Like an Uber for getting cash, as the blog TechCrunch described it in early October, Nimbl allows its app users to select an amount of cash to be delivered directly to them by a Nimbl runner. (In that regard, Nimbl is probably more like a Postmates for money.)
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As for where the cash gets delivered: Users may type in an address or enable GPS so their Nimbl runner can find them. But no transaction has occurred just yet. Only when the Nimbl runner is standing in front of you some 15 to 20 minutes later—with your cash neatly tucked away—are you prompted to send the corresponding amount of money to Nimbl via a notification from a third-party payment processor such as Venmo or PayPal. And for all this, Nimbl charges a $5 fee—or, at least, it will. In beta, the cash-delivery service has been free.
"There's really been no technology innovation in and around cash payments," said Jim Luo, CEO of GreenOps, the bootstrapped San Francisco-based start-up with less than 10 full-time employees responsible for Nimbl. "These runners, you can think of them as a generic courier. They're doing this as if they were delivering any other package."
That may be true, but analysts point to the difficulties in scaling up such a business model. "It's not hard to launch one of these [delivery start-ups], said Anand Sanwal, CEO and co-founder of CB Insights. But as he explained, "There are going to be a lot of casualties in the space for sure."
That's because the economics of delivery start-ups, and whether they can turn a profit, are suspect. "Delivery is the wrong end of the e-commerce value chain," said Harvard Business School professor John A. Deighton in an email. In other words, scaling a delivery service like Nimbl could be difficult, because the money the start-up makes on each delivery is the same.
However, Luo's hunch that people will pay for his service might be correct. After all, cash is still king, since the average American consumer uses it 40 percent of the time, according to a study by the Federal Reserve Banks.