In 1998, two twenty-something entrepreneurs named Joseph Park and Yong Kang launched Kozmo.com, which promised to deliver a variety of goods at any cost—CDs, Snickers bars, and so forth—to customers in less than an hour. But despite promising early reception and plans to eventually go public, the service eventually got swallowed up when the bubble burst, becoming almost synonymous with dot-com era excess.
Fast forward more than a decade, however, and Kozmo.com appears to be back—at least according a colorful and much-circulated message on the company's revived homepage. "Kozmo.com [is] relaunching soon!" the website reads. "Remember us? We're relaunching soon with the vision to fulfill your online order incredibly fast, and on-demand." Few other details were available, though it appears the domain is registered to Yummy Foods LLC, a Los Angeles-based grocery delivery service.
The apparent re-launch is a sign that Kozmo.com was perhaps ahead of its time when it first launched (if not just preposterously mismanaged). In the late 1990s, the New York-based startup raised $28 million in funding as competitors such as UrbanFetch entered the field. Not long after, Amazon would go on to invest $60 million as part of a three-year partnership with the company. Despite the strong VC interest, the company reported a net loss of $26.3 million in 1999, and its plans for an IPO were scrapped, as it failed to generate a consistent stream of revenue from delivering $1.50 packages of Skittles to customers. By 2001, the company went belly up.
Since then, however, there's been a renaissance in the instant gratification space. Corporate juggernauts such Amazon, Walmart, and eBay are competing in the same-day delivery arena, as are startups like Postmates and TaskRabbit. Kozmo, ironically, is now late to the game.
What will set the company apart from competitors? How will it be different from the early aughts? We reached out to the company through Kozmo.com and will let you know when we hear back.
But at least one report indicates that Yummy Foods was granted two trademark registrations for the brand "Kozmo" recently, which give some sense of where the company could be heading: They cover a retail store and online service that delivers everything from vegetables to medicine to cleaning products to movies to books to tobacco, all available for order via phone or mobile device.
In other words, not much has changed.
Additional reporting by Iona Holloway.
[Image: Flickr user Marco Monetti]