Filld, a startup that delivers gas on-demand, day or night, has raised $US3.25 million in seed funding in a bid to take on the gas station model.
Investors Lightspeed Venture Partners and Javelin Venture Partners are betting this traditional model, which has remained largely unchanged for the last 50 years, is ripe for a shakeup.
If the idea of on-demand gas delivery sounds familiar, you might have seen the idea parodied on an episode of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” titled “The Gang Solves The Gas Crisis,” back in 2008.
But cofounder Scott Hempy tells Business Insider his company actually has an unlikely origin: Air Force One.
During a long car ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles, Hempy was annoyed at running low on gas, and starting telling his wife about how efficient Air Force One is at refuelling in the air with the help of a fuel plane that flies above it. Why isn’t it that easy to fill up your car with gas, they wondered. And then Hempy’s wife suggested a service that would pump gas just before you are ready to leave somewhere, say your office or your home. The idea for Filld took root.
Hempy, who worked in venture capital at the time, set out to prove this idea couldn’t work.
He assumed there would be a minefield of insane regulations (which there are), but as he dug into it with cofounder Christopher Aubuchon, he realised this wasn’t an impossible market to crack.
The result of their work is Filld, an iOS app (Android coming soon) that lets you order gas when you want. Right now, the app is only available in its pilot market around Silicon Valley, but Aubuchon says this new seed round will help them expand — first to the wider San Francisco Bay Area, and then to other cities.
Here’s how Filld works.
After setting up your profile on Filld, the app is simple. You order the gas like you would order an Uber, by placing a pin at the location, and one of Filld’s trucks comes and fills your tank. If you have a locking gas tank door, you have to leave it open a crack for them.
Unlike one of its main competitors in the space, Purple, Filld’s trucks are certified to determine exactly how much gas you need. While Purple can only fill a set amount — let’s say 10 or 15 gallons at a time — Filld uses a similar pump to one you’d find at a gas station, which clicks when it’s done. All you have to do is tell Filld to fill it up.
Aubuchon says the early adopters of the app have been drawn to the ability to have your tank filled overnight, and indeed this does seem convenient. Tap on the app, go to bed, and wake up with a full tank. You have just removed one annoying detail from your life.
The question is how much you are willing to pay for it.
Right now, Filld determines its price through an average of the gas stations around you — but then adds a $US5 service fee. The founders say they are working to lower that fee, but as it stands right now, the value question is pretty simple: is it worth $US5 to you not to go to the gas station?
Aubuchon says Filld has seen the lion’s share of its business from family vehicles — Minivans and SUVs — though this might have something to do with the demographics of the area Filld currently serves.
Filld buys its gas from wholesalers, and the founders say they haven’t experienced any pushback. The big players in gas, they explain, make their money further up the pipeline. And as to a logistics company swooping into the space, the pair feel that the complicated regulations around gas make entry into the market difficult.
The main question, then, is the demand for Filld’s service. And with this new infusion of cash, we’ll see whether Filld can catch on outside of tech-forward Silicon Valley.