Nobody would blame Webvan co-founder Louis Borders for staying away from the grocery delivery business. His company saw a meteoric rise during the first dot-com boom, but was laid low after an expansion push outside the San Francisco Bay Area, including an acquisition of Bellevue-based HomeGrocer.com, didn’t work out.
But Borders, who was also a co-founder of the bookseller chain of the same name, has other plans. There’s a listing for a stealth brand named “Home Delivery Service” on the website of Mercury, an incubator that Borders runs. The listing, which was first spotted by Re/code, shows that Borders is the CEO of HDS, and the company counts executives from Visa, Safeway and Mitsubishi as part of its leadership team.
The service is designed to offer users “a single online store to shop for fresh foods and general merchandise from the world’s leading retail brands,” the listing says. According to the plan, orders from a number of different brands will be packaged together at the HDS distribution center, and then shipped out on a delivery truck.
So what sets Borders’s new service apart from competition like Amazon Fresh and Google Shopping Express, which already offer similar services? It seems like the company is banking on a “patented automated distribution process” to make the process go smoother. Robots seem like a cool and innovative way to increase the efficiency of a system like HDS, but it’s worth noting that even Amazon, with its massive fulfillment centers, still relies on humans to pick items and get them into boxes.
While Borders clearly thinks that there’s an opportunity for him to succeed again where Webvan eventually failed, especially now that there’s more demand than ever for grocery delivery services, the home delivery business has changed. Plenty of new services have taken hold of the market, including Amazon Fresh, which expanded to San Francisco and Los Angeles last year, and Instacart, which has been rapidly growing across the country and seems to have its sights set on expanding in Seattle soon.