Before I left for a trip to San Francisco earlier this month, I challenged myself (read: was forced by a boss) to find a startup I like. The assumption being that, surely, if I work at Valleywag, I must hate technology. There are a lot of bad actors in the business, sure, but Zack Shapiro of Luna isn't one.
The first thing you'll notice about Zack is that he's a skinnier Andy Samberg. It's sort of startling. But that soon goes away, as Shapiro talks—sans Zuckerbergian pretense and alienation—about the company he's trying to build.
Luna takes a regular annoyance: package delivery is a pain in the ass. A lot of people have a boss that either prohibits or frowns upon deliveries being made to the office. A lot of people also can't make it home in time to intercept the FedEx man when he stops by your apartment—which means you end up with boxes sitting riskily on your stoop, or returned to sender. Luna acts as a middle man, receiving a package on your behalf, and then delivering it to your house at an evening increment you select from your smartphone.
Maybe it'll work, I don't know. If it were currently offered in New York, I'd try it—each Luna dropoff is $7, but there's no cap on the number of packages. Luna would be silly to use if you're buying a book or a DVD, but what about furniture, a desktop computer, or ten boxes of books? I'd pay seven bucks for that. The whole scheme perfectly rides the line between bourgeois bandaid and "actual problem." Luna isn't claiming it'll change the world, just make an annoying thing better. I think that's enough!
And this is where it's easy to ignore the fact that Luna's founder looks eerily like Andy Samberg: he talks intelligently and reasonably about his startup, and treats it like any other small business. He is a human being. This sounds like a truism, but given that this is a business of sociopathy and emotional void, talking to a human being startup founder is a thrill.
While chatting about the nascent company, he repeated how important he thinks it is to offer a service people think is worth paying for. An upstart tech company that tries to make money! Unprecedented. But Shapiro doesn't care that his common sense approach to Silicon Valley is unusual—that whole scene he describes as "exhausting." He's not seeking attention—I had to pester him over and over to get him out of meetings. He's not seeking a quick cash-out—as we sat by the Bay he shrugged off other startups who look for an easy cash injection and acquisition deal, though he did muse about how a company like FedEx or UPS could use what he's building.
Again, I don't know if it's a great business. But the mere fact that Luna is treating itself like a business, and not a religious experience, a revolution, or a disruption, is enough for me. A startup run by mild mannered people with realistic goals shouldn't be a rarity, but it is, and I'm glad to come across it now and then.