EP 52: How Dartmouth Grads Leveraged Tech to Clean the Laundry Business

Ajay Prakash | CEO and Co-founder of Rinse

Two Dartmouth alums are reinventing the laundry business in a way that delighted customers, shop owners, valets, and even VCs.

Ajay Prakash, CEO and Co-founder of Rinse

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Episode Summary

Many of the world’s best ideas are sparked close to home. Rinse—co-founded by good friends Ajay Prakash and James Joun—is no exception.

Joun’s parents have owned a dry cleaning storefront for more than three decades, and for years he’d been wondering how to increase sales in a particularly static industry. Prakash, today’s guest on Founder & Funders, had spent a similar period of time noticing how tech was being leveraged in old school sectors to solve long-entrenched pain points for customers.

As Joun puzzled over his family’s struggle, Prakash lit up at the possibility of solving the problem together.

“This was one of those ‘aha!’ moments,” Prakash shares. “Dry cleaning was perfect based on the trends that I was seeing, and James had a unique understanding of the supply side of the business because he grew up in it. His parents are dry cleaners—aunts, uncles are all dry cleaners. This was a perfect service to address, as there was lots of friction and the industry hadn’t changed at all in years.”

Rinse—which leverages tech to facilitate laundry and dry cleaning pickup—developed from these insights.

In this interview, Prakash shares how he and Joun developed a solution that provides smart scheduling and predictability for everyone involved: Vetted dry cleaners get an influx of new and repeat business; consumers enjoy scheduled pick up and delivery of their laundry; and drivers, hired as valets, “get evening, part-time (W-2 employee status) jobs” with set routes.

These two Dartmouth grads updated an industry, removed customer friction, and increased business for local dry cleaners within a few short years. Now all they have to do is “rinse and repeat” to other major metropolitan areas across the country.

About Ajay Prakash, CEO and Co-founder of Rinse

Ajay Prakash is the Co-Founder and CEO of Rinse. Prior to Rinse, Ajay was the COO and CFO of Humble Brands, a consumer product start-up in San Francisco. He’s also worked with Bonobos, Berkshire Partners, the NBA, and Bain & Company. Ajay received his BA from Dartmouth College and his MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business.

About Rinse

Rinse is building the first and largest national brand in clothing care, offering pickup and delivery for customers’ dry cleaning and laundry needs. The company is focused on addressing a massive consumer problem and creating a significantly better and more standardized dry cleaning and laundry experience through the combination of “smart scheduling” and best-in-class quality. These efforts are supported by a strong tech backbone that allows it to effectively manage the operational complexity that comes with scale.

Rinse services include Dry Cleaning, Launder & Press, Wash & Fold, Hang Dry, Repairs, and Leather Cleaning. Rinse also takes Clothing Donations. The company, founded by Ajay Prakash and James Joun, is headquartered in San Francisco.

To experience Rinse for yourself, please visit rinse.com or download the Rinse mobile app (available on iOS or Android).

Rinse is a portfolio company of Green D Ventures and Yard Ventures.

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