For those who never tire of having something new arrive at their doorstep, D.C. is getting a new option. Starting this week, cofounders Alexander Torrey and Byungwoo Ko are bringing their Philly-founded, eco-friendly delivery service to the District.
The Rounds, which first launched as Mlkmn in Philly back in 2019, delivers household and pantry staples like oats, toilet paper and cleaning products to a customer’s door in reusable packaging such as glass bottles. When a user is done, The Rounds picks the packaging up again, rinses it and repeats, similar to a milkman model. Plus, it uses predictive technology to determine when a refill will be needed, instead of requiring customers to place another order.
The goal? Lower the amount of waste from individual, disposable orders.
“We’re trying to really run our own playbook, especially in a space that is so crowded with everybody wanting to deliver your avocado in 10 minutes in a very unsustainable way,” Torrey told Technical.ly. “That’s not our game.”
With the D.C. expansion, Torrey said the first of the company’s “Neighborhood Refillment Centers” will be located in the Mount Vernon Triangle area, and is able to deliver orders via e-bike or on foot within a two-mile radius. As the company grows, the cofounders hope to add more centers and shorten the radius of the current location to keep each within neighborhood boundaries. It might happen sooner than you think, because Torrey expects the D.C. market to boom—and fast. While Philly has already added a few neighborhoods since January, he said that The Rounds is already on track to grow in D.C. in 30 days at a rate that took the company several months to do in its origin city, although he wasn’t able to share specific numbers.
“[This growth] has a little bit to do with the fact that D.C. has a very strong young professional demographic, but I really do think… as a city, [D.C.] really resonates with our value proposition of this idea of sustainable convenience,” Torrey said.
With the new name, the company is able to better reflect the breadth of services it offers, as well as reflect its eco-friendly approach.
With its technology, Torrey said that The Rounds is able to cut 50 pounds of waste per person, per year, which is subject to grow as the company adds more products. Built in-house, the “autopilot” technology takes about two-to-three months to learn the individual customers’ usage and know when to deliver a refill. This way, Torrey said, the company can create an optimized, closed-loop supply chain, using its own private-label brand.
“We believe that there is a massive opportunity to truly build a smart prediction engine that learns your individual usage,” Torrey said. “Not based on some make-believe white picket fence, two-and-a-half person household that doesn’t exist. But saying, okay, you know how much toothpaste you’ve probably used for the last year, or for your adult life. And we can actually get it to predict that it says, hey, you don’t use that toothpaste every six weeks, you use it every five weeks.”
Earlier this year, The Rounds also began a fundraising round with participation from Red & Blue Ventures and the Dorm Room Fund supported by First Round Capital. Torrey was unable to share an update on the raise, but said “the market is hot right now” and things are going well in the sustainable delivery space. Membership at the startup is $6 month and prices, Torrey added, are competitive with area stores (in D.C., a set of Scotch-Brite brand, plant-based sponges is current running at $1 apiece).
Despite the Amazon HQ2 presence right next door, though, Torrey said he hopes the D.C. expansion will continue the slower consumption model the company has already brought to Philly.
“We’ve built the technology to be able to deliver on a different experience…It’s the realization that people aren’t looking for better toothpaste,” Torrey said. “You’re looking for a better way to get your toothpaste and that’s where we really come in with the zero waste refills.”
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