By Anna Lardinois
Glenn Reid aims to disrupt Big Laundry.
For most of us, laundry gets very little consideration. The machines used to do the chore only grab our attention when they don’t work. That is not the case for the active mind of Reid.
Reid was flipping through a magazine when he happened upon an advertisement for a washer and dryer set. Looking at the photo of the products, it struck him that the two machines looked almost identical. At that moment, he wondered why two machines were necessary.
It was an idea that he could not let go of.
In his garage he began to experiment with ways to make a standard washing machine do the job of both washing and drying clothes. He knew it could be done. All-in-one laundry machines are used extensively around the world but are much smaller than the appliances used in the United States. Additionally, current all-in-one machines are designed without external venting, so clothes come out of the machine drier than if they had just been washed, but not completely dry, like they do when they come out of a stand-alone dryer.
After a bit of tinkering, he created a machine that could both wash and dry clothes. And it did it every bit as well as the washer and dryer used in homes across the United States. Through that process, he discovered that washing machines are complex appliances that cost nearly as much to manufacture as they are sold for, but dryers are another story. Dryers are where the appliance manufacturers make their profit. According to Reid, dryers only exist to make money for appliance manufacturers, who he calls “Big Laundry.”
With that, Reid’s company, Marathon Laundry Machines, was launched. His company plans to disrupt Big Laundry by exposing this truth while making dryers obsolete.
Innovation has been central to Reid’s career. A computer scientist with a strong background in mechanical engineering, the Marathon CEO made his way to the West Coast after college and was one of the initial employees at Adobe. He then went on to work at Apple, where he was instrumental in the creation of both iMovie and iPhoto. From there, he launched a number of technology-based companies. With Marathon Laundry Machines, he returns to his roots in mechanical engineering.
The Menomonee River Valley might not seem like the obvious place for the Silicon Valley veteran to open a business. Reid has Wisconsin connections; he is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin, and his in-laws live in the metro Milwaukee area. When he started looking at his Silicon Valley operating cost, he discovered a move to Milwaukee made financial sense.
Monthly rent in his former San Mateo location was more than 12 times the cost of space in Milwaukee. With additional expenses considered, “it’s more like 30 times more expensive to be in Silicon Valley,” he said. “I didn’t immediately move to Milwaukee but started thinking about why. Why are we there (Silicon Valley)? I started thinking about actually moving out here. It’s centrally located geographically. It’s on rail corridors and it’s part of the manufacturing belt from the old days. Good reasons to have a manufacturing business here.”
Milwaukee is also close to equipment supplier Alliance Laundry Systems. Formed in 1908, the Ripon, Wisconsin company is best known for their Speed Queen washer and dryers. Marathon’s laundry machines use Speed Queen washers as a base.
“We borrowed (the idea) from Tesla,” he said. “Their first car was actually a Lotus Elise with the electric motor made by them. So, we’re actually buying washing machines and retrofitting them. We get a running start by buying an existing washing machine. Someday we’ll make the whole thing, but it’s completely made in the USA, including the thing we’re building. And that’s part of why we came here, to be close to their factory.”
Marathon is working on the rollout of their Big Laundry-disrupting machines. Their approach is varied, moving through regional appliance dealers on the West Coast, developers of large projects, like apartment buildings, in Milwaukee, and direct to consumers via online ordering, which is available now.
Reid is often quoted as saying, “why do you have two identical machines, each of which only does half the job? You don’t have a dishwasher and a dish dryer. It just doesn’t make any sense.” He wants consumers to start asking that question themselves. He believes when they do, they will want a Marathon Laundry Machine.
You can learn more about Marathon Laundry Machine products here.