Gas delivery to your car by subscription.
Yoshi is a Palo Alto based startup that allows drivers to fuel up without going to the gas station by delivering gas to your parked car at work or home on a weekly basis. They also offer other services such as filling up the air in a car’s tires, replacing windshield wiper blades and washing cars. Yoshi currently operates in the San Francisco Bay area, Greater Atlanta, Nashville and Austin. Here’s how it started.
Yoshi was born in the summer of 2015 as a result of a traumatic incident.
“A friend of ours was robbed at a gas station and it was terrible. The salt in the wound was that he had to keep going back to that gas station every week.”
“Gas stations are smelly, an eyesore and bad for the environment. We realised that filling up gas was a weekly chore that everyone dislikes and that there had to be a better way to do this. That’s what inspired us to Start Yoshi.” - Nick explained.
Yoshi was founded by Nick Alexander, Bryan Frist and Dan Hunter. Nick and Bryan met in business school while Dan had been a long time friend of Nick. Here’s a bit about them:
Nick is a serial entrepreneur with a Harvard MBA and has been through the Y Combinator program 3 times. Prior to business school, Nick worked on a startup called Freshplum - creating big data tools for e-commerce companies.
Bryan grew up in Nashville, TN and was involved in building the first ever CHC International Hospital in China. He’s lived in Shanghai for 3 years, speaks fluent Chinese and has visited some of the most rural parts of China.
Prior to Yoshi, Dan was working at Stanford as a stem cell researcher. He has published numerous papers and was involved in re-growing teeth in mice. As a hobbyist he enjoys building electric bikes and rebuilding cars.
“His bedroom used to look like a garage, there were wires everywhere. He literally had four 3D printers running at the same time. I remember one time there was like a car engine just on his desk. He’s a very mechanical guy.” - Nick explained.
“We got started very quickly and very lean, I don’t think we were quite convinced that it was a good idea right off the bat but within the course of the first two weeks, we decided to put an app out and get a truck made.”
“The original truck was made just by building a gas trailer on the back of Dan’s personal truck, which he was using to drive to Stanford everyday for work.” - Nick explained.
“We then told our friends about it, and they told their friends.”
“In the early days we were just driving around filling everyone up. I’d be sitting at home, doing some coding and when we’d get another order in, jump in the truck and go fill someone up. It was wearing a lot of different hats which we still do but it was a very scrappy beginning.” Nick explains.
“We had to figure things out pretty quickly, we were originally just doing the San Francisco Peninsula area and were driving the truck all over the place. We’d drive an hour round trip just to do one fill up, it wasn’t optimised at all.”
“End to end, there’s a lot going on and lots of moving parts.“
Yoshi’s Fuel Lock was invented by Dan and it allows Yoshi to fill up your gas tank when you’re not around, while keeping it secure. It is 3D printed, patent pending, easily removed and doesn’t require any permanent modifications to your car.
“A person’s car is usually either the first or second most valuable thing they own, so there’s a lot of trust involved.”
Yoshi takes a very customer centric approach to communicating with its users. They staff 24/7 and ensure that users have the ability to text in to a real person in case they are any last minute gas emergencies.
When questioned about why gas stations were bad for the environment, Nick explained that gas station storage tanks corrode, leak over time and contain residue even after being abandoned.
“If the gas never actually went underground and went straight from the terminal to the Yoshi truck straight to your car instead, it would be much better for the environment than these big storage tanks that leak after several years.” - Nick explains.
“One awesome moment was when Bryan was at Starbucks with his wife and a woman ran up to him as she recognised him from a newspaper and said “I love Yoshi, my whole family uses it.” says Nick.
“One of our worst moments was during our early days. Our very first investor liked how we built our first truck and asked us to bring it over once it was done to fill up his cars. At the time, his wife had just had surgery and had a cast on her foot. She was checking out the pump and all of a sudden it was a little leaky and ended up spraying gas all over her cast.”
Yoshi’s biggest source of growth is inter-office referrals and word of mouth.
“If we’re filling you up in your office parking lot, inherently either people are gonna see it or you’re going to tell everyone about it.” says Nick
I asked Nick how they compare to their competitors and he said that they tend to shut out and not compare themselves to what others are doing because it’s such a huge market.
“There are 40 million fill-ups a day in the US and 99.9% of those still occur at gas stations.”
“At the end of the day, the most important thing is execution. We just want to be the best at this.”
You can get started with Yoshi here.