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Washio’s Tumble and the Decline of On-Demand

Of all the on-demand businesses that swept through tech in the past couple of years, few were as hyped and strange as laundry. At the center of that spin cycle was Washio, a Los Angeles startup that promised to be an “Uber for Laundry.” Customers could use an app to order their dirty laundry picked up and returned clean the next day—and with a complimentary cookie.

At its peak in mid-2015, Washio’s service was operating in six different cities including San Francisco, Washington, D.C., and Boston, with a workforce of 100 employees. Founded by Jordan Metzner, once a child actor who appeared in “Tales of the Crypt,” the company was frequently in the press. It raised around $16 million from investors that included Ashton Kutcher and the rapper Nas as well as Canaan Partners. In a lengthy New York magazine feature in 2014, Mr. Metzner dreamed that Washio was going to “demolish laundry.”

In the end, Washio itself got demolished, and became a poster child of the flawed logic of much of the on-demand startup world. Last August, Washio’s customers got a cursory note advising that the company was closing. The shutdown was so abrupt that some laundry was returned to customers still dirty.

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