Skipping the Crowds: Why We Funded Sleek

June 4, 2020
Investments


Dorm Room Fund is proud to announce our investment in Sleek, a company building a  technology-driven platform that helps customers skip lines and crowds, and reduce long wait times. Americans spend an excessive 37 billion hours in lines every year. This is now more than just inefficiency and a waste of time — in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, consumers have become more cognizant of their surroundings and the health dangers that come with exposure to crowds. 

The Process of Waiting in Line can be Excruciating, and Hasn’t Been Reinvented in Ages

Photo by Stefan Barkman on Unsplash


The biggest innovation today for waiting in lines is the “take a number” system at an average deli counter. You’re handed a slip of paper with a number on it, and when this number is called, you can order your sandwich. Sleek has taken this concept and made it digital. And that’s where the magic comes in: By adding surge pricing, live wait times, and a host of clever technologies, Sleek lifts this antiquated system into the modern world. 

Sleek’s Solution: A Dynamic “Surge Pricing” Algorithm Rooted in Deep Learning

Sleek partners with stores, vendors, and event organizers to allow customers to hold their spots with their phones, without physically waiting in line. With just three taps of their technology, customers even have the option to pay a few dollars to skip to the front of the line. This fee is calculated using a sophisticated and dynamic “surge pricing” algorithm, rooted in deep learning. 

The Sleek experience is smooth and seamless — there’s no app to download (simply scan a QR code) and no bulky sign-up process. It’s free to vendors and customers alike, unless they choose to pay to skip to the front, and completely disrupts the unpleasant experience of waiting in line. 

COVID-19: How Sleek is Flattening the Curve

During COVID-19, Sleek has partnered with local grocery stores to share their technology for free. They’ve launched new features to help people stay safe and avoid crowds by providing a live display of lines and wait times in store, which they can view from the safety and comfort of their homes. Their real-time wait projections are gathered from anonymous data drawn from a store’s existing hardware — security cameras, sensors and geospatial data. Their technology also offers AI-based face mask detection and helps enforce social distancing by stores. Through accurate headcounts and density insights, Sleek helps both shoppers and store owners stay informed and make their own decisions with the best data available to them. 

Sleek is easily adaptable to any situation in which people have to wait in line — which allows them to reach a massive market for a behavior that hasn’t been reinvented in ages. The solution they’ve created is sleek (pun intended), modern, and efficient.

Why Dorm Room Fund Invested

Big idea with massive market potential

Lines are everywhere, and Sleek allows any store, vendor, or establishment to earn more revenue by digitizing their lines and allowing people to pay dynamic “surge pricing” to skip to the front. It’s a win-win for customers and vendors alike, and can be implemented anywhere.

Technical founders with high execution velocity

Sleek is founded by Spandana Nakka and Gaurav Aggarwal, who have successfully launched products together at Google and Stanford University. We’re blown away by this team’s ability to iterate nimbly and execute quickly; their adaptation to offer Sleek to help local communities during COVID-19 is a testament to their agility and potential for impact.

Traction and strong unit economics

Their first pilot proved that lots of customers are willing to pay to skip a line, and proved that popular vendors can greatly increase their revenue using Sleek’s technology. Since then, they’ve signed multiple large contracts. 

Sleek exemplifies so much of what it means to be a phenomenal early-stage company: A massive untapped market, impressive traction and unit economics, and high-energy founders with the entrepreneurial drive to make it big. Dorm Room Fund is thrilled to back Spandana and Gaurav and look forward to supporting them as they continue to disrupt the way we wait in lines.  

Written by Isabelle Zhou, Dorm Room Fund Managing Partner (SF). Follow her on Twitter and Medium. Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

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