Matt – really cool analysis! I think a lot of startup companies are burning money on an operating margin level but looks like “Hello Alfred” also has a negative gross margin. It would be interesting to think about whether you can somehow generate economies of scale when scaling the business. For instance there could be support tasks for Alfreds such as picking up laundry at a single location only, having people who go shopping and prepare baskets, having umbrella agreements with service operators etc. Maybe an Alfred could then increase the number of customers he can serve per week. I also find it interesting to think about the business model from the perspective of generating revenue via lead generation and rebates through high volume. For instance you could have volume discounts with dry cleaners or grocery chains that “Hello Alfred” would receive via kick backs but that the company would not pass on to their customers.
I was thinking about setting up a similar business in Europe as I definitely believe there is a market. A lot of people in the target customer segment like to go travelling to different European countries over the weekend. In addition, certain legs (such as for instance Frankfurt, London) are interesting for business travelers during the week. The question I have asked myself however is, how does beacon manage utilization and how available are these flights in practice? Given that you have no price to regulate supply and demand it basically sounds to me like a first come first serve model. While for instance a partner of an investment firm would fly from London to Frankfurt at any price on short notice he would be upset with the Beacon product if he can rarely get a ticket. I think it could be interesting to somehow explore the opportunity for having options that give you more flexibility for customers with a higher willingness to pay.
Towards the end of your article, you are raising the question whether door dash will be able to expand its delivery service from food into other point to point delivery alternatives. In e-commerce you currently see a trend to “click on demand” services. In other words, you order online and connect local stock in your city (CVS, 7-Eleven, Groveriy chains, etc.) directly to consumers. This will enable you, to for instance order convenience products such as tooth brushes online and then get them delivered to you in a matter of a couple of hours. While I truly see the demand for this kind of a business from a customer perspective, from an operating model perspective, you face two key challenges. First, the name of the game is density. This means you need to balance the number of deliveries are you able to deliver in a certain period of time, the corresponding salary a courier could make from it (in order to be competitive to for instance work uber) and the price you are able to charge. I think a delivery fee of $6 is rather on the high end considering meals of $10 per person. The only reason why food in particular is working well on that price level is that many people are sharing delivery fees when getting a delivery into the office for lunch time. Second, in order to reduce transaction times you need a sufficient IT integration with local stores. While doordash probably used their own IT platform for restaurants as an interface, they would have to integrate with the ERP systems as well as the more complex operational processes of local store chains (CVS, 7-eleven, etc.) which can be complicated and time consuming. Personally I believe there is a future in klick on demand but like you have written competition is fierce. UBER for instnace will have the unique opportunity to combine delivery of parcels as well as of passengers in one operating model. I am curious to see how doordash will evolve in the next couple of years.