back to article You're guilty but broke, judge tells Wash.io – the 'Uber of laundry'

A judge in San Francisco has rejected a settlement between startup poster child Wash.io and angry former employees – because the company can't afford it. Despite having received $16m in funding and at one point being valued at $60m, the so-called "Uber of laundry" is unable to pay the $450,000 it agreed to after being sued by …

  1. Youngone

    Business Plan

    Someone has to pay for the service, so if the customers won't it looks like wash.io decided the employees should.

    1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

      Re: Business Plan

      Most businesses fail within 5 years has been a mantra for ages. The causes often include a poor business plan and lack of funding.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Business Plan

        > The causes often include a poor business plan and lack of funding.

        And a plainly idiotic idea.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Business Plan

          I set-up a business a few years ago in another country. In order to do so I had to prove I was qualified enough to understand at least the basics of accounting and I had to provide a business plan.

          I would have been brought before the authorities if the company had got into trouble in the first five years. I would have been asked to give a good explanation as to what had gone wrong with the likely outcome being at least a large fine and possibly being banned from starting further businesses.

          Apparently they do accept reasonable excuses but they expect you to think things through.

          Some might say this stifles innovation but I think the reality is it greatly reduces the kind of mess outlined in the article.

  2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    For once, it's true

    The noise is coming from outside agitators.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Tech washing!

    I would call this "tech washing". It's turning what is a nasty business, very old and exploitive business model that treats employees like dirt and removes all their rights into a "cool, trendy, market disruptor".

    Just because something's an app or a cool looking web thingie, does not mean that it actually operates in another dimension where the rules of economics no longer apply.

    This notion that you can just break everything down into self-employed contractors and undercut the exiting market has been around since the year dot. It was called "piecework" when it was done in the 19th century textile industry and it saw people working at home in places like rural Ireland and earning an absolute pittance while some flashy brand was benefiting from their hard labour, spinning linen or making clothes.

    Many of these "disruptors" are basically are basically rebranding horrible 19th century business practices. We spent the best part of the 20th century improving workers' rights and getting away from these practices. Let's not get bamboozled by trendy branding and the notion that just because it's now organised digitally that it's any better!

    If you want to do something disruptive, develop a new technology that actually makes life easier for people or does something genuinely new and changes a whole industry paradigm e.g. VoIP is a great example. However, don't fool yourself into thinking you can just break down an existing, functioning business model by a bit of trendy branding and undermining people's conditions of employment.

    ....

    1. Commswonk Silver badge

      Re: Tech washing!

      It was called "piecework" when it was done in the 19th century textile industry and it saw people working at home in places like rural Ireland and earning an absolute pittance while some flashy brand was benefiting from their hard labour, spinning linen or making clothes.

      In the 21st century delete "rural Ireland" and insert Bangla Desh. The principles and practice of employee exploitation don't change much, to mankind's continuing shame.

      1. Slx

        Re: Tech washing!

        Yeah, well that's another extreme again and a nice euphemistic term like "off shoring" or "outsourcing" gets used ... It's more the replacement for "slavery" than "piecework".

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          Re: Tech washing!

          The sad part is real slavery may be an improvement for many of these workers and their families.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Tech washing!

            >The sad part is real slavery may be an improvement for many of these workers and their families.

            While I understand your point, not it isn't. Slavery is utterly abhorrent and contrary to basic human decency.

            Those people who work in the factories in Bangladesh do so because their alternative is trying to live off natural resources, as they have done for countless generations. People flock to the cities to find work and a better living than they would have otherwise and usually it is a better living. They send their kids to work because this brings in more income which they can spend on food. If we in the west scream that this is terrible and force the kids out of the factories, then those kids will end up working elsewhere, probably in worse conditions.

            It was no different here in the past: while I spent my early teens mostly having fun, my grandfather worked in a coal mine. Go back another generation and working-class kids tended to work.

            In the days of the empire, Indian cotton (Bangladesh was part of India then, of course) was sent to England, where it was turned into cloth in the northern mills. The people there weren't paid a lot and conditions were often poor, but they had jobs and could feed themselves. Britain basically looked after its own, including the feeder businesses into the industry. Nowadays those who own and operate the businesses, including many of those who "lead" this country couldn't give a shit about British industry and its workers; they're only interested in lining their own pockets. In addition we have pesky laws which mean you can't treat people like shit here. So the manual labour takes place in places where it's cheap and labour laws either don't exist or a routinely flouted.

            1. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: Tech washing!

              "In the days of the empire, Indian cotton (Bangladesh was part of India then, of course) was sent to England, where it was turned into cloth in the northern mills."

              And _this_ was achieved by shutting down mills in India. The idea was by importing raw product and exporting finished goods, Britain wouldn't bleed money out to the colonies as it was doing when buying in indian cloth.

              The thing to bear in mind about colonial exploitation is that for the most part the rich didn't see what they were doing as a problem, because they were treating the foreign poor just the same as they treated the poor back home in England.

              As another poster said, we spent a good chunk of the 20th century building up workers' rights from the depredations of mercantilism that had occured over the preceeding 200 years - and the mercantilists have responded by getting into government and spending the last 30-40 years systemically stripping them down again.

  4. JassMan Silver badge
    Trollface

    I bet that the board didn't miss out.

    You can be sure that the directors, CEO, CFO etc were all paid their fees on time before the money ran out, and that the fat performance bonuses were paid in full. Probably even had time to sell their shares.

    1. Shady

      Re: I bet that the board didn't miss out.

      Maybe the money has been laundered.... sorry :(

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: I bet that the board didn't miss out.

      You can bank on it.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I bet that the board didn't miss out.

      > You can be sure that the directors, CEO, CFO etc were all paid their fees on time before the money ran out, and that the fat performance bonuses were paid in full. Probably even had time to sell their shares.

      The article is about a start-up. You pulled your rant from the "banking and finance" file. Might as well have complained that it was off-side and the referee must be blind.

      These guys might have tried to pull a fast one, but the reality of the vast majority of start-ups is anything but glamorous.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: I bet that the board didn't miss out.

        Start ups may not be glamorous but they can be extremely profitable when they fail. A case of I know personally the CEO, CFO, and family members put none of their own money in and made hundreds of thousands clear cash from a business that failed in less than 2 years. Employees and contractors where not so lucky but to avoid paying them the company went out of business.

        What is the purpose of business if not to benefit the country, the workers, society? Is it really just to feed off a nation and it's resources for the benefit of the few?

  5. Sureo

    Huh?

    If the working conditions were so rotten as the article described, why wouldn't the "ninjas" just quit? Why wait for 12 months then sue?

    1. Throatwarbler Mangrove Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: Huh?

      So . . . and this may be shock to you . . . some people actually need those jobs to, you know, survive, and the time between jobs and thus paychecks is a rough one, especially if you don't know where your next paycheck is coming from. It probably took 12 months for someone to realize how bad the situation was and engage a legal firm. It also wouldn't surprise me if the firm hired undocumented workers on top of everything else, people who wouldn't feel comfortable rocking the legal boat.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Huh?

        And if you are ever unfortunate to find yourself on their rung of the ladder, you may find that quitting a job means you are ineligible for social welfare. I've been there, its a horrible hand-to-mouth penny counting existence where you are thankful for that supermarkets own brand crap food. I wasn't there long, but the experience grounded me and really made me appreciate my income and life in general.

        My own experience was in the UK - I simply cannot imagine what living on the bread line in a developing country is like.

    2. ecofeco Silver badge

      Re: Huh?

      The average working person can't afford to hire lawyers and the government labor protection agencies are overwhelmed, understaffed and underfunded... on purpose of course.

      I'm surprised they were able to get lawyers this quickly!

  6. ecofeco Silver badge

    Like hell they're broke

    They aren't broke, just trying to use the old Hollywood accounting dodge.

    At least the judge said "prove it."

  7. JustWondering
    Happy

    I dunno

    Looks like they might be all washed up and it's time to fold.

  8. Timo

    Where is the "Uber" of washing machines?

    Washing machine sharing? I post online with some whizzy app the availability of my washer, someone can come by my house and use my washer and dryer to do their clothes. I suppose if I really was bored I could post that they could drop off their stuff and I'll wash, dry, and fold, for a price that may or may not compete with the local laundromat.

    After all I'm not using it 24x7, so it makes use of the idle time.

    Or what if I post that I have a half a load of bright colored clothes and willing to take on anyone's other half of a load for a price. That's really pushing the envelope on efficiency. Green even.

    The line forms here - first 5 people willing to put up a million can get in on the ground floor.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Where is the "Uber" of washing machines?

      > Washing machine sharing? I post online with some whizzy app the availability of my washer, someone can come by my house and use my washer and dryer to do their clothes

      To be honest, *that* doesn't sound too bad of an idea.

      1. d3vy Silver badge

        Re: Where is the "Uber" of washing machines?

        "To be honest, *that* doesn't sound too bad of an idea."

        Until some uninsured donkey puts a red sock in with your load of white shirts.

    2. TechnicalBen Silver badge

      Re: Where is the "Uber" of washing machines?

      That's a brilliant idea, here is...

      ... (reads last line), you forgot the joke icon!

      PS, Where is the wad of cash icon?

    3. Andrew Moore

      Re: Where is the "Uber" of washing machines?

      And to take it further- rather than you having to handle the money directly, you could put an interface on the washing the machine that handles cash and card payments. And, for privacy reasons, house the washing machine in its own unit, accessible 24 hours a day. And in order to maximise profit, have a bank of washing machines, rather than just one...

  9. frank ly

    Exploring the business model

    1. Take underpants

    2. [Wash Them]

    3. Profit?

  10. kain preacher

    If they are truly that broke, then seize all asset and liquidate them,. Of course I would also love to to see the PHB liquidated to.

  11. Tannin

    "it deluded itself into believing that excited press coverage was as good as profit margin"

    Gosh! Now where have I seen that done before? Don't tell me, jet me guess.

    Err .. was it 8921 other brainless startups?

    1. Marketing Hack Silver badge
      FAIL

      Webvan is a famous example. I still remember their commercial, which showed a couple hiking through the woods when one of them experienced nature's call but found out they had forgot to pack the toilet paper. Place your Webvan order and by the end of the commercial a van had showed up and the obliging driver packed one roll of TP out to the couple and saved the day.

      The reason I remember that after 15 years? Because I was sitting there watching the commercial wondering how Webvan was dumb enough to think it was going to make money off people who needed things like 1 gallon of milk, or a pack of TP.

      Wash.io sounds a lot like that.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        > I was sitting there watching the commercial wondering how Webvan was dumb enough to think it was going to make money off people who needed things like 1 gallon of milk, or a pack of TP.

        To be fair, there are a number of businesses doing more or less that (grocery delivery) in cities around the world. Their customers tend to be supermarkets and the like, effectively subcontracting the delivery, rather than the consumers themselves.

        With that said, who packs toilet paper in the woods? That's what rocks and water are for¹, besides they do a better job.

        ¹ Do not ever use leaves unless you're absolutely sure what they are. E.g., nettles and poison ivy are not usually seen as good choices.

        1. Tikimon

          We 'ent savages yanno

          "With that said, who packs toilet paper in the woods?"

          I and legions of others do, with an optional trowel to dig a hole. They make mini-rolls of TP (3cm diameter and no hole in the middle) just for this purpose. I even carry one in my pack to mountain bike, because you never know when your guts will get in an evil mood. Be prepared.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: We 'ent savages yanno

            > I and legions of others do, with an optional trowel to dig a hole.

            Plastic bags (plural, double-bagging is critical). You came with it, you leave with it. :-)

  12. David Lawrence

    Gramm'er

    "The company is the epitome of everything that is wrong with Silicon Valley: it's entire business model was built on serving others within the startup bubble"

    Oh dear, how many more times? NO APOSTROPHE in ITS in the context of that sentence!!!

    Primary School error's ;-)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Gramm'er

      > Primary School error's ;-)

      I agree. On a par with Random capitalisation they Are.

  13. allthecoolshortnamesweretaken

    "Upstart is everything that's wrong with Silicon Valley"

    And then some.

    BTW, in this context it's "startup" - an upstart has actually achieved something.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2020