Dec 18, 2016 @ 04:23 PM 2,688 views
Uber For Your Laundry Could Be The Next Sharing Economy Frontier
David Schrieberg ,
I write about my observations as an American entrepreneur in Europe.
Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
One of my all-time favorite products was my parents’ Electrolux vacuum cleaner. I can remember my mother pulling the low, round, gray, Swedish-manufactured metal canister around the house behind her, its snaking suction tube doing its job as she hummed. It long outlived her, lasting 40+ years and running strong to the end.
So I look with special interest at an idea floated recently by Electrolux’s new CEO, Jonas Samuelson, of bringing the world’s second-largest white goods company into the 21st century with a sharing economy flavor: “How about a laundry Uber, where people share their unused laundry time?” he mused to the Financial Times, adding that the company is “very open to experimentation.”
What part would Electrolux play in such a scenario? He said it would involve more than the washing machine itself. “You would need intelligent communication in the machines,” he said, acknowledging that cyber-security is just one of many concerns in this project.
While my dinosaur-brain skips straight to the spin cycle with all the issues involved at paying to do your laundry in someone else’s home, Electrolux is doing what a lot of traditional appliance makers must do these days to stay in the game, particularly as the Internet of Things drives forward into the home. Electrolux is already there, selling an oven with an built-in camera that shoots a photo of the food being cooked to the owner’s smartphone.
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Laundry-as-a-sort-of-software-service has been knocking around at least since 2005, with a highly mixed track record as the space got increasingly competitive. At least 15 have been started in San Francisco, Las Vegas, Chicago, New York and Dubai. Some were born and died within a few years – including one that was already billed as an Uber for laundry: Washio, a high-profile example whose founders launched with a bang in 2013, $1.3 million in investment and a vow to “demolish laundry” on their way to bigger and better things.
The service closed earlier this year. Others, though, such as New York-based FlyCleaners and WashCycle of Philadelphia are still making a go of it.