Eco-friendly delivery service The Rounds, which launched in Philadelphia in 2019 and expanded to DC last year, is again expanding to another East Coast city: Miami.
The 2022 RealLIST Startups list maker launched under the name Mlkmn three years ago after cofounder Alexander Torrey realized there was a gap in the market for people like him — city dwellers who want to automate the delivery of household essentials, but do so sustainably. Torrey and cofounder Byungwoo Ko first launched the service in Center City, offering a slew of staples like hand soap, toilet paper and household cleaners.
The company’s delivery people drop off chosen household and pantry staples like oats, toilet paper and cleaning products to a customer’s door in reusable packaging, like glass bottles, using a fleet of electric bikes. 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 company has since expanded its reach to include more neighborhoods in Philadelphia, and launched in DC this past August, when it changed its name. While it’s found quick success in the tight urban centers of the two northeast cities, Torrey said he believes the model will work well anywhere.
“It’s a city with a lot of energy, a lot’s happening and has happened, and there’s a ton of energy and excitement around the startup scene and the tech being built here,” Torrey told Technical.ly in a call from the company’s new Miami micro-fulfillment center.
There were a few other things that drew him to Miami, the founder said. As a coastal city, sustainability practices will play a large part in the city’s future. Between plastic pollutants ending up in the ocean and the city’s sea level rising, it’s not in a great place, Torrey said: “We need to prioritize solutions.”
The company will also be offering a collection of local products, featuring some made by Latinx vendors — an especially proud moment for Torrey.
“I think it’s extra special for me as a Mexican founder to be a place like Miami, to be able to speak Spanish with my vendors, and to see products I grew up with and have my startup be able to deliver those products,” he said.
As the company is in its third year and third market, Torrey reflected on what the team has learned since The Rounds’ launch. The hardest part of building a startup is taking the time to make sure you have the playbook right, he said, before being able to replicate it to other cities. There’s no such thing as “overnight success,” no matter how it looks on the outside of a company, he said.
They do believe they’ll learn more about what works best in the business with Miami, as its density is a bit different than its first two cities. But the scheduled, last-mile delivery model has the potential to work everywhere. Miami is the first of many cities you should expect to see The Rounds operating in in the next few years, Torrey said.
“We’ve been working on Philly for three years. This isn’t like we saw quick-commerce companies and wanted to jump in. It was us being able to say, ‘We’re not a copycat company,'” Torrey said. “We’ve been pioneering our vision — a zero waste, more sustainable vision — and it’s important to get the playbook right.”
The Rounds’ Miami delivery service is available for sign-up this week, with first deliveries being made March 1.
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