Why is 15-minute delivery everywhere in NYC?

DoorDash is just the latest of at least six companies fighting for the chance to get a can of Red Bull to you in under 15 minutes.

Delivery drivers for Gorillas

Delivery companies are fighting to corner the market on ultra-fast delivery in the United States, starting in Manhattan.

Photo: Gorillas

When we asked delivery companies why anyone would really need 15-minute, ultra-fast delivery in Manhattan, two of them cited running out of diapers as a personal use case. What did parents in New York do before they could drop a wad of cash just to have a personal courier race to their house on a Zoomo e-bike? Who’s to say?

Regardless of how many people really need diapers in 10 minutes, the race to capture the market for ultra-fast delivery is quickly nearing the 25 mile-per-hour speed limit New York has set for e-bikes. In June, two international delivery companies — JOKR and Gorillas — announced ultra-fast delivery in Manhattan, accompanied with full-time employees and company-provided e-bikes. In the early fall, Buyk and Gopuff followed suit with similar business models. DoorDash arrived with its own competing offering on Monday, and Instacart is reportedly preparing the same for early 2022.

Representatives for DoorDash, Gorillas and Gopuff all told Protocol versions of the same one-liner: People expect convenience. They are no longer satisfied with the one-hour-or-less deliveries of the days of yore. Consumers want more, and they want it right now.

And, of course, if you’re a takeout delivery company struggling to survive in New York City, you can’t be the only one to stick with your boring 35 minutes for takeout. Once one company starts becoming your ultra-speedy personal grocery service, everyone has to do the same or risk losing their hard-fought customer base.

“I don’t foresee one winner, especially in New York or the United States. It’s going to be similar to how there are three or four or five different companies to choose from if you want food delivered or if you want food service,” Adam Wacenske, Gorillas’ head of U.S. operations, said. “The pandemic has sort of shown that this quick-delivery model is something that people want, and now it’s starting to really heat up in the U.S.”

DoorDash, one of the later entrants to the space, claims not to be worried about the competition either. Vice president of Public Policy Max Rettig told Protocol that he believes the company’s profits from its core takeout delivery business, plus its experience surveying and listening to consumers, merchants and delivery drivers, should set the company up for success despite coming a bit late to the party.

The design for the ultra-fast model appears to be almost identical for every company.

Step 1: Find a location that’s central to a massive population of people. For DoorDash this week, that location is Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood.

Step 2: Find a warehouse-like facility that can serve as a storage and packing location for convenience products and also house a collection of e-bikes. Basically, a ghost bodega. Whether or not you label the facility depends on the company — Gorillas says that all of its locations are noticeable to people walking down the street.

Step 3: Find gig workers who want a full-time job and hire them as employees instead of contractors to do basically the same job they were doing before — only with benefits, regular shifts and company-provided e-bikes and delivery gear. Most of the delivery companies claim that the employee model is the only way to guarantee you will always have enough workers available to make ultra-fast deliveries and keep warehouses stocked. Gopuff has bucked this trend, however, instead hiring employees inside its fulfillment hubs and keeping delivery drivers as contractors.

Step 4: Repeat this until you have identical hubs scattered all over every major city, blanketing the most populous areas in the world.

So far, the ultra-fast delivery model has not been applied to takeout food, and that model is likely still a long way off. Aside from rumors about Domino’s trying to predict when you want pizza before you’ve even decided to place an order, most restaurants cannot take an order and have it ready to go in five minutes, only to then have it at your door in another five to 10.

But the stuff you can buy at CVS or your neighborhood bodega — now that’s an area ripe with opportunities to tap into our deepest consumerist desires. That Ben and Jerry’s pint you didn’t get just because you didn’t want to leave your house? It’s there before you can think twice about whether you really wanted it. That Red Bull you desperately need for a work all-nighter? You’d pay extra just for the 10 minutes it would take to go buy it yourself.

Zach Boisjoly In June, Gorillas announced ultra-fast Manhattan delivery. Photo: Gorillas

“It doesn’t always have to be your weekly groceries on the app. People are starting to order more in real time. It’s eliminating food waste, it’s making it so that you don’t have to plan seven days in advance,” Wacenske said. “I am starting to order each night for dinner; I literally have almost no waste, whereas before I did. The fruit would go bad in a week, the asparagus would go bad.”

Of all the new competitors, Gopuff sees itself as the creator of the “instant needs” market. In 2013, while most companies were focusing on restaurant delivery — or not even envisioned yet, aside from the ill-fated dot-com startup Kozmo — Gopuff was building out a slower version of convenience delivery for college students who wanted late-night snacks. It took eight years of building experience in other cities across the United States, but Gopuff finally entered the speedy Manhattan convenience delivery market in October of this year.

“When we think about our business and what we’ve built, it’s taken eight years in investment in infrastructure,” Daniel Folkman, the senior vice president of business at Gopuff, told Protocol. “A lot of companies that are looking at this space are realizing how operationally complex this space is. A lot of the infrastructure that we’ve built is very difficult to build independently. The access to capital that we have is a competitive advantage as well. You can’t build the infrastructure and categories that we’ve built without substantial funding.”

Wacenske said that Gorillas’ big questions are the same questions grocery stores have to answer — what products do people want and where can they be found for the lowest price. In a lot of ways, these ultra-fast services are more like iterations of the modern grocery store than they are iterations of restaurant takeout delivery. Both Gopuff and Gorillas emphasized the importance of vertical integration: For a successful short-term delivery, the company needs to provide the best and most-desired convenience products immediately and without fail. They need to predict what people will want, and how to get it cheaply.

And when the supply-chain crisis interferes with availability, they need a workaround immediately. At the top of mind for Wacenske on Monday was strawberries. They’re a seasonal produce tough to source for regular grocers at this time of year, and Gorillas is facing the same problem. “Strawberries are incredibly difficult right now. They are out of season. There are certain things that all grocery stores deal with cyclically. And there are certain things we are dealing with as a result of the current conditions,” Wacenske said.

“We need to have the best assortment, and we need to have that every single time a customer goes into the app. When I say the best assortment, that means everything that I want is in stock and it’s there.”


Apple's new payments tech won't kill Square

It could be used in place of the Square dongle, but it's far short of a full-fledged payments service.

The Apple system would reportedly only handle contactless payments.

Photo: Nathan Dumlao/Unsplash

Apple is preparing a product to enable merchants to accept contactless payments via iPhones without additional hardware, according to Bloomberg.

While this may seem like a move to compete with Block and its Square merchant unit in point-of-sale payments, that’s unlikely. The Apple service is using technology from its acquisition of Mobeewave in 2020 that enables contactless payments using NFC technology.

Keep Reading Show less
Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at or

Sponsored Content

A CCO’s viewpoint on top enterprise priorities in 2022

The 2022 non-predictions guide to what your enterprise is working on starting this week

As Honeywell’s global chief commercial officer, I am privileged to have the vantage point of seeing the demands, challenges and dynamics that customers across the many sectors we cater to are experiencing and sharing.

This past year has brought upon all businesses and enterprises an unparalleled change and challenge. This was the case at Honeywell, for example, a company with a legacy in innovation and technology for over a century. When I joined the company just months before the pandemic hit we were already in the midst of an intense transformation under the leadership of CEO Darius Adamczyk. This transformation spanned our portfolio and business units. We were already actively working on products and solutions in advanced phases of rollouts that the world has shown a need and demand for pre-pandemic. Those included solutions in edge intelligence, remote operations, quantum computing, warehouse automation, building technologies, safety and health monitoring and of course ESG and climate tech which was based on our exceptional success over the previous decade.

Keep Reading Show less
Jeff Kimbell
Jeff Kimbell is Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Honeywell. In this role, he has broad responsibilities to drive organic growth by enhancing global sales and marketing capabilities. Jeff has nearly three decades of leadership experience. Prior to joining Honeywell in 2019, Jeff served as a Partner in the Transformation Practice at McKinsey & Company, where he worked with companies facing operational and financial challenges and undergoing “good to great” transformations. Before that, he was an Operating Partner at Silver Lake Partners, a global leader in technology and held a similar position at Cerberus Capital LP. Jeff started his career as a Manufacturing Team Manager and Engineering Project Manager at Procter & Gamble before becoming a strategy consultant at Bain & Company and holding executive roles at Dell EMC and Transamerica Corporation. Jeff earned a B.S. in electrical engineering at Kansas State University and an M.B.A. at Dartmouth College.

Why does China's '996' overtime culture persist?

A Tencent worker’s open criticism shows why this work schedule is hard to change in Chinese tech.

Excessive overtime is one of the plights Chinese workers are grappling with across sectors.

Photo: VCG/VCG via Getty Images

Workers were skeptical when Chinese Big Tech called off its notorious and prevalent overtime policy: “996,” a 12-hour, six-day work schedule. They were right to be: A recent incident at gaming and social media giant Tencent proves that a deep-rooted overtime culture is hard to change, new policy or not.

Defiant Tencent worker Zhang Yifei, who openly challenged the company’s overtime culture, reignited wide discussion of the touchy topic this week. What triggered Zhang's criticism, according to his own account, was his team’s positive attitude toward overtime. His team, which falls under WeCom — a business communication and office collaboration tool similar to Slack — announced its in-house Breakthrough Awards. The judges’ comments to one winner highly praised them for logging “over 20 hours of intense work nonstop,” to help meet the deadline for launching a marketing page.

Keep Reading Show less
Shen Lu

Shen Lu covers China's tech industry.

Boost 2

Can Matt Mullenweg save the internet?

He's turning Automattic into a different kind of tech giant. But can he take on the trillion-dollar walled gardens and give the internet back to the people?

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and founder of WordPress, poses for Protocol at his home in Houston, Texas.
Photo: Arturo Olmos for Protocol

In the early days of the pandemic, Matt Mullenweg didn't move to a compound in Hawaii, bug out to a bunker in New Zealand or head to Miami and start shilling for crypto. No, in the early days of the pandemic, Mullenweg bought an RV. He drove it all over the country, bouncing between Houston and San Francisco and Jackson Hole with plenty of stops in national parks. In between, he started doing some tinkering.

The tinkering is a part-time gig: Most of Mullenweg’s time is spent as CEO of Automattic, one of the web’s largest platforms. It’s best known as the company that runs, the hosted version of the blogging platform that powers about 43% of the websites on the internet. Since WordPress is open-source software, no company technically owns it, but Automattic provides tools and services and oversees most of the WordPress-powered internet. It’s also the owner of the booming ecommerce platform WooCommerce, Day One, the analytics tool and the podcast app Pocket Casts. Oh, and Tumblr. And Simplenote. And many others. That makes Mullenweg one of the most powerful CEOs in tech, and one of the most important voices in the debate over the future of the internet.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.


Spoiler alert: We’re already in the beta-metaverse

300 million people use metaverse-like platforms — Fortnite, Roblox and Minecraft — every month. That equals the total user base of the internet in 1999.

A lot of us are using platforms that can be considered metaverse prototypes.

Illustration: Christopher T. Fong/Protocol

What does it take to build the metaverse? What building blocks do we need, how can companies ensure that the metaverse is going to be inclusive, and how do we know that we have arrived in the 'verse?

This week, we convened a panel of experts for Protocol Entertainment’s first virtual live event, including Epic Games Unreal Engine VP and GM Marc Petit, Oasis Consortium co-founder and President Tiffany Xingyu Wang and Emerge co-founder and CEO Sly Lee.

Keep Reading Show less
Janko Roettgers

Janko Roettgers (@jank0) is a senior reporter at Protocol, reporting on the shifting power dynamics between tech, media, and entertainment, including the impact of new technologies. Previously, Janko was Variety's first-ever technology writer in San Francisco, where he covered big tech and emerging technologies. He has reported for Gigaom, Frankfurter Rundschau, Berliner Zeitung, and ORF, among others. He has written three books on consumer cord-cutting and online music and co-edited an anthology on internet subcultures. He lives with his family in Oakland.


Lyin’ AI: OpenAI launches new language model despite toxic tendencies

Research company OpenAI says this year’s language model is less toxic than GPT-3. But the new default, InstructGPT, still has tendencies to make discriminatory comments and generate false information.

The new default, called InstructGPT, still has tendencies to make discriminatory comments and generate false information.

Illustration: Pixabay; Protocol

OpenAI knows its text generators have had their fair share of problems. Now the research company has shifted to a new deep-learning model it says works better to produce “fewer toxic outputs” than GPT-3, its flawed but widely-used system.

Starting Thursday, a new model called InstructGPT will be the default technology served up through OpenAI’s API, which delivers foundational AI into all sorts of chatbots, automatic writing tools and other text-based applications. Consider the new system, which has been in beta testing for the past year, to be a work in progress toward an automatic text generator that OpenAI hopes is closer to what humans actually want.

Keep Reading Show less
Kate Kaye

Kate Kaye is an award-winning multimedia reporter digging deep and telling print, digital and audio stories. She covers AI and data for Protocol. Her reporting on AI and tech ethics issues has been published in OneZero, Fast Company, MIT Technology Review, CityLab, Ad Age and Digiday and heard on NPR. Kate is the creator of and is the author of "Campaign '08: A Turning Point for Digital Media," a book about how the 2008 presidential campaigns used digital media and data.

Latest Stories