Ahead Of The Delivery Curve: Why We Funded Mlkmn

April 13, 2020
Investments

Dorm Room Fund is excited to announce our investment in Mlkmn, founded by DRF Partner Alex Torrey. Mlkmn is a platform to refill the essentials you use every day in your apartment. Its modern “milkman” model charges for only what you use while reducing the costs, inconvenience, and waste vs. traditional a-la-carte purchasing and box-to-door shipping. 

The way we get everyday essentials in cities is unsustainable.

All the little inconveniences of city living add up: shopping is a headache and city consumers lack time and physical space. These consumers prioritize convenience, yet brick and mortar stores require residents to schlep bulky, heavy goods back to their apartments. Online, on the other hand, generates loads of excess packaging and wasteful materials that are detrimental to our planet. Today, more packages are shipped to residential addresses than commercial ones. 

Modern consumers, fatigued and frustrated by inconvenience and “box guilt,” want a better option. This underlying trend has accelerated as COVID-19 instantly pushed millions more consumers to trial new delivery services, which will likely result in a lasting step change in consumer behavior.

Mlkmn’s solution: reduce, reuse, refill.

Designed to make city living better, Mlkmn delivers must-have household and personal care products on autopilot—soaps, paper towels, toilet paper, detergents, and more. Mlkmn’s planet-friendly refill platform aggregates demand in residential buildings and predicts usage to refill the products that residents use every day, synchronizing its operation at the building level. Users get the value of group buying while saving time, space, brainpower, and the planet. Building partners benefit from single-point couriers and hyper-local, micro fulfillment centers, powering the safest and most reliable avenue for essential product delivery, while dramatically reducing trash and recycling outputs.

Why Dorm Room Fund Invested

Investment Thesis

Overall, we see Mlkmn’s business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C) model as a uniquely scalable solution that provides both a more cost-effective and convenient option for consumers and property managers alike. 

A founder with proven entrepreneurial and operating expertise.

This is a highly execution-oriented business and Alex is the ideal person at the helm. The magic of Mlkmn is in delivering daily-use products on a more consistent, cost-effective, and convenient basis than the alternative. Therefore, the business involves creating strong partnerships with residential building managers and CPG manufacturers. We were impressed with Alex’s relentless hustle, his ability to strike meaningful partnerships, and his deep awareness of what areas of the business he is best equipped to handle vs. where he needs to delegate as the business scales. Lastly, from founding a company that was featured on Shark Tank (backed by Mark Cuban and Lori Greiner), to serving as the head of strategy for various brands, to being an Entrepreneur in Residence at Techstars, we think Alex brings a compelling mix of founder and operator experiences that will position him to quickly ideate, launch, and scale this business. 

Strong early traction, obvious economies of scale, and a large, growing market opportunity. 

Mlkmn quickly established strategic partnerships with building managers for its beta and got valuable insights for a bigger launch. In the longer-term, we anticipate immense efficiency gains as the business scales. First, the customer acquisition costs in a given building significantly diminish after an initial critical mass of customers is met. Buildings are likely to offer amenities like Mlkmn to new, incoming tenants, reducing marginal marketing costs over time. Second, as the aggregate usage of the products increases, Mlkmn should realize meaningful volume-based leverage with manufacturers, increasing its product margins and further strengthening the company’s position against a-la-carte alternatives. Lastly, there is a massive and growing need to cut packaging waste and shipping miles, while offering consumers the more eco-friendly option they are increasingly demanding. Due to the material reductions in packaging and single-use plastics, Mlkmn will help high-rise apartment buildings meaningfully reduce their overall waste management fees.


Written by Sri Bhamidipati, DRF Partner (NYC). Photo by Anna Franques on Unsplash.

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