Launching a new city

Rinse is our investment in the on-demand laundry and dry cleaning space. The company is founded by my classmate Ajay Prakash and James Joun.

Until earlier this year, Rinse was operating only in San Francisco. It then launched its second city, Los Angeles. As with any startup with heavy local operational requirements, the launch of a new city is a delicate operation. When is the right time to do it? How should you go about it? What are the best practices?

Arena Ventures, one of Rinse’s lead investors, recently interviewed Ajay and Rinse’s Los Angeles GM Lonny Olinick to understand how Rinse thought through these questions as it prepared for its LA launch. You can read the full article here.

My key takeaways are:

  1. Timing: “You’re ready to launch in another city when you can take care of your customers without having to ‘cheat’ [do things that don’t scale] like that anymore.”
  2. Local team: “It’s important when you launch a new city to hire someone who has a local’s understanding: “it’s hard to quantify, but there’s a lot of value in local knowledge and pre-existing relationships” (from traffic patterns to the culture of different neighborhoods).”
  3. Staging the launch according to customers’ tolerance of mistakes: “An alpha test with locals they knew, an early beta test with friends-of-friends and some early adopters, a partnership-based “Friends of Rinse” campaign, and then finally a shift into outbound marketing to the public.”