The revolutionizing powers of the tech industry haven't just been summoned as a middleman between you and local restaurants. No, Silicon Valley has also marshaled its intellectual superiority to put apps between you and local laundromats. New York magazine recently traveled to California to investigate this democratic tide (of delivery).
Although one of its competitors has already folded, Washio ("the Uber for laundry") is still tumbling along by charging a 60 cent premium per pound. The company has raised $3.6 million from investors who haven't seen the inside of a washing machine in a decade, like the ex-CEO of Yahoo, Nas, Justin Bieber's manager Scooter Braun, Lady Gaga's former manager Troy Carter, and Ashton Kutcher, who hasn't had the best luck with other "Uber for X" investments.
New York magazine's Jessica Pressler sat down with Washio CEO Jordan Metzner, a 30-year-old former child actor who owned a burrito chain in Buenos Aires. Metzner got the idea for Washio by looking at the kind of services requested from the underemployed while money-losing is still in vogue:
Metzner scoured TaskRabbit, the website on which the broke and eager underbid one another for the chance to do tasks for the moneyed and lazy, to see what services were most in demand. A lot of people, it turned out, wanted someone to do their laundry. "That spoke to me," says Metzner, whose father sells discount clothing to retailers like T.J. Maxx and bestows on him a great deal of overflow, a luxury that inevitably becomes a burden. "I hate doing laundry," Metzner says. "It's my worst."
It takes one opportunist to know another. In a moment of either obliviousness or radical honesty, Metzner compares what looks like a tech bubble to the housing crisis, from which we're still recovering. Without getting into the parallel theme of profits that are propped up by the working class who think they're getting a deal, Metzner says startup investing is the credit-default swap and subprime mortgage du jour:
Sitting in an upscale pizza restaurant in Santa Monica, the kind of place where the cuisine has been disrupted so many times it has pretty much reverted to its original state, Metzner takes a breath. "It's always easy to say in hindsight?" he says. "But in the middle of it, you can't really tell if you are in a bubble or if you are just in a successful time. Because, like, Facebook went out and paid $19 billion for WhatsApp. That actually happened."
The waitress brings him a beer. "People with money are going to figure out ways to invest their money to make more money," he says. "If you look at finance, like when credit-default swaps were huge, right, everyone was investing in that. And when subprime was huge, people were investing in that. Now, it's Silicon Valley." He looks up at the television above the bar, which is showing the Lakers game across town. A shot of Ashton and Mila, sitting courtside, appears onscreen. The chyron informs us they are engaged. Metzner tips his beer toward them in congratulations. He's not worried. "It's like Vegas," he says. "The excitement of winning far exceeds the downside of losing."
Now that he mentions it, "That actually happened," is not a bad tagline for our current moment of irrational exuberance.
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[Image via Washio]