At first blush dry cleaning options seem satisfactory. Around any city you’ll find 99 cent specials.
But those deals are just not obtainable when you’re on travel, in a rush and car-less. Hotel and concierge-style laundry and dry cleaning services run a steep price tag — sometimes as high as a $100 minimum cost per load.
The mix of dread and disappointment felt by consumers who must choose between robbing their own time to get their clothes a drycleaning fix — or forking over painful sums for service — just doesn’t have to be. Or at least that’s the thinking behind Presso, the Lafayette, Indiana-based start up with a network on “drycleaning vending machines.”
Grit Daily spoke with Presso CEO Nishant Jain to figure out when we can get in on this drycleaning racket so we can feel a bit less looted.
Grit Daily: You had your own interesting ventures before Presso. Share those.
Nishant Jain: Sure! While at Purdue, I started a couple of app-based ventures before finally setting my heart on then LaundrySucks. Both started out as first-place winners to Techstars Startup Weekend in Greater Lafayette.
First, one was called Dime. It was like tinder for group-decision making. So when among a group of friends, you are trying to decide where to eat, or what movie to watch, the group members could add options and vote on them. The app would conduct multiple rounds of voting and strategically eliminate options causing the group to reach a consensus within a few minutes. I believe that the idea and the problem are still solid, as I still occasionally face that issue with friends, but we lacked in execution as this was our first venture.
The second one was called Dood, a peer-to-peer ridesharing app. The innovation there was to use the power of existing communities to create a trustworthy rider and driver network. Imagine if you knew that your driver is another Purdue student, or what if you knew that you share the same major or same club, or your roommate has ridden with that person before. Then since a university is a high-network community, several people are traveling to the same places on the same schedule. This would enable short distance hitch-hiking which could grow from University to University like Facebook.
I think this is also a great opportunity but when I had to choose between Dood and LaundrySucks, I chose the latter because Laundry is something that everyone has to do all around the world and it is an industry that hasn’t changed in decades. If I could create even a small amount of innovation in this industry, it would impact millions of people around the world and could help with climate change by consuming less water and electricity.
GD: Drycleaning seems inexpensive and already a number of delivery services meet that market. Why wade into a market that already looks crowded?
NJ: Drycleaning can actually be really expensive in hotels and in dense metropolitan areas. This is because it requires a lot of manual labor and expensive machinery. The delivery services add convenience but actually makes the turnaround time worse. We believe that in addition to the conventional methods, a fast and on-demand solution for cleaning and pressing clothes HAS to exist in the future and that is what Presso is.
As the market trend grows towards more and more pick up and delivery services, even the 2-hour laundry option we have in our homes will become 2 days. We are designing Presso to be the go-to for everyday use, the “microwave of laundry.”
The situation becomes even worse when it comes to dry-cleaning when on a business trip. Several times I met individuals who ended up buying a new shirt before a meeting because hotel-drying would take too long for them. Almost every other business traveler I meet tells me that they hang their shirts and jackets in a hot steamy shower for 40 mins to an hour!
That is so much water and electricity literally down the drain and huge costs for the hotel. We saw that hotels also losing a significant amount of money and staff time on doing the logistics of guest dry-cleaning. Presso is not meant to fully replace the conventional hotel dry-cleaning but meant to be an add-on for most of the business travelers in the hotels who need a quick service before a meeting or an event, in the middle of the night if they need. Even the hotel staff can use Presso to quickly refresh and press their uniforms. It’s a win-win!
When we first announced Presso to the public last month, we had hotel chains from all over the world, Japan, England, Europe, USA, Hong Kong, Singapore, and China, reaching out to us to place Presso in their hotels. This is the testament to how big of a problem it is. For this year, we will be hand-picking only select hotels for pilot projects. We are currently engaging some hotels in the Atlanta region and soon expanding to our midwest customers as well.
GD: How are stains still a “blind spot” in dry cleaning?
NJ: With the current version of Presso, we are not providing a stain removal method. After several market launches and 1000s of treated garments, we saw that stains were a rare case. It is not really a “blind spot” for the core technology we are using which is steam. Steam is one of the best ways to remove hard stains such as upholstery steam cleaners. Even dry-cleaners use steam for spot cleaning. Even with the current machines, we are giving to our customers, we are providing the extra hardware to add stain removal as soon as we finish developing it. Our goal is to eventually make Presso a one-stop-shop for the business traveler for their laundry and dry-cleaning needs.
GD: What pricing should consumers expect?
NJ: Business travelers can expect to pay lower than conventional hotel dry-cleaning, anywhere between a couple of dollars to $12 depending on the type of clothes. We have had consumers in a pilot in a Holiday Inn hotel where they even paid more than the hotel dry-cleaning for the added speed and convenience of it being right in the hotel.
GD: Is it accurate to call Presso a “vending machine?”
NJ: Presso doesn’t vend anything so it is more like a kiosk. It’s similar to a vending machine in terms of the experience users go through and the model hoteliers can expect and are used to.
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