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Kozmo Is Dead, Long Live Instacart: A Y Combinator-Backed App for One-Hour Delivery

Starting with groceries.
instacart screenshot2 Kozmo Is Dead, Long Live Instacart: A Y Combinator Backed App for One Hour Delivery

(Photo: Instacart)

Of all the ghosts of tech bubbles past, none looms as large in our memory as the ultimate flameout classic, Kozmo.com, which offered one-hour free delivery of any item on its site.

Oh, foolish Kozmo, how we loved you. Let us count the ways. One for the ability to order a pack of cigarettes, VCR, or a lobster dinner, all from the same place. Two for your strong-calved bike messengers, pumping up and down Broadway. Three for permanently gifting us with VHS tapes of “Magnolia” and “Edward Scissorhands,” forever housed in our parent’s bookshelf, after you went under. Shitty business model, glorious service.

So we’re particularly pleased to see that someone is resurrecting the concept, albeit with a little less boomtime hubris and much better planning skills.

TechCrunch reports that Apoovra Mehta, a former Amazon Supply Chain engineer, founded Instacart in early June, banking on his experience developing Amazon’s backend logistics. The iPhone app promises to deliver items in under an hour, but it’s shrewdly starting with just groceries.

While Instacart eventually wants to be Amazon.com with one-hour delivery for anything and everything, the startup is currently focusing on groceries. This means that users can tap-to-order from tens of thousands of items, ranging from produce and booze to deli food, snacks and toiletries. Inventory is sourced from local grocery stores, and Mehta has put together a fleet of trained delivery personnel, who are paid by the hour to pick up the items from local stores and deliver them directly to you — at your home or office.

Drivers don’t accept tips and Instacart is offering a refund for any order not “complete, correct and on time.”

The only drawback—-besides the possibility of this whole thing going the way of Kozmo–is the fact that it’s only currently live in San Francisco, Mountain View and Palo Alto. Dammit, we’ve got to get Brooklyn bodega owners to start reading TechCrunch.

(Hat tip, @joshgreenman)

Follow Nitasha Tiku on Twitter or via RSS. ntiku@observer.com