Japanese startup raises $3M to bring laundry services online



See the original story in Japanese.

Lenet is a web service that allows users to order a pick up of your laundry and have it delivered to your home when it is done. White Plus, the startup behind the service, announced today it has raised 300 million yen (approximately $3 million) from Japanese investment company Jafco.

They said there would be no way to sell laundry services online.

When users order online, the startup’s courier will come and pick up the laundry within a couple of hours. Subsequently the laundry will be washed at partnering cleaners and then returned to your door.

We had a chance to hear from the startup’s CEO Takayuki Inoshita about why there has been no startup taking advantage of this opportunity so far:

When I visited industrial laundry facilities to explore partnerships, many of them got angry at me. They said there would be no way to sell laundry services online. The laundry industry is a space where facilities requires a lot of time to respond to claims from consumers. This frequency depends very much on how a clerk at the shop behaves in the inspection process when receiving laundry from customers.

For a laundry company, if you bring your business completely online and experience difficulty in the inspection process, you’ll receive more complaints from customers. That’s why nobody has tried it online so far. But the startup took a unique approach and established its own laundry shop to examine what to do to make the service work. The company’s CMO Ryosuke Saito explains:

We actually built up our own shop where we were testing the inspecting process using laundry that we picked up from our customers. The reception process was the toughest part. We spent three years to learn how to refrain from wrinkling customer’s laundry when packing it for shipping to laundry facilities.

CEO Inoshita has received national qualification as a cleaning master. And as a result, the company has succeeded in standardizing the inspection process and bringing the entire service process online. By partnering with courier companies to pick laundry up from customers, they will complete the inspection process within two hours of receiving an order.

The company’s concept is very similar to that of Raksul providing discount printing services, in terms of make the most of downtime at factories. But unlike Raksul, laundry services are more difficult to standardize, so the company is still limiting its partner facilities for now.

The startup was launched back in 2009 by three co-founders, and they’ve been devoting themselves to developing the service, with a vision of a world where everyone is connected to the internet all the times.

With the new funds, the company plans to intensify its marketing efforts to get its user base to 1 million soon.