Laundrapp: Rage against the washing machine

The startup is on a mission to conquer the global market with its on-demand laundry service

Miles Dilworth
Thursday 11 October 2018 12:30
CEO and founder of Laundrapp Ed Relf (centre) wants to make the laundry industry "sexy and glamorous"
CEO and founder of Laundrapp Ed Relf (centre) wants to make the laundry industry "sexy and glamorous"

Since launching Laundrapp, an app that offers door-to-door laundry service, in 2014, CEO and founder Edward Relf has had his hands full. Mainly of linen.

Rapid growth has seen the service expand across 100 UK towns and cities. Its technology is licensed in Australia and New Zealand with a further 13 countries due to be added to that list by the end of the year.

“It is busy. Good busy. Lots of clothes to wash,” says Mr Relf.

A self-described digital entrepreneur with a background in marketing and early-stage investing in tech startups, Mr Relf has cottoned onto a business model that has achieved spectacular success in other industries such as takeaways and hotels.

But why laundry?

“I often think that as well,” admits Mr Relf. “I just love nothing more than creating disruptive technology that has the potential to revolutionise an industry. When we came up with the concept for Laundrapp, we realised there was an enormous opportunity to disrupt an industry that had not changed for a hundred years.”

In doing so, Laundrapp is following the trail blazed by the likes of Uber and Deliveroo, whom Mr Relf credits with moulding a receptive market for younger digital delivery services such as his own. Laundrapp’s adolescent growth spurt, he says, would not have been possible without them.

Mr Relf’s gratitude to those pioneers presumably explains the similarities in the way Laundrapp works. Users can order a collection either online or via the app, and Laundrapp promises to collect and deliver within 48 hours at £2.50 per kilogramme. The driver is tracked to “reduce operational costs and increase productivity” while also allowing customers to see where their clothes are in real time.

But while Uber and Deliveroo have faced a backlash over their use of zero-hour contracts, the Laundrapp brand is built around the close relationship between the company and its drivers.

“Laundrapp is about quality and trust because we handle people’s personal belongings,” explains Mr Relf.

Unlike Uber and Deliveroo, Laundrapp employs its own drivers

“How our drivers meet and greet people is all part of the Laundrapp experience. They are our shop window. For that reason, we made the decision from the very beginning that we could hire a much better quality of driver simply by making them employees in the business.

“We have passionate and proud drivers because they feel like part of the journey. We would not have been able to create that with zero hours contracts.”

That journey is now going where no other on-demand laundry app has gone before. Although many have popped up across Europe and the US, a major player is yet to emerge on a global scale. That is precisely what Laundrapp is striving to achieve in 2017.

For now though, there’s one important thing that continues to stand between Laundrapp and world domination, and that’s the humble washing machine.

Mr Relf explains that, contrary to most assumptions, Laundrapp is not in competition with the high street. The app merely adds a “digital layer” on top and the company works alongside outlets to process laundry and dry cleaning. The real competitor, he says, is the washing machine.

“We want to stop people from using the washing machine. We have to try to reengineer the way people think about the way they do their dry cleaning.

“It is not sexy or glamorous. We have to make it sexy and glamorous, and that is a challenge.”

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