Is the $40 Billion Laundry Industry Ready for Reinvention? This Startup Is Betting on It

The delivery man in the bright-blue fleece rings the intercom at a home in the Richmond district of San Francisco. “It’s James from Rinse,” he says when the homeowner’s voice crackles through the speaker. With that, the entryway light goes on, the door opens, and the occupant arrives to retrieve the bag of laundry that Rinse had picked up, in a considerably dirtier state, a couple of days earlier. James scans the QR code on the bag with his phone, and hoofs it back toward his Prius to head to the next stop. The customer couldn’t have known that he had just been handed a sack of cleaned-to-order laundry by one of the nation’s most exquisitely educated delivery guys. James Joun has degrees from Dartmouth and Harvard Business School. He also doesn’t do this much anymore, since he’s the co-founder and COO of Rinse, a rapidly growing laundry and dry-cleaning startup that is trying to become the first nationally scaled company in what has always been a very local business. This Joun knows intimately: His Korean immigrant parents have run a dry-cleaning shop in South San Francisco for more than 25 years.

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