The new app adds to a growing list of companies streamlining the cleaning services industry so Hot Topics went to find out what sets ZipJet apart by chatting to founder Lorenzo Franzi. He discusses why a mutual hatred of laundry, a market of hard working professionals and his past experiences in Paris and Singapore will help Zipjet build momentum in 2015 and create a leading London laundry startup.
Hot Topics: Describe ZipJet in under 15 seconds.
Lorenzo Franzi: Zipjet is a mobile app based pick up and delivery service for dry cleaning and laundry. You book 30 minute pickup and delivery slots and one of our drivers will come to your home, pick up your bags and take it to one of our facilities all within 24 hours.
HT: You haven’t always been in tech so how did ZipJet come about?
LF: You’re right. I started out here in London actually, as a banker and I suffered a lot with my laundry. I was a single guy back then, living with friends and for us, laundry was always a pain. So, I wanted to help bring convenience to that space, like 24 hour pick up delivery lockers or vending machine concepts to the industry. Back then it ended up being quite capital intensive so I left it alone for a while.
I knew I wanted a change of scene so I left banking to do an MBA at INSEAD in Singapore and Paris as I wanted to cultivate my entrepreneurial side. I come from quite an entrepreneurial family. It was also the place where I developed my contacts with Rocket Internet. It was a brilliant experience.
There is one course there called “your first 100 days” which is basically a simulation where you are the owner of the business for a period of time and everything either goes well or wrong. You know, you can get woken up in the middle of the night because your factory is on fire!
After graduating I joined my first start up, Voice.ee, which was a micro polls platform with three other founders but after they all moved to New York, I decided to stay and work on my managerial skills. So when I was offered a job at Mckinsey as a consultant, I took it wholeheartedly. I also kept up my relationship with Rocket Internet throughout that time so when it came to looking for help to get ZipJet off the ground, it was easy to know who to ask.
HT: Why was Rocket Internet the right company to help set up ZipJet?
LF: Whilst at Voice.ee, I got to see what being an entrepreneur was like with limited funds, in a garage band type of network and it was difficult. However, through my relationship with Rocket during my degree, I could see their results with other start ups first hand. Florian (Farber) and I knew they were the right people to approach.
HT: How is ZipJet able to compete with its competitors?
LF: Our model is different; the main difference is that we don’t require itemization. Those bags that our drivers deliver? You just dump in them whatever you want cleaned at that moment in time. We itemise for you at the nearest facility. It’s a small point but it’s therefore that much easier to use our app.
HT: Why did you choose London as your first location?
LF: London is a very big market for dry cleaning – there are a tremendous amount of working men and women within the city that regularly use those sorts of facilities. People here work very hard and they have limited amounts of time, so what we’re bringing to our customers is convenience.
HT: And has the London market been as receptive as predicted?
LF: It’s been very receptive. We’re seeing high levels of recurring customers; people who are trying ZipJet and getting to know us, can get quite addicted to it. It solves that worry of when and where to clean your shirts, sheets and linens. Customers also enjoy the process I think. Our drivers are trained to be very customer friendly and that makes a huge difference to a working relationship. That’s why our customers are coming back.
HT: You are very centrally located at the moment, only operating within Zone 1 locations like Camden, Fulham and Hammersmith. What was the reason behind that?
LF: It is where the major part of the market is based with an intense concentration of potential customers but we are definitely planning to expand. We want more of London to benefit from this service: people who work long hours; commuters; and larger busy families.
HT: When can we expect that expansion?
LF: Our expansion is determined by our operations team but these plans are in place in the very near future. In the five year plan, more cities around Germany, like Frankfurt and Munich, and Manchester in the UK are planned as our model is strengthened over 2015 and of course we aim for further continents in the long term.
We are specifically thinking about Canada for example and we are eyeing a partner in Paris at the moment. Plus, we are now near to preparing a second city launch in Berlin any day now [29 January].
HT: How would you say ZipJet are improving or even disrupting this industry?
LF: Well it’s been a bit of a passive industry for a quite a long time now, with little focus on the customer and little focus on convenience. Which is where I think we can disrupt – a bit like food delivery services in the US – a fragmented and quite outdated system.
HT: How will ZipJet evolve around an IoT infrastructure?
LF: So we do have a couple of ideas in the pipeline at the moment; we have a very flexible model so we can easily adapt to new technologies and platforms. There is a lot of scope for us to benefit from IoT.
HT: What’s been the most challenging situation you’ve found yourself in at ZipJet?
LF: Actually it was last Sunday night! I was in our stockroom, which was like a full bunker and I was helping the team with all the orders as Sundays can be a bit difficult. I remember just looking around and thinking “this is pretty intense” and we were there pretty late getting all the orders sorted for the Monday morning. But I’ve never regretted the steps that have taken me to this moment.