An Instagram celebrity is spearing sour gummies off a platter with a fork, then plopping them into his mouth with the slow-moving consistency of a windmill. Fatboy SSE, as his stage name suggests, is a heavyset (and heavily tattooed) guy from North Jersey, sitting on a makeshift throne covered in boxes of Sour Patch Kids. With 2.1 million followers, Fatboy is the 39th most popular Web star from the Garden State, according to one website that tracks such things. He gets paid to
A cameraman with an iPhone is attempting a tracking shot of Fatboy’s antics inside a vast, low-slung warehouse just north of Chinatown that’s lined with deli-style refrigerators and racks of hookah supplies, sodas and tons of diabetes-inducing snacks. There’s a bunker next door stocking beer. The cavernous space has the frothy coloring of a Willy Wonka setting, but it’s poorly lit, as if Wonka had fallen in love with bodegas.
Despite the camera, there’s no plot to the sequence being filmed. No dialogue, either. Just a near-naked Fatboy, muttering to himself, “I love the green Sour Patches.” He’s wearing nothing but a pair of pink underwear, necklaces, white ankle socks, and a bright blue cap that says “goPuff.” That’s the entire gag. When it’s finished, the video will be 21 seconds long. It will receive more than 1.8 million views.
This avant-garde marketing ploy has been staged by goPuff, an on-demand delivery company started by two former Drexel students that holds, at the moment, the coveted title of Philadelphia’s Hottest Start-Up. Over the past six months, the service has expanded at a rapid clip, opening a new location every three weeks. (At press time, goPuff was in 20 locations, from major cities like D.C., Manhattan and Chicago to far-flung college towns like Madison, Wisconsin.) It’s taken on $8 million in venture capital, primarily from a Silicon Valley backer. It claims to add a new employee at its corporate headquarters right upstairs from the Callowhill warehouse every 10 days. On an average day in Philly, more than 70 of its drivers complete more than 500 hours on the road.
If you’re wondering why the company isn’t a household name yet — even compared to, say, delivery service Instacart — it’s because goPuff simply doesn’t care about being a household name. It isn’t out to conquer Amazon. Its service is something more intimate: delivering essential goods — well, if you consider munchies and smoking supplies and condoms and booze “essential” — any hour of the day, within 30 minutes of when you tap the app. Unlike Instacart, goPuff doesn’t fetch your grocery list by buying directly from stores like Whole Foods. Instead, it stocks roughly 3,000 items at a centralized warehouse in each delivery radius. To bet on its concept is to dream of the next evolution of the 24-hour CVS. Or, as the Inquirer once put it, “Wawa on wheels.” Read more »