Hate to Pump Gas? Booster Scores $56M to Scale Mobile Fill-Ups
Booster, an on-demand service that fills gas tanks for car owners while they shop at a mall or work at their office desks, announced Tuesday it has raised $56 million to expand into new territories.
San Mateo, CA-based Booster runs about 70 mini fuel tankers that circulate at office complexes, sports clubs, and other commercial properties where its customers can park their cars and use the company app to schedule a fill-up. The driver then pops the fuel compartment door, leaving it open for the Booster tanker operator. (Not to mention, avoiding a tiresome trip to the gas station.)
The startup, incorporated in late 2014, has since delivered more than 10 million gallons of gas and diesel fuel to over 2 million vehicles within its current service range, which covers the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Orange County, and the Dallas-Fort Worth area of Texas.
Frank Mycroft, Booster’s co-founder and CEO, says the company’s price per gallon of fuel is comparable to rates at local gas stations. Booster has established relationships with employers such as HPE, which sometimes subsidize the price of the gas by about 25 cents to 50 cents a gallon as a perk for their workers, he says. Booster also contracts with fleet owners, such as global car rental and fleet management company Enterprise Holdings, to gas up their company-owned vehicles.
Mycroft says Booster’s big enterprise customers operate in multiple US geographic areas, and they want to see the service extended to additional regions.
“They’re pulling us to grow to new locations,’’ Mycroft says. “You can confidently look to see us on both coasts in 12 months.’’
Invus Opportunities led Booster’s Series C fundraising round, joined by returning investors Madrona Venture Group, Vulcan Capital, Maveron, Conversion Capital, and Perot Jain LP. Also participating were new investors Enterprise Holdings Ventures, which is the venture capital arm of Enterprise Holdings, and Total Ventures, the investment arm of energy conglomerate Total SA. The new capital brings Booster’s fundraising total to $88.5 million.
In addition to plans for a geographic expansion, Booster is hiring more engineers as well as mini-tanker operators. The company is drawing on technology including machine learning software in an effort to make its operations efficient enough to be profitable, as well as convenient and affordable for customers, Mycroft says. “This is one of the most fun and challenging logistical problems to solve,’’ he says.
Booster uses its proprietary software to streamline the process of dispatching its tankers and planning the routes they take to make as many as 200 deliveries a day, apiece. Many of the trucks operate in three shifts. Booster has about 200 employees, and all are full-time with benefits and an ownership stake in the company, Mycroft says.
Booster never attempted to become an on-demand fill-up service for drivers at their homes or on the road, Mycroft says. Instead, it made sense to service cars at locations where they’re packed together with many others—in parking lots. The startup ran its pilot project in the summer of 2015, serving business tenants at one of the many commercial properties in Texas owned by Ross Perot, Jr., who also provided some seed capital.
Booster reduces costs by sending its purple mini-tankers directly to refineries and other fuel terminals where they can load up with gas. That eliminates the services of a middleman—operators of the tanker trucks that transport gas from refineries to the underground storage tanks at gas stations, Mycroft says.
Booster’s direct purchasing method also cuts down the number of fuel transfers from one vehicle or tank to another, which can reduce fuel emissions into the atmosphere, he says. Even though Booster’s compact fuel tankers are clocking miles on the road to make deliveries, Mycroft says they also eliminate the need for customers to drive extra miles to the gas station.
Booster’s strategy of buying gas directly at fuel terminals shouldn’t hamper its plans to scale up broadly, Mycroft says. While not every region has a refinery close by, fuel terminals aren’t that scarce, he says. They’re needed as sources of supply for any territory’s numerous gas stations.
“I feel very strongly that we can serve more than 90 percent of cars in the United States,’’ Mycroft says.
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