Washboard existed for only six days. But unlike WeWork, it was profitable – and its founders knew when to give up

The summer of 2014 was a heady time in Silicon Valley. Cash was flowing as freely as Soylent as every Stanford graduate with a half-baked idea about a “pinch point” and a semi-plausible pitch book was lining up checks from venture capital firms. Into this mix came Washboard, a startup so utterly absurd that most of the news outlets that wrote about it (and boy did they write about it) took the trouble to clarify that it was, in fact, “real”.

Washboard was designed to solve a real, if insubstantial, problem: it can be difficult for those who rely on coin-operated laundry machines to acquire enough quarters to run a load. Banks have limited hours, small businesses are not always obliging, and most apartment buildings don’t have change machines. Washboard offered a solution: $20 in quarters, sent to you by mail each month, for the totally normal and understandable price of $27.

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