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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios Visuals

DoorDash is making a foray into the ultra-fast grocery delivery market with a small pilot in NYC's Chelsea neighborhood.

Why it matters: Delivering purchases within 10-15 minutes is the latest trend in grocery delivery, so it's no surprise that established companies like DoorDash are trying to keep up.

  • Last summer the company considered an investment in German delivery company Gorillas, with the potential option to acquire it down the line, though it ultimately didn't ink the deal.

The big picture: Ultra-fast delivery — already popular in other parts of the world like Europe — started to catch on over the past year or two as the pandemic limited in-person shopping.

  • Grocery delivery company Instacart is also reportedly working on its own such service, per The Information.

Details: DoorDash customers within the new service's delivery radius can order items for a $1.49 fee and get them delivered by a courier on an e-bike from the company's DashMart warehouse.

  • Similarly to rival services like Gorillas and Jokr, the couriers (and warehouse workers) for this service are employed by DoorDash via a new subsidiary called DashCorp. They earn $15 an hour (plus tips), along with standard benefits.
  • "When we think about the offering of ultra-fast, 10-15 minute delivery, it's pretty intuitive that the independent contractor model… isn't well tailored to it," DoorDash global head of policy Max Rettig tells Axios.
  • The company plans to expand to more parts of NYC in the coming weeks and months and eventually to other cities.
  • It also plans to potentially provide ultra-fast delivery from third-party retailers such as corner stores.

Between the lines: This is a notable — but not surprising — departure for DoorDash which, along with other gig economy companies, has strongly defended the independent contractor model.

  • The company poured $47 million into the campaign for a 2020 California ballot measure to exempt its couriers from a new state law.
  • Because ultra-fast delivery requires that couriers and warehouse staffers be always available at a particular location, without the choice to turn down delivery requests, companies are opting to hire employees. They can require they undertake training, assign them shifts and uniforms, and so on.
  • "We're committed to protecting independent work," says Rettig. "At the same time, we acknowledge that for some people, the predictability and consistency that comes with employment is something they want."

Yes, but: It remains to be seen if companies will be able to provide ultra-fast delivery profitably — especially if they need to cover the cost of employing couriers.

  • Delivery margins are already slim, and companies have publicly admitted that the model only has the potential to work in dense cities in places where there's a high enough volume of orders.

Editor's note: This article has been corrected to show DoorDash's delivery fee is $1.49, not $0.99 to $1.99 as Axios was originally told.

Go deeper

Dec 20, 2021 - Technology

The mailbox gets a makeover for drone deliveries

Dronedek's smart mailbox is wired to automatically receive drone deliveries. Photo: Dronedek

Your post-mounted mailbox could one day be replaced by a temperature-controlled smart box capable of receiving medicine, groceries and parcels by drone.

Why it matters: After the novelty of drone delivery wears off, people aren't going to run out of their homes to greet the whirring machines as they lower packages to the ground. Instead, they'll expect deliveries that are automated and secure.

China builds its own movie empire

Expand chart
Data: Gower Street citing Comscore; Chart: Kavya Beheraj/Axios

China blocked all four of Disney's Marvel movies from being released in its theaters last year, a grim sign for U.S. film giants being squeezed out of the world's fastest-growing box office.

Why it matters: The Chinese Communist Party is using domestic films as a key conduit for mass messaging aimed at achieving political goals, leaving little room for foreign views.

Why 401(k) rollovers are so annoying

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

If you happened to change jobs recently, you may have tried to transfer your retirement account from your former employer into an Individual Retirement Account or your new employer's 401(k) plan. If so, you probably encountered a bureaucratic gantlet — and you're not alone.

Why it matters: Kludgey processes around retirement account transfers result in people losing track of their funds, giving up important tax advantages, or otherwise disadvantaging themselves and being less prepared for retirement.

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