If Clean Cube works out, it could replace doormen. At least that’s the hope according to founder Arthur Shmulevsky. This week the service launched its first lockers-plus-services in a 40-unit apartment building on 5th avenue in NYC. The goal, says Shmulevsky, is to expand to 500 to 1,000 more in the city.
The service basically replaces a doorman, with a few added services, including laundry and dry cleaning drop-off. Clean Cube installs a unit of lockers (designed to fit in with an apartment lobby) with a built-in iPad accompany. Each resident of the building gets an ID number. They can then use the units to drop off laundry, dry cleaning, order groceries, drop off clothing donations, and items for off-site storage. Eventually the units will be capable of receiving package deliveries. Shmulevsky is building out more services within the iPad app to include cab hailing, a Craigslist-style “sell your stuff” listings service for within the building, and local deals a la Groupon.
“We are making the lobby a smart lobby,” Shmulevsky says. For now, only laundry and dry cleaning, seasonal storage, and local deals are available. The company is bootstrapped at the moment.
Clean Cube has hired a small group of workers which handles service for the lockers each day. The company doesn’t charge for the units themselves (which cost around $2,000 to make and are customizable). Instead, Clean Cube makes money when residents use its services. Any service provider listed in the app splits revenue with Clean Cube. Clean Cube has its own arrangements with laundry and storage unit operations to get a better deal. This model makes it cheaper for the building than a 24-hour doorman which Shmulevsky estimates costs apartments $180,000 a year because of unions.
Shmulevsky says the closest comparison he’s seen to Clean Cube is Amazon Locker, which is essentially for package delivery. His goal is to create a digital doorman for apartments across New York and eventually other urban centers. It will take the company 30 to 60 buildings to become profitable, he says.
Clean Cube is a tiny layer of software, mixed with some hardware, with a heavy layer of services. It’s another example of a startup operating on the principle that software will eventually eat everything.