Estonian startup Upsteam wants to change the car wash industry

Why would customers go to a carwash and wait for service, when they can get their car washed whenever and wherever they want it cleaned? Estonian-Finnish startup Upsteam is employing the platform economy to shake up the car wash industry by making car wash services mobile and ecological.

Upsteam is on a mission to make traditional car washes obsolete by offering an app-based service that brings its crew of car washers to the customer. Established in 2017 in Estonia and setting up operations in Finland in 2019, the startup offers the required digital infrastructure, tools and training for anyone wanting to work as a mobile car washer. Upsteam is also looking at Poland, Germany, Norway and other Scandinavian countries for the coming years.

“The car wash industry hasn’t changed in decades,” Jarno Lehtimäki, country manager of Finland at Upsteam says to the Finnish news website Good News from Finland. “So far you’ve had to look for a car wash, join the queue and wait for the duration of the service,” he added. Upsteam’s Finnish branch has patented and is the product owner of its washing solution, which uses a minimal amount of water and instead relies on a biodegradable detergent and dirt-repellent wax to get the job done.

A clean drop in the ocean

The solution has helped the startup already serve 9,000 customers over 40,000 times in three European cities. Upsteam claims to have saved 12 million litres of clean water. “A regular car wash takes 200 to 250 litres of drinkable water, whereas our solution takes one to four litres, depending a bit on the season and the car,” Lehtimäki explained to the Finnish website. “We’re also developing our winter washing solution and are currently able to wash in temperatures as low as -15 Celsius.”

Crowdfunding

The eco-friendly solution has secured a total of 1.8 million euros in crowdfunding campaigns and investors. After starting in the business to business markets, Upsteam is now making a push for consumer markets. So far, this accounts for 40 per cent of the company’s business.

“We’ve had a strong start on the consumer side, which is expanding at a breakneck speed. In the near future, we’re also looking to expand our service offering towards a more comprehensive upkeep, for example with businesses that operate large fleets of cars.”

Author: Niels Singeling

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