Startup FlyBuy building new mobile ‘curbside’ shopping service on E Pine

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 2.28.26 PMScreen Shot 2015-04-23 at 2.41.14 PMIf a new Capitol Hill-based startup has its way, nearly every storefront will be turned into a drive-through. Flybuy, a new mobile app company, is headquartered in an unassuming retail space on E Pine. Its business model is to help retailers and customers avoid the hassle of parking and be part of the next wave of online commerce.

screen322x572“It’s a 21st century drive through,” said Chapin Henry, the company’s chief operating officer.

There was huge buzz in tech media this week as an Uber co-founder unveiled details of Operator, a “shopping concierge” system designed to “unlock the 90% of commerce that’s not on the Internet.”

On E Pine near 14th Ave, Henry and Flybuy are making a push for similar turf. The app allows users to make orders for goods and services through participating retailers. The stores provide an estimate of how long it will take to fill the order. Customers can then drive to the store as the business is notified that the customer has arrived. An employee then meets the person at the curb for a quick pick-up. People pay through the app.

It might seem somewhat cumbersome but when the new turf of an Operator-type world of commerce starts to get claimed, there’s a good chance services like Flybuy could play a part.

Screen Shot 2015-04-23 at 2.28.42 PMRestaurants have been quick to show interest, but other services that have a quick in-and-out model, for example a dry cleaner (where people might also use the app for drop-off), florist or pet supply store, has also seen value in the idea, Henry said.

For those on Capitol Hill, who might be just as likely to bike or walk to the location, Henry said the app would easily support non-drivers. They’re even working on a boat-up option for folks wanting to grab a quick bite from Ivar’s Salmon House on Lake Union.

“All around the city, parking is an issue,” Henry said. Many of the early businesses to sign on were excited because they felt they were losing customers who were frustrated by not being able to find a spot. “They were all interested in the idea because the access is so poor.”

The company started about a year and a half ago, and had an office in Fremont, Henry said. They did some testing, mostly with friends and family for a while, then took the app down in January to rebuild it based on what they learned. Now, they’re ready to re-launch.

In March, their landlord helped move them to their new location on Capitol Hill, and Henry said they are very happy with the move. For one, it helps them to be in a street-level retail spot, where they can better observe the patterns people use when shopping. They’re also in an area where many of their neighbors are natural customers.

“It was ideal to be in a retail location,” Henry said.

And, yes, parking around Capitol Hill can sometimes be a thorough drag.

Henry said Flybuy is sensitive to the venture that this might encourage people to drive in a city already gridlocked with traffic, but argues that it may actually serve to help the situation. He pointed to a UCLA study which looked at studies of 16 cities between 1927 and 2001 and found that on average, up to 30 percent of traffic can be attributed to people circling the block looking for a place to park. Although, only six of those studies actually tried to quantify the percentage of people looking for parking.

“I think we’re going to save traffic,” Henry said.

There is still likely to be some circling, however. Drivers need to arrive on the same side of the street as the business. If the driver is coming from the wrong direction, they’re probably going to have do a loop-de-loop around the block to get on the right side of the road, and then another to get back pointing their original direction.

Flybuy is available for iOS and Android. The company is running a promotion to allow people to test it out by picking up a free item at its headquarters at 14th and Pine. You can learn more at flybuy.com.

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29 thoughts on “Startup FlyBuy building new mobile ‘curbside’ shopping service on E Pine

  1. When my wife and I were getting married, she went to pick up her wedding dress downtown. She had called the dress store and told them that she would be by and that they should bring the dress and meet her at the curb in her car. While they were loading the dress, a SPD officer gave her a ticket for blocking traffic for all of the 30 seconds that it took them to load the dress

    This concept won’t work if our city isn’t on board

    • For this concept the loading zone or 3 min wait zone should be used. I’d hope they aren’t stopping within a travel lane to make deliveries.

      If you were truly curbside and not blocking traffic you should have fought the ticket. 30 seconds is a long time if you’re actually blocking the flow of traffic.

    • I ride bike lanes all the time and there is not one week where the bike lane isn’t blocked or ignored somehow. Yesterday a guy from the middle lane disregarded the signaled left turn on 2nd and turned all on his own. Nevermind the possibility of a cyclist legally crossing the street. He also looked me right in the eye.

      At this point I ride with the assumption that every car is out to get me and doesn’t follow the rules.

      • “At this point I ride with the assumption that every car is out to get me and doesn’t follow the rules.”

        Yeah, well as a pedestrian, I walk with the assumption that every bicycle rider is out to get me and doesn’t follow the rules.

      • as a pedestrian (primarily) and a motorist i operate under the assumption that there are some (motorists, cyclists and pedestrians) that will obey laws and pay attention when on our roads and sidewalks and that there are others who are clueless and/or lack common sense that will cause accidents.

        i don’t think any camp: motorist, cyclist or pedestrian, has the moral high-ground to state that their group is without reproach.

      • Why would pedestrians be worried about silly bikes with all the dangerous cars/busses/trucks all around?

        Those are the things which kill you, not the bikes.

      • it may not kill you but try getting hit by a 100+ lb mass moving at ~20 mph on a cycle and let me know if you just brush it off as if it were nothing.

      • AGAIN, “…try getting hit by a 100+ lb mass moving at ~20 mph on a cycle and let me know if…it [was] nothing.”

        not sure you get the concept of how fragile our bodies are and how easily something as mundane sounding as a cyclist could seriously harm you. plus, a bike running into you, causing your head to smack the pavement, COULD, in just the right set of circumstanecs, kill you.

        how about we just agree that EVERYONE needs to spend more time thinking about those around us?

      • Well I’m a cyclist and a pedestrian so I guess I’m out to get myself. Strange how these “us vs. them” arguments fall flat once people realize we’re all in this together. Every driver is a pedestrian too. And many cyclists are drivers. Life’s crazy like that.

  2. Good idea that needs some work, especially around the parking and traffic issues. I can envision double parking on streets that can’t handle it, lack of curbside wait zones, etc. This should only be implemented at stores that can provide the proper parking space for it. Tech outpaces physical infrastructure and government’s ability to keep up.

  3. The whole marketing scheme is based on people driving, and blocking traffic. Ugh.

    I’m disappointed in this business model, but even more disappointed that there are plenty of people in this city who will see this and think “Oooooh, a way to make as little effort as possible, spend money, AND contribute to traffic issues? Awesomesauce!!!”

    • I agree, genevieve. This is truly a stupid idea that will cause more problems with traffic flow. Why? Because most businesses do not have a loading zone in front of their location (and the few that exist are usually occupied by delivery trucks), and most of the time customers will double park in order to pick up their item.

      Fortunately, I think it’s very unlikely that this concept will catch on, and quite likely the company will go belly up in short order.

  4. Why not just shop online then and get 1 hour delivery? If you are removing the physical experience of going into a store to shop, there is no reason for someone to drive all the way to a store when Amazon will have anything to your door within the hour

    • Yes Amazon can get things to your door pretty quickly, but the quality control of the products they sell has fallen dramatically. I will no longer order from them for a few reasons, one of which is that most of the items I have ordered as “new” looked used when they arrived or were damaged by the cheap packaging. I had another “new” arrive with a missing piece. That being said, this drive through idea isn’t great. It kind of reminds me of suburban drive-through restaurants.

  5. A lot of naysayers. I see plenty of unused loading zones and 3 minute wait zones. Everyone is also assuming these are things will block traffic on our major arterials. Many areas have ample space for a driver to stop momentarily out of the flow of traffic to hand a product to a waiting customer.

    This is a better solution than people driving around trying to look for non existent parking. For some, its easier for them to wait at the curb for a deliver than get into their car and drive to a store.

    Open your minds and allow things a chance. The market will dictate the need and success of a business model.

    • the business model is already outdated. With Amazon 1 click and 1 hour delivery, why would anyone go through 4 different steps to order something ‘online’ that they then have to go pick up?

      • Amazon doesn’t have everything nor do they have their full assortment of items available for the same service.

        This company looks to do things like pick up and deliver food, dry cleaning, flowers – all sorts of things people normally run errands to get. As well as potentially purchase from mom and pops instead of big business.

      • yes, true, amazon doesn’t have everything. but most of those things you mention can be purchased and delivered via postmates or similar courier services. as for restaurant delivery, there’s caviar, eat24, bitesquad and more that will deliver food from pretty much any restaurant you can think of.

        personally, i’ve never had that huge of an issue driving and parking if i have to do it. imo, i think the problem that’s trying to be solved with this, is people’s mindset that if they get in a car then they deserve to get a parking spot either in front of the store or within a few steps of the door. stop circling the block and park in a paid lot already.

  6. Thanks for all the feedback.

    FlyBuy is a faster and easier alternative to traditional take-out and in-store pickup. We are excited to start offering our service to our neighbors in Capitol Hill and to the broader Seattle-area community.

    Regarding traffic concerns, we are very committed to safety and to improving neighborhood traffic. We work with our partners to ensure a safe and convenient pickup spot and a pickup process that doesn’t negatively impact traffic. On the contrary, as many of our Capitol Hill friends can attest, drivers frequently circle block after block looking for a parking place.

    In our testing pickups take seconds – comparable or better than the time it takes to get into an Uber or a cab, eliminating the need to find a parking spot and reducing the time cars are on the road.

    Regarding Amazon (as well as other delivery companies such as Grubhub, Instacart, BiteSquad and others), we are big fans and think that delivery can be a great option. But delivery, for a wide variety of reasons, is not always the best option for everyone, all of the time. There are many times and reasons when it would be easier and more convenient to pickup an order from a restaurant or store, than have it delivered, and this is where FlyBuy shines, making it simple and fast.

    We are still early into our journey and will continue to listen to feedback to make sure our service is incredibly positive and convenient for our users, for our merchants and the communities we serve.

    If you have suggestions, ideas or feedback, feel free to contact us at feedback (at) flybuy.com

    Best,
    Chapin Henry
    FlyBuy

    • thanks, chapin.

      would you mind elaborating on this comment; “There are many times and reasons when it would be easier and more convenient to pickup an order from a restaurant or store, than have it delivered…”?

      not to be dense but i can’t think of a time or reason that having something brought to me isn’t easier or more convenient than getting in my car, fighting traffic to get to the store or restaurant, getting my “whatever” and then fighting traffic to get home.

      that’s not even taking into consideration that my building has parking. if it didn’t, and i was parking my car on the street, i would have to add, “circle the block to park” once i’m back home. of course, this could just be me and i might not be in your target market.

  7. I’m surprised at the negative comments. I think this is a fantastic idea! I would love to be able to order items, pick up laundry, and grab takeout from businesses and restaurants in areas of the city that I tend to avoid because of parking issues. Also, sometimes you just need to just grab something quickly but have kids or dogs in the car- this solves that problem too. Curbside Satrsbucks on your way to work? Sounds awesome. Seems to be better for bike traffic than diving/darting around the block several times attempting to find a parking spot.

    • Or: make coffee at home, save yourself 4 bucks and a few minutes, then drive to work not worrying about parking or curbside pickups.

      You’re welcome.

  8. Thanks for the question.

    FlyBuy was created (in part) as a solution for people “in motion”. This includes people that commute to work each day, mothers driving with small children and individuals that spend more of their day behind the wheel of a car than a desk.

    The ability for a person to pick up dinner (for example) on the way home from work without stopping and parking can be a very efficient (and less expensive) way to get food on the table when there is no time to cook one from scratch.

    In the end, complementary mobile fulfillment solutions whether “counter”, “curbside” or “delivery” make local (and national) brick and mortar businesses more accessible which is key to a healthy urban environment.

    Again, thanks for your question and comments.

    Chapin

  9. I could see this concept working well for all those people who can’t afford Seattle rents and are now living in thier cars; delivery to cars

  10. Why not just walk? Put the car away. And the iPad, iPhone, earbuds etc and just walk through your neighborhood and look around at all you’re missing by keeping your head buried in all these gadgets so you can have all the latest info now now now! You might see some brick and mortar businesses that you didn’t even know existed as you drove by at 30 mph staring at your GPS while trying to figure out how to get on I-5 because you’ve become so inept at human interaction you can’t imagine rolling down the window to ask someone.
    “Complimentary Mobile Fulfillment Solutions”. That’s some fancy schmancy term. And I’m sure for some it will make life easier. Though it depends on what one considers a life of ease b

    • Ideally, but what if the thing you need is too heavy to carry long distances? Overall though, I find the concept of “convenience” overrated. Just because someone figured out some way to combine commerce with technology doesn’t mean it’s a good thing. There’s also the option of buying less or nothing if it’s so inconvenient in the first place.