From “Let’s, Like, Demolish Laundry,” Jessica Pressler’s long and enlightening story about tech startups in the “laundry space,” published online May 21 in New York magazine:
Thus, in the winter of 2012, two rival laundry sites in the mold of [restaurant delivery service] Seamless launched simultaneously in New York. One was Brinkmat, founded by two Goldman Sachs software engineers. (“Like, ‘brink’ like ‘on the brink,’ ” explains founder Tim O’Malley, “and ‘mat’ like laundromat.” Awkward pause. “Names are hard,” his partner adds.)
Names are hard—who knew? But not sufficiently hard, it seems, to merit paying an experienced professional for assistance.
American cities in the second decade of the 21st century are awash (Pressler’s apt word) in new-model outsourced laundry services summoned by smartphone app.* Other laundry startups mentioned in the article include SpotlessCity (the second of the two rival sites that launched in New York in 2012), Washio, FlyCleaners, Cleanly (yep, another -ly name!), Sudzee, Drop Locker, Laundry Locker (the two Lockers are unrelated), Prim, Bizzie Box, Sfwash, Wash Then Fold, Rinse, and Your Hero Delivery (yep, another hero!).
Washio, the focus of the story, is based in Santa Monica. Its laundry shleppers are called “ninjas”:
They chose the name ninjas in part to signify the company’s relationship to Silicon Valley, where the title is handed out freely. “It stems from Disney, which called everyone a cast member,” explains [CEO and co-founder Jordan] Metzner, in his stonery-didactic way. “All of these nameifications, or whatever, is basically to get everyone to think they’re not doing what they are actually doing, right? No one wants to be the trash guy at Disneyland. ‘No, I’m a cast member.’ At Trader Joe’s, they’re all associates. What does that mean? It means nothing, but I would rather be an associate than a cashier. It helps people elevate themselves and think they are doing something for a greater good.”
Read the rest of the story, which offers a deliciously jaundiced take on contemporary startup culture. Pressler doesn’t hold back:
Looking around at the newly minted billionaires behind the enjoyable but wholly unnecessary Facebook and WhatsApp, Uber and Nest, the brightest minds of a generation, the high test-scorers and mathematically inclined, have taken the knowledge acquired at our most august institutions and applied themselves to solving increasingly minor First World problems. The marketplace of ideas has become one long late-night infomercial.
* I confess I’m mystified by the obsession with laundry as a problem to be solved. Of all the necessary household chores, I find laundry to be the most satisfying—the newer machines are wonderfully efficient, and you end up with a clean, fragrant product! I enjoy ironing, too, but in this as in so many other areas I am evidently an outlier.