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Instant gratification: fast pitches and same-day shipping

Instant gratification: fast pitches and same-day shipping

I had the pleasure of moderating the presenters at the Stirr mixer last night (see also ValleyWag coverage). I like these gatherings, mostly because the pitches are very brief: entrepreneurs get 60 seconds to make their case. Also, Stirr events are at bars. Can't beat that. By the way, the 60-second pitch is not the briefest pitch format. At the upcoming SF Beta event, the presenters will have to cram their pitches into haiku.

Of the four companies that pitched at Stirr, there were two I've covered previously (vFlyer and PrefPass). One was an enterprise hardware vendor (Vyatta), which was interesting but not a consumer play. The fourth was LicketyShip, a service that lets you order consumer goods from its Web site, and delivers them to you within four hours.

Of course, the local delivery battle has been fought before. And lost. Badly. Kozmo and Webvan both had legions of happy customers before they folded up during the dot-com bust. LicketyShip has a safer business model: the service finds the product you want at a store near you, buys it, and orders a local courier service to pick up the product and deliver it to your door. LicketyShip has no inventory of its own nor does it have couriers on staff. It's just a middleman.

You pay $19.99 for the service (on top of the item's retail price). The LicketyShip fee actually can be much less than expedited delivery from a standard shipping company, such as Fedex or UPS. One of the interesting twists in the model is that LicketyShip doesn't tell you where your product is coming from, and it won't always find you the absolute lowest retail price in town; it balances delivery distance (which is the basis on which LicketyShip itself pays couriers) with retail price, to keep its own profit margins reasonable.

LicketyShip handles only electronics products right now, but we're not just talking iPods and cameras--you can order whatever a courier company will handle, which is generally anything less than 150 pounds.

I was very tempted to try out LicketyShip, except I don't really need any more gadgets in my life today, and the company's return policy is not forgiving: you have seven days to return items, and LicketyShip "may" charge a 20 percent restocking fee.

Twenty dollars for instant gratification sounds like a decent deal, but CEO Robert Pazornik told me at the Stirr event that he's seriously considering lowering the price of his service. He'll also be rolling out more cities soon; right now LicketyShip is available only in the San Francisco Bay Area.