama runs FlyCleaners with Insomnia Cookies founder Seth Berkowitz. Berkowitz has considerable delivery-by-web experience; his company, which launched in Philadelphia in the early 2000s, made a name for itself by delivering cookies to college dorm rooms 24 hours a day. (I attended Temple University in the early 2000s, where Temple News staffers were among the early customers.) According to Berkowitz, much of the company's 20-or-so person outfit arrived from places like Seamless and Grubhub and other companies with backend web-based delivery experience.

FlyCleaners iOS App

"I'm a lifelong resident of Brooklyn, and have a really solid feel for the dynamic of people who live in the area as well," Salama says, explaining the thinking behind launching in the borough du jour. "I saw firsthand the metamorphosis in North Brooklyn over the past years from it being a place my parents didn't want me in as a kid, to becoming a very exciting, innovative, and trendy place today."

FlyCleaners doesn't actually handle washing or dry cleaning itself. Instead, the company outsources to a variety of wholesale facilities. (And due to the popularity of drop-off laundry in New York City, many mom-and-pop laundromats outsource their drop-off and delivery washing to wholesale cleaners.)

Salama says that the company uses commercial partners chosen based on the quality of the cleaning, responsiveness, attitude, and, perhaps most crucially, comfort with technology. FlyCleaners' staff currently consists mostly of engineers or drivers; the company claims to have no sales staff as of yet. Because the company itself does not process laundry or dry cleaning, it needed only a Laundry Jobber license through the City of New York to launch operations.

In December FlyCleaners received $2 million in seed funding from Zelkova Ventures and angel investors, many of whom were previous investors in Insomnia Cookies.

[Image: Flickr user Stefan Kohli]

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