A new company is getting into the world of two-hour delivery now dominated by major corporations like Amazon Inc., Walmart Inc. and Target Corp., and with more boutique products to boot.
The colloquially named FastAF only launched in mid-September, but already is offering two hours or less for delivery of select consumer products from about 350 brands, including Aesop, Glossier, Summer Fridays, Fenty Skin, Skims, APL, Retrosuperfuture, Goop, Baggu, Birkenstock, Buck Mason, Le Labo and even Nike. So long as you are in Los Angeles or, starting Tuesday, New York City.
“This started in looking at Asia, where they’ve had two-hour delivery, often a lot faster, for a long time,” Lee Hnetinka, FastAF founder and chief executive officer, said. The company is part of Darkstore Inc., which Hnetinka also founded and which has raised a total of $30.2 million, most recently $20 million last year in a Series B round.
Darkstore started about four years ago as a business-to-business delivery service, working on behalf of brands like Nike and Adidas. Although the company is not raising, Hnetinka said, its plans for expanding FastAF are ambitious.
“The pandemic created the perfect storm for us,” Hnetinka said. “With the constraints of e-commerce platforms and the tech these companies use for their sites, we didn’t see a path to get to the real scale we wanted. So at the beginning of this year we made the decision to launch a consumer-facing product.”
Along with the app, only available for iPhone users at the moment, there is a FastAF pop-up store in L.A.’s Venice Beach, open through the end of the year. After that, the app-based service will be rolling out in several other cities. Hnetinka wouldn’t specify what cities are next after New York, but generally agreed that major cities like San Francisco (where Darkstore is based), Austin and Miami are in the mix and more secondary markets will come after that.
“You have to have some sort of local go-to-market strategy in this space,” Hnetinka said, using Uber as an example, which in its early days would post drivers at tech conferences and offer attendees discounted rides. The pop-up store in L.A. is “very deliberate,” he said.
“We have brands that many people have never heard of, so it’s all about discovery,” Hnetinka added. “For me as the founder and ceo, I thought people would love the fast delivery, but they really love discovering the new brands.”
And Hnetinka says FastAF is discerning when it comes to which brands it offers. He wants brands that fit in with the overall look and ethos of the app, and claims to have refused to carry “many brands” that do not fit in with its point of view. He would not share specifics on sales or revenue, but called the response from the rollout in L.A. “incredible.”
But delivery is certainly the core of FastAF. It either buys product outright at wholesale, works on consignment from brands or works directly in partnership with some to offer fast delivery service. As larger companies in the same-day delivery space do, FastAF uses “microfulfillment centers,” so smaller spaces in the middle of delivery areas can house product to be picked up and delivered quickly. Its newest center in New York, on 25th Street and Fifth Avenue, was a digital agency that needed out of its lease due to the coronavirus pandemic.
For now, FastAF is using DoorDash for its deliveries, and the same for returns that come up. Although that could change at some point.
“All deliveries are by human beings right now,” Hnetinka said. “But I do envision us in the future partnering with autonomous vehicle companies and robots, as they’re legalized.”
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