By Annie Sciacca The Mercury News
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) Forget ping pong tables and free lunch, mobile gas delivery is one of the most popular perks some Silicon Valley companies are now offering to employees.
SAN JOSE, Calif.
Many Bay Area companies strive to offer a slew of perks to attract and retain employees.
On-site childcare, company cafeterias and in-office bars are among the popular ones.
Here's another one for those who hate the chore of going to the gas station: fueling employees' cars at their office parking lots while they work.
That is what area startup Booster Fuels is offering for companies and office parks.
The "mobile gas station" is the latest trend in on-demand services popping up to serve those on a quest for convenience. And it's growing its presence in the Bay Area, adding almost 30 companies or campuses each month.
Founder and CEO Frank Mycroft attributes that growth to the company's promise of convenience and the fact that the gas it provides tends to be about 10 to 15 cents cheaper than what's available at local gas stations.
"For us, it's all about efficiency," Mycroft said.
Companies and office parks or campuses sign up with Booster Fuels to provide employees with the service, some companies pay for the gas, too, while others simply sign up to offer the access.
Employees can then place an order for their car to be filled up while they're at work, Monday through Friday (those with cars that have locked gas caps will have to pop the cap on the day they order fuel).
Manasvi Shah, who works at a company called Insurity in an office in an area business park, signed up for the service as soon as it became available there a few months ago.
"I haven't gone to the gas station since," Shah said. She likes that you can order the fuel service that day, and once she hits the order button on the app, she does not have to think about it.
"I don't have anything against going to the gas station, but it always seems like the light comes on when you're rushing on a Monday morning," she said, adding that "California gas stations tend to have a long queue," particularly at cheaper gas stations like those found at Costco.
Todd Harris, president and CEO of credit union Tech CU, said in a recent Booster Fuels news release that the gas delivery is one of the most popular perks the company has offered, with about 40 percent of his employees using it.
Mycroft, Booster Fuels' founder, said the idea for the company came to him when his wife was pregnant, and they felt nervous about crime at the gas station near their home.
"I thought, 'Why are we doing this? No one likes going to the gas station, there has to be a better way,'" said Mycroft, who is a former engineer for NASA and Boeing.
He started the company in Texas and soon expanded it to the Bay Area, where it is now headquartered.
Mycroft said the reason it can keep its gas cheaper than at gas stations is that it cuts out the transport companies and underground tanks that gas stations use, instead getting gas directly from refineries and bringing it (via its bright purple trucks) directly to customers.
The company has now pumped more than 3 million gallons of gas for employees at companies including Cisco, Oracle, eBay, Gilead, McKesson, PepsiCo and over 250 other companies and office centers.
Unlike the plethora of Bay Area startups that focus on city living, this one is geared toward the suburbs, where plenty of people are driving to big work campuses and business parks.
It's possible that Booster Fuels will soon expand its services beyond workplaces, but it could run into problems. Some fire departments are cracking down on mobile gas-delivery services, according to a report from Bloomberg.
That includes San Francisco, which cited concerns to Bloomberg about the danger of having fuel trucks driving around the city. The report also said the city of Santa Clara is reviewing its rules on the topic. Booster Fuels said it has to get a permit for each city in which it operates.
Still, Mycroft said he sees big potential in the space.
"We think this is a model that can grow to any commercial location, places like Park n' Rides or retail malls," Mycroft said. "In that way, we can start to open it up to more and more people."