How Starchup helps dry cleaners by getting out of their way

Doug Pitorak

File 47225One startup has found a way to foster on-demand laundry service, without getting its own hands dirty.

Unlike similar companies, Starchup, based in Chicago, is not involved with the actual cleaning or actual delivering. Rather, the startup, which for the last year has been building and deploying white label apps for dry cleaners and laundry businesses, exists as a tech company that helps businesses remain competitive and makes life easier for busy customers.

“We wanted to attack it like a two-sided marketplace, so something like a GrubHub or an Uber, where we are just the technology in the middle that allows businesses that are already up and running to connect with new consumers,” Dan Tobon, CEO and founder, said. “So our big pitch is that our software allows for incremental sales and reaching new customers that you otherwise would not have reached had you not have this technology.”

Its mobile search platform — set to launch within months — will allow customers to search for Starchup-enabled businesses by location. Once they find a business they like, users can choose from a variety of cleaning services the business offers, place an order through the app or website, and schedule a time for the businesses’ drivers to pick up their clothes. Users can also rate and review a business.

On the flip side, Starchup’s software platform enables businesses to easily manage such transactions, ultimately making their business more palatable to the modern consumer. Beyond that, Starchup offers a driver app for those making the delivery to use. It guides drivers through their route, makes communicating with customers simple, and provides special instructions.

Essentially, Starchup’s suite of software products allows for seamless transactions and easy delivery.

“We’re simply a software company. All we do is provide software to local businesses,” Tobon said. “We are really focused on helping existing businesses do what they do best. We’re not going to come in here and reinvent the wheel and take over an industry where we are not experts. We’re not in the business of running a dry cleaner and we’re not in the business of telling a dry cleaner and launderer how to do their job.”

The company is a portfolio member of The Bunker, an incubator located in 1871 that exists on the behalf of veteran-owned startups. Tobon, who spent time in the military, said they’ve been in touch with more than a dozen businesses around the country that are interested in their technologies, including “the biggest dry cleaner in Chicago.” He said Starchup will charge businesses a transaction fee on orders processed through the app and will charge white label clients a monthly fee. Tobon, who works alongside fellow co-founder Nick Chapleau, said the startup is testing pricing and plans to be the lowest-cost provider of such technology.

Starchup recently won the Scion Motivatour program, receiving a cash prize and an appearance in a Scion advertisement, Tobon said. Additionally, he said the startup received undisclosed angel investments from Tribal Ventures, of which Alan Matthew is the CEO and managing director.

Once launched, Tobon said Starchup could be operating in Chicago, Houston, Dallas, San Diego, Los Angeles, and Minnesota.

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