We're not fans of driving in the San Francisco Bay Area. Actually, that's not completely true. We're fans of driving pretty much everywhere but we're not fans of the taxes on Bay Area rental cars, exorbitant parking fees, and rampant break-ins. Yet the San Francisco Bay area has options that are not available everywhere, such as the ability to pay a company to refuel a (rental) car while at work. In fact, there are two different companies in the Bay Area burning money (and fuel) with the same basic concept, Booster and Filld. It's clear that paying staff to drive expensive trucks around the city -- burning additional fuel on those routes -- to fill up individual cars is not nearly as efficient as stopping at a gas station directly on one's route. Some would even question the long-term viability of this business model. The only reason we're writing about the idea is that Filld is offering free gas as part of their customer acquisition costs.
Free Gas? What's the Catch?
Well, we suspect this will be a limited time offer. Filld has raised $16 million to date and Booster has raised $32 million to date. It costs a lot of money to pay staff to drive a hazardous material in a high cost of living area, trucks depreciate, and the companies are promising fuel at rates at (or at least near) the cost of traditional gas stations. The service appears to be a novelty for the average consumer. While a commuter might value their time highly, gas tanks have limited size (hence limited revenue per fill) and these companies are even willing to deliver to motorcycles and scooters with tiny fuel tanks! In our minds, these initiatives have a high probability of being Webvan 3.0 and 3.01, which is only good news for businesses looking for fuel tankers two years from now ...
But back to the concept of "free gas". Filld is offering the first 5 gallons for free, with a delivery fee that averages $3 (based upon delivery window). And while Booster delivers to major businesses where there's an existing partnership, Filld tended to list prices for businesses and hotels in the Bay Area that were not serviced by Booster. Booster's focus on "volume" rather than individual customers was clear in our quote requests for fuel at Oracle Headquarters.
- Booster offered $2.99 for regular or $3.27 for premium, with no delivery fee. Of course, Booster has a partnership with Oracle.
- Filld offered $3.26 for regular or $3.42 for premium, plus the approximately $3 delivery fee, but the first five gallons are free.
Fuel is cheaper at a Booster partner employer.
While Filld will deliver to businesses, hotels, and residences.
Our team could envision being at least a one-time customer of Filld. If we happen to have a project in the Bay Area, have a rental car that's sitting around for an extended workday, and needed to fill up before returning to the airport, we would be happy to allow Filld's investors to subsidize our fuel! The five gallons of fuel isn't truly "free" but unless our rental has a massive fuel tank and is sitting on "E", it has a high potential of saving effort, time and money at the end of the day.
Running into the sun but I'm running behind.
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