Former Apple Geo Exec Launches Curbside, An App for In-Store Pickup

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lShopping is about to get a little more convenient in the Bay Area, but the question is whether or not it will spawn a nationwide trend.

Curbside, a new company founded by the former head of Apple’s geo team, Jaron Waldman, launched a mobile commerce app yesterday in San Francisco that allows users to find products that are in stock at multiple stores in their area, purchase them with their mobile device and then pick them up at the location without ever getting out of their car.

In addition to the launch, Curbside also announced a $8 million round of seed funding from Index Ventures, Yahoo! Co-Founder Jerry Yang’s AME Cloud Ventures and other high profile investors. The funding comes on the heels of Curbside’s successful Beta run, which started in May at a Target in Sunnyvale, CA.

“Location-based shopping is the future of mobile commerce, and Curbside is at the forefront of it,” said Yang. “The Curbside founders are successful entrepreneurs, who each have sold their companies to Apple. They have now assembled a talented team that has developed a fast and convenient experience around location-based product search. It is mobile commerce done right and it will change the way people shop.”

Of course, a lot of apps make the same claim. Curbside’s Waldman told Street fight what separates the app from the pack is the curbside delivery outside of the store. Users make their purchase via the app and are met outside the store to pick it up at an arranged time. There is also an option to pick up purchase inside a particular retail location.

“Nobody has really been thinking about optimizing the pickup experience from that perspective,” said Waldman. “Because we have your mobile device and you’re sharing your location, we’re notifying the store as you pull up at curbside pickup locations. There’s no need to get out of the car. It’s a 15 second experience, you pull up, get your stuff and go.”

Although it will initially be available only at 10 select Target stores throughout the Bay Area, Curbside plans to expand to other markets in the coming months. Based on the reception the service received during Beta testing, Waldman thinks his company has an opportunity to fundamentally change the way people shop.

“We’ve optimized the experience around picking (purchased items) up,” said Waldman. “So I think in the world of local SEO, this is definitely going to make some waves because if you’re looking for a particular product or a particular SKU, knowing where you can get it, at what price and that it’s easily available is basically building a bridge from mobile to local stores.”

Waldman feels that the app also has a leg up because it was designed specifically for mobile, whereas many ecommerce apps are converted from earlier desktop versions.

“We think it’s the right way to shop for mobile,” he said. “We really thought it through in a mobile first way.”

Waldman also said the company was built on the concept that we are living in the era of “get it now” commerce: “Everything you need is within a five mile radius,” he said. “It’s on the way from work to home or if you’re on the way from your house to a friends, you’re actually driving by all that inventory.”

Naturally, no matter how good the app is, it will only be as successful as its retail partners’ ability to fulfill their end of the bargain. To that end, Curbside is currently working onsite to make sure that happens: “We’re staffing those pickup spots,” said Waldman. “What we’re doing is building best practices, understanding the right way to do curbside pickup and developing a program around it, which you’ll see as we grow beyond the regional scale. We’ll be partnering with retailers to deliver that great experience.”

The plan is to have best practices established by the end of the holidays with Curbside’s retail partners handling the fulfillment end of purchases after that. Waldman is confident that once retailers see how well the app works and how much customers enjoy it, Curbside service could soon be the norm.

“We’re talking to everybody in the retail world right now,” he said “My sense is that the forward thinking retailers like Target understand that meeting the customer where they are and delivering the fulfillment aspect of a purchase in the right way for their customers is a differentiator, which is critical.”

Mason Lerner is a contributor at Street Fight.