Tumble Wants to Automate Laundry Day With Its Tech Solution

The startup builds hardware and software meant to make doing laundry in shared spaces a breeze.

Written by Ashley Bowden
Published on Nov. 09, 2022
Tumble Wants to Automate Laundry Day With Its Tech Solution
Tumble CEO Scott Patterson poses for a photo
Tumble CEO Scott Patterson. | Image: Tumble / Built In

Sure the latest initiatives from the Teslas, Apples and Googles of the industry tend to dominate the tech news space — and with good reason. Still, the tech titans aren’t the only ones bringing innovation to the sector.

In an effort to highlight up-and-coming startups, Built In has launched The Future 5 across eight major U.S. tech hubs. Each quarter, we will feature five tech startups, nonprofits or entrepreneurs in each of these hubs who just might be working on the next big thing. You can check out last quarter’s San Francisco round-up here.

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When it comes to apartment hunting, an in-unit washer and dryer may be a particularly attractive feature since the alternative is doing laundry in a shared space. However, fishing for quarters to feed machines, navigating broken appliances and having strangers move your clothes without permission could very soon be problems of the past thanks to Bay Area startup Tumble.

The company came about in 2019 after Tumble CEO Scott Patterson completed a deployment with the U.S. Marine Corps. During his 11-year service, doing laundry was free and individuals respected each other’s items. Patterson found a much different dynamic when he moved back to San Francisco.

Patterson stayed with a friend in their eight-floor apartment unit that had a shared laundry room in the building’s basement. Here, doing laundry felt more like a “free-for-all,” Patterson said. Plus, he had to pay about $5 for each load he washed and dried. Machines were often broken, and at some point, the card machine was stolen from the wall. During the six weeks it took for the property manager to complete repairs, Patterson was further inconvenienced by having to take his washings to a laundromat. 

During this time, the large majority of machines in these establishments were coin-operated. Patterson found that depending on change for coin-operated machines was one of many pain points people experience when using shared laundry facilities. His survey findings spurred the creation of Tumble.

“[People] didn’t want to pay with quarters. They wanted to see what machines are available before they went to the laundry room [and] get notified when it’s done. And they wanted to be able to keep their clothes secure,” Patterson told Built In. 

Tumble develops hardware that can be attached to any commercially available laundry machine. In correspondence with its mobile app, these devices allow users to check machine availability, track their wash or dry cycles in real-time, remotely lock or unlock washers and dryers and predict machine maintenance. Tumble also provides push notifications to let users know when their load is done and allows cashless payments directly from users’ smartphones.

[People] didn’t want to pay with quarters. They wanted to see what machines are available before they went to the laundry room [and] get notified when it’s done. And they wanted to be able to keep their clothes secure.”

Since the time of its first installation in April of 2020, Tumble has grown to serve property managers across the state of California. It also operates in Texas and Illinois and plans to expand into New York and Virginia next. 

On average, Americans spend about 375 hours a year washing, drying and folding their laundry. Rather than devote so much time to a low-value task, Tumble wants to lessen the hassle and reduce that process to minutes. 

Building on the convenience it already works to provide, Tumble is also exploring how partnering with logistics companies and gig workers can increase its product’s usage. Since most laundry machines sit idle for the majority of the day, the company wants to let people summon a driver to pick up their laundry and take it to one of the company’s properties. After their load has been cleaned, dried and paid for through Tumble’s app, a driver would return the cleaned load to the user.

“The whole idea here is if [the process of doing laundry] is cheap, [and] if it’s convenient and high quality, no one would ever do laundry,” Patterson said. “If it’s dangerous, dirty or dull, it’s going to get automated away. [There is] nothing more dull than laundry, and we need to start building the infrastructure for this future that is coming very quickly.”

As it continues developing this infrastructure, Tumble is committed to building out a team that’s comprised of 25 percent veterans and military spouses. The company is currently 15 people strong and plans to continue its internal growth early next year. 

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