New Startup

The big announcement is that we’re starting a company (and no, it’s not travel related).

I promised that today I would share more about the business itself. This will be a very basic, high level view of the business, for those curious.

 

Saturday I gave a lengthy back story, and I mentioned saying that my desire was to be pursuing a business inline with our passions (reduce, reuse).

It began while sitting in the InterContinental Istanbul, waiting for our 11pm flight, and Carrie responded that she still felt like that business is a community equipment rental place…

Ever since graduating from art school (’08), Carrie realized she couldn’t practice learned skills like pottery, because no one she knows has a kiln, or even a pottery wheel.

This was now an annual conversation, and I always objected, usually because the unit economics aren’t great… but then added a random reason that would change our lives.

The irony is that my words were to explain why it wouldn’t work. It just seemed silly for us to buy these items when so many people already own them, and so many items already go unused. It would only make sense for those people who already own it, as they don’t need to make a profit.

If we could connect the people in need, to another’s abundance…

By nature of having so many items, most things go unused most of the time. A drill gets used an average of 13 minutes in its lifetime, and even on the high end, cars get used 8% of the time.

 

 

Peer to peer renting of items… that’s how it started out. (Or stumbled out).

There should be a network for people to list their valuable items for other people to rent.

For the next week we would say to each other, “wow, we have done this our entire lives”, or “wow, this is the intersection of all our passions”. In many ways, we’ve spent so much time connected to the subject, working on similar projects. It’s a wonder the conversation didn’t play out this way when we first discussed the idea 5 years earlier.

 

 

The Value Proposition For Renters

For the owner, it’s simple: there is no site with mindshare for users to list items for others to rent. (No, Craigslist doesn’t have a renting section).

But also, the value proposition for a renter is better renting from your neighbor.

The following sums up the traditional rental industry vs peer-to-peer:

Home Depot
($500m / yr)
P2P
Not Bookable Online Bookable Online
10% Retail Cost / Day 3% Retail Cost / Day
3 Locations in Austin Hundreds of Homes

In other words, traditional rental industries are billion dollar industries – just Home Depot alone does half a billion dollars a year in rentals alone. And to be clear, we’re not just talking tools, but other verticals – like cameras or audio/visual.

 

Ease Of Use

But here’s the kicker. These traditional rental industries aren’t even bookable online! In 2016. Not even Home Depot.

Billion dollar business… not bookable online. It’s the rare intersection of high-demand (from users) and uncompetitive (from other businesses).

 

Price

We’ve noticed looking at cameras on our partner platform that people tend to list items for ~3% of retail cost.

However, the same items at traditional rental stores rent 10% of retail value, and that’s per day. This is also normal with Home Depot too. (Again, uncompetitive with pricing).

A peer-to-peer rental system would mean that renters would spend 30% compared to normal rental stores!

 

Location Density and Item Optionality

Then consider that significantly more items are being sold to people in Austin than rented. It’s true anywhere. There are significantly more items owned by regular people in the average neighborhood, than there are for rent at the Home Depot.

This means a huge improvement to density and item optionality. Plus, we can go into niches were there is no competing traditional rental industry.

 

Multiplying Renting

As the CEO of Ford recently said, “When something becomes more available to people, and at a lower cost, guess what? They use it more.”

What happens to our view of renting, when renting is 1/3 the price, much easier to book (just by being online), items have better location density, there’s better item optionality, and you can now rent items previously not available for rent?

You use it more.

And the improvements aren’t small either!

For this, you can assume a multiplier, especially with such a huge price improvement for the user. But these multipliers compound on each other.

 

In simple terms, people already spend billions of dollars on rentals in different areas (tools, cameras, etc…). But as our network overtakes the traditional industry in terms of value, more people use it… which increases the value of the network (“network effects”), which means more people will use it. And around the flywheel goes.

That is how we can eventually start to live out the mission…

 

The Mission

Our mission is to make renting so cheap and easy that it is one day preferred to ownership.

 

The reason you prefer owning items is simple: it’s currently easier and cheaper. Period.

There’s a saying, “you want a hole, not a drill”.

It’s true, renting competes to be the best solution for a need. And currently paying for the entire thing, and storing it, is the easiest solution.

But imagine pressing a button and soon having your chosen item at your door step, and for a fraction of the cost.

You would rent more.

 

Renting Requires A Unique Approach

Big improvements to price, ease of us, density, optionality, and possibilities… If we’re talking 100x improvements, why hasn’t it existed yet?

Well, there’s not just one reason. Timing is huge. For example those who started something similar years ago, couldn’t have added many of our core features.

Also, most of these other versions (and there have been a lot), never even attempted their business full-time, including some I think really could have made it work.

This is not a side project, but a very high caliber attempt in effort, strategy, product, and team.

 

Among many reasons, I was most shocked that no one was doing any of the features I knew were needed. Basically, everyone took the craigslist approach – just create a marketplace and let people use it.

However, why is it that Craigslist doesn’t have a renting section?

Renting is more complicated – you want your item back and in the same condition. This is a major concern for people that the Craigslist model doesn’t address.

 

All our testing and research has proven that we have the solution people need. (Unfortunately, I have to remain vague about some of the long term technologies).

The more we think about it, the more we research, the more we test things… the more I know I’d be a fool not to go all-in.

 

Team

From day 1, it was obvious we would need a great team.

When we started seriously considering doing this, I called a few highly intelligent friends who I thought might be interested and told them about the idea. One of the first people I called was my friend Ed (who designed programs specializing in geospacial predictive modeling, like a program predicting road side bombs in Afghanistan).

After my lengthy explanation, he said, “I’ve actually been thinking about this”.

And that’s the reason we’ve been able to peak the interest of incredibly smart people, and it’s the reason we’ll succeed: this is a passion project.

Carrie is a great usability designer, and will do front end coding… but we knew we’d need a great technologist.

Also, Daraius introduced me to his friend David, who was the smartest guy he ever met – also a Kellogg MBA, was a senior at Booz Allen, and reorged Dell. As I already explained, his reaction was that this was a big idea, and he really believed in my vision for it (enough to be COO).

And again, we all have a similar passion for reduce, reuse, and the economical impact of an efficiency increase. And that… is luck.

 

What’s Next?

We’ll finish building the product, and then we’ll launch in Austin, TX. That’s all I can say for now.

I’ve asked for support from the travel community at this time, and a number of people have asked how they can help… and I’ll share 3 quick details.

 

1) Investors

Perhaps a long shot, but if you know accredited angel investors, send them my way. We’ll certainly launch and prove this thing out either way. Although, toward the [relatively small] funding goal, I’d prefer to raise a little bit more.

 

2) Programmers

As you can imagine, this is a frugal group, and our burn rate is incredibly low (we’re certainly not taking a salary at all). We aim to keep it low.

But, we will be hiring a full-stack / back-end programer to help build out some of these features.

So if you’re interested in working in Austin on a below average salary, but above average equity… click here and fill out our form. 😀

Or if you know someone who might be interested, send them here as well.

Beyond that, we’re not looking to hire anyone else right now. Hopefully we can get by for awhile giving out equity.

 

3) Thanks for the encouragement!

(For details relating to the transition or blog, aspects not related to the business, see the last post.)

 

I don’t expect everyone to “get” our idea, jive with it or think themselves to be ideal users. That’s totally, sincerely cool. (Bikeguy once said, if our community loves your product, you should be concerned). 😀

Maybe some people think this is a little crazy. That’s cool, I’m totally used to that. Sometimes I agree, after doing full-time travel (2015 included 23 countries: Hungary, Austria, Oman, Kenya, Jamaica, China, Ukraine, Latvia, Estonia, Finland, Croatia, Montenegro, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Slovenia, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey, Egypt, South Africa, Namibia, French Polynesia, Australia, and Myanmar).

 

Still, people have been incredibly supportive of our decision to do this. And perhaps knowing it could be a tough/stressful while for us, people have been incredibly encouraging.

For the kind words, and the people wanting to help… thank you. The sincerest of thank yous. You guys are awesome.

The biggest thing for us, has just been all the support. Now, and through the years. This isn’t something I forget.

Thanks,
Drew

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107 Comments

  1. Great idea! I can see this working on so many levels and for all levels of income. At the upper end people get overwhelmed with clutter and simply having too much “stuff”. There is a cottage industry of people who are hired to organize or throw much of it out for other people. This is a wonderful idea economically and environmentally and it will be a huge success!!

    Reply
    • Exactly! We’ve come to realize that ownership is a burden.
      It’s becoming more luxurious to not have to deal with owning a car (fixing, filling gas, maintaining, paying bills/taxes/fees/registration, parking (the space at home and the act of finding a spot in town), etc…
      It becomes easier to not own a car when Uber makes it as easy as pressing a button. And in many cities the pick up time is now under a minute, and the prices are very reasonable (since the drivers have no downtime).

      Similarly, owning too much stuff is a burden, except there will still be the “access” to the items. It’s not stoicism anymore to own less. 😀

      Reply
    • why not start at a major city where living space is scarce and owning something is not just about how much it cost but also can I keep it. Or even college that accept many out-of state student/international(Master 2yr or bachelor 4yr) I know many international student who might be interested to rent compare to buying something to be throw away 2-4 yrs down the road

      Reply
  2. This is the smartest start up idea I’ve heard in a long time. Congrats and best of luck!

    Reply
    • Geez, thanks Andy!

      Reply
  3. Cool. Best of Luck :)

    Reply
    • Thanks!

      Reply
  4. Congrats on a great idea. But if I know you, you will work some travel in a few times a year. 😉

    Reply
    • Thanks! Hah. Yeah, we already made plans for a little trip to finish the Balkans. But yeah… It’s hard to get that out of your blood. :-p

      Reply
  5. Looking forward to your success! It’s clear that you truly leverage your passions to guide you through life. This is something that the majority of people fail to utilize. Best of luck!

    Reply
    • Thanks Jon!
      Thanks for the kind words. I’ve also had a lot of luck, and I’d be a fool not to realize that. Heck, even starting with the odds of being born in a place with great opportunity.

      Reply
  6. I sent a private message to your newsletter e-mail account, if there is a better e-mail, please write me privately.

    Reply
    • Thanks, I’ll take a look!

      Reply
  7. I was expecting you guys to come up with such a great idea. Totally support it, and would try it once it become available mainstream. Being enjoying your blog and travel reports for 2 years, and adventurism spirit of it all (the name ‘Freaking Flyers’ partially justifies it 😉
    Wish you best luck and rigidity at this new endeavor – believe you can pull it off, then push to higher level across the many areas of the world (yes, other countries can benefit from it too!) We all one Earth human community anyway. If not for the human tendency to go to wars for every stupid reason, humanity would be been using resources to build a better world for all: no hunger, homelessness, healthcare to everybody… I hope some day soon.
    Keep it up guys!!!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the very kind words and encouragement, Aleks!
      I look forward to using it in another country (years from now). :-)

      Reply
  8. Happy to hear you’re keeping the blog but this is a pretty neat business idea. I am sure the travel community will be behind you. Ever need help with marketing or PR, email me. I’ll do it for free since you have saved me so much money already with your travel advice.

    Reply
    • Thanks! :-) Yeah, people have been great.

      Well, given that the supply is the users, marketing is doubly important for us… So yeah, an endlessly deep need. :-p But no reader of this blog owes anything to me (that would be quite backwards)!

      Reply
  9. I think you’d is a good idea as well. Also perhaps it would work for certain travelers also. Like reserving a rental bike, tent or whatever at your travel destination. Just a thought.

    Reply
    • Thanks!
      Yeah, I think that travel related rentals is a great way to spread into new markets! It might be harder to build dense networks that way, but when the time is right… yeah, totally!

      Reply
  10. “make renting so cheap and easy that it is one day preferred to ownership”. So at the end, it will not be reasonable/preferable for people to own. Who is going to rent to others then? Will this make a cycle and we are suddenly back at the big companies renting equipment (for a larger profit also)?

    Reply
    • Doggas – In theory, that ‘could’ happen… But in the US there is always an inherent economic equilibrium. Eventually, there would be too many people wanting to rent a tool, and no one to ‘offer it up’ – so the price (demand) would go up. Then, someone would buy said tool and rent it out to fill that void.
      Plus – many people already own things and we’ll never reach a world where EVERYONE wants to Rent.

      Reply
    • Yeah, it is interesting to think about.

      The thought is that the burden of ownership is taken up by people who want to make money.

      And I agree with Chris that there’s an aspect of equilibrium. The price can objectively be lowered because of the increase in efficiency we bring, and in theory it stays around the price as when it gets high again, people buy the items.

      And I agree that it doesn’t make sense for everyone to rent everything. If I’m a photographer and consistently need the same cameras and lenses, it’s more compelling to buy… vs someone going on vacation, where the camera would return to a shelf for the other 50 weeks that year.

      Reply
    • On the flip side, this idea may make it more possible for those who want to buy but currently can’t afford it to finance their purchase via occasional rental. Currently, being a renter of items is only possible for a large business that can scale, like Home Depot. But like you see with Airbnb, entrepreneurs are using the income from the service to subsize investment properties or rentals. Youu may see the same thing happen here with a power drill, or whatever!

      Reply
  11. Drew. Fantastic idea. I am completely intrigued what is up your sleeve. Considering that this has been tried before and not really gone anywhere (http://www.fastcompany.com/3050775/the-sharing-economy-is-dead-and-we-killed-it), I hope you have a new spark to light a real fire! The idea is phenomenal. I sincerely hope you and Carrie will be the ones to pull it off.

    I do app development in-house for an environmental consulting firm, and my boss is an “idea guy” (reason why he owns the company!). I am not sure if he is an “angel investor” (never heard the term until now), but I know he has some cash to push around and he loves new, great ideas. Let me know if you’d like me to discuss this with him when I am back in the office.

    Reply
    • Drew: Exciting idea, but read the fastcompany.com article linked by Ian VERY carefully. The first thing I thought of early in your post was “tall ladder.” I would be glad to rent one occasionally. Based on the linked article, lots of people have already thought of that kind of thing and it did not work as a business model.

      Reply
    • Ian & Clark, let me first say that I’m certainly very familiar with previous/current similar p2p startups. I remained a bit vague about product requirements & differentiation (and completely left out the main strategic reason most of these).

      But maybe more importantly, let me give a (perhaps contrarian) perspective on the implications of other startups having failed in this area.

      The fact that other startups have failed here, is not discouraging to me… I see it as an open opportunity.

      Peter Thiel has a chapter in his book (Zero To One) where he talks about how he doesn’t desire to be the first mover, but the last mover.
      http://blakemasters.com/post/21169325300/peter-thiels-cs183-startup-class-4-notes-essay

      That Google was the like the 40th major search engine attempt – and people deemed it unprofitable.
      Facebook was the zillionith social network.

      Would you rather penetrate the market with a search engine concept called “page rank” before Google, or after Google? In other words, enter a market with an empty battlefield of carnage, or one crowded?

      It also reminds me of the hindsight bias section in Black Swan (or The Halo Effect). After there’s a major event or business, it’s obviously a profitable and big market… because it’s already happened.
      We don’t remember the losers, and forget that there were once tons of articles about how Google or Facebook (or anything else) was a bad idea, pointing to the carnage and lack of market, and lack of a viable business model (which is always the case, until it did work.
      Same with Uber, Instacart… and probably most every major company.

      The nature of a Black Swan is that the things that are not predicted are the biggest – which is counter to most Venture Capital having an investment thesis (if you can predict it, it won’t be big).

      Now this is not to evade the fact that doing the exact same thing the exact same way would be foolish. Google’s Page Rank turned out to indeed be pivotal.

      But it is to say that this is an incredible opportunity where no one else has mindshare.
      With Linkedin, all of the founder’s smart friends said it wouldn’t work, because why would the first person join a “network”? He had insights into how to grow it.

      Besides not wanting to talk about our research too in depth, I don’t want to insult former founders (some of whom have been willing to share everything they’ve learned with me).
      But I’ll give one small example. If you look at the way they built the platform they clearly lacked an understanding of network effects.

      Meaning that the value of the network is measured by the possible connections. For example, something inherent to this business is that you’re more likely to a be a connection to someone who is closer to you.
      This is a huge implication on the importance of density, yet, if you look at most of the companies mentioned in that article (and many not mentioned), they just launched nationally over night.
      Contrast that to Facebook which launched University by University. And when there was a competitor already at a university (which was often the case), they would launch at all the universities surrounding that region first, to overlap with the network.

      Given that the value of the network is the number of users, marketing is hugely important… and many of these companies had no strategy regarding this, and no emphasis on regional importance.
      Multiple founds have actually told me this, and/or told me that they literally didn’t need to market. In fact, there are blog posts by former founders about why they failed, and in many of them they state that they didn’t think they would need to market.

      A business contingent on network effects with no strategy to market…
      That’s about as explicit as I want to be about strategy.

      In terms of product, again, there are huge differences in product, and head to head in user tests, our product solution blows these traditional models out of the water.

      Reply
    • Also, much thanks for the kindness and support!

      @ Ian, I greatly appreciate the support. We’re not in such a need that you should solicit people who don’t invest, but that’s very kind of you! If you think he might be interested or have some good input, you can always share this post with him and go from there?

      Reply
  12. Fantastic idea! I used to live in Portland, OR and my neighborhood had a tool library where you could borrow power tools – like a library book – and I always thought it would be nice to do this with other items and I’d gladly pay if someone would make it easy to do so. Best of luck!

    Reply
    • Thanks Susan!
      Yeah, the tool libraries have been successful in areas like the west coast and Canada. Super similar concept, and even more similar to Carrie’s original idea (I don’t think we knew they existed at the time).
      Yeah, what if there was the benefit of the ease of us, but with everything? That would be great. :-p

      Reply
  13. This is great news! Congratulations! I used to work for an environmental nonprofit, and strive to live more minimally, so I’m behind you 100%. Can’t wait to hear more!

    Reply
    • Awesome! Thanks for the support!
      Drew

      Reply
  14. Hey Drew,

    Fascinating idea, best of luck with it.

    Of course, I had to Google peer-to-peer rentals.

    Familiar with these guys? – http://us.zilok.com/support/faq/

    Reply
    • Yep. :-p
      They are very popular in France! Three of the biggest sites (which I’d call the craigslist for renting) are in Europe. Turns out airbnb saw really quick adoption in Europe before they started to see similar growth rates in the US.

      Reply
  15. It sounds like a great idea. And I understand what bikeguy is saying, but Turo and Airbnb are examples that our community likes and in many cases are mutually beneficial.
    What could I rent out that I don’t need… how about my vacuum (Oh wait, I do need that I just hate using it). Actually, more seriously, we mostly live in a neighborhood of 1%-ers, but we had some neighbors across the street who I wish would’ve stayed forever. They were renting and didn’t have a lawnmower, and would just borrow one from friends. I remember thinking how ridiculous it is that everyone has their own lawnmower. We do know people who bought snowblowers together. That’s a great idea. How many times a year do you need a snowblower? Yeah, everybody needs it on the same day, but if you’re neighbors, that’s not a problem.
    Anyway, I love your idea and I hope it works! Not just because I’d love for you guys to be successful at it, but I think you’re right that it would genuinely have a positive effect on the world.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words, Jamie!

      And funny, but you’re right about Bikeguy’s comment. The people who want to make money on our system benefit us as well.
      Anti-fragile.

      And exactly! Funny, that’s similar to what my friend Ed said when I first called him. That the house he owns has a relatively small yard, yet all 20 houses on his block have a lawn mower they use for 20 minutes, twice a month.

      Terrible inefficient, but convenient.
      We’d love for the economically efficient way to be the more convenient way.

      Reply
  16. I Fully Support you, but I would advice you to look into why this company hasn’t really taken off yet. They don’t fully embody your plan, but they offer rentals for drones and camera kits and things of that nature. [ https://lumoid.com/
    I personally believe that with the right contacts, motivation, PR and ‘Travel Team’ behind you – you could do a lot better.
    The main diff between your plan and theirs (which was written up in Wired years ago) is that YOU have the Community approach, vs this is the ‘rent from strangers anywhere’ online instead.
    Best Wishes, I’ll be here if you need an ambassador in Cleveland!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the support Chris!

      I can assume you two things.
      1) That I’m very familiar with the area.
      and 2) Our differentiation goes well beyond what’s stated. Huge differences in product and business strategy.

      Cheers!

      Reply
  17. Fantastic idea and so, SO necessary! I could practically furnish an entire tool rental shop myself – all sitting in my garage/basement just depreciating most of the time. I can’t wait to see the product once you’re up and running. If you ever need bookkeeping help, let me know!

    Reply
    • Thanks!
      Hah, always good to hear! I think most people would be surprised just how much the average person has that would compete with existing rental demand, or just how much valuable stuff we all have!

      In fact, of american who own two car garages, 25% can’t fit a single car in there, and 32% can only fit 1 car. Totally normal to have most of our stuff going unused.

      Reply
  18. Best of luck on your new venture. Although you’re not the first movers in this space if you can be successful it’s clear there’s an enormous upside.

    I’m sure you’ve considered many of the potential issues with this business and probably heard lots more from naysayers. Here’s an issue I don’t think you’ve considered:

    To be successful in this, or most any, business, you need to cultivate and project an extreme attention to detail. You need to demonstrate this both to potential investors and employees and to customers. If you’re not seen to be dotting your “i”s and crossing your “t”s people may worry that some of those problematic “i”s and “t”s might wind up in a financial agreement, a domain registration, or a customer credit card charge.

    I’m a potential customer of your business. But, honestly, I’m not prepared to pay money to rent equipment of any kind from a company that misspells the word “equipment” in their press release. That may not be completely fair (not everyone, myself included, is a great speller and it’s possible to be detail-oriented in some things and not in others). But it is true. You’re probably not at a point where you’re going to have a professional writer look over your material but spell checking is free, even if you’re writing the content in a text field in a browser.

    Anyway, again, best of luck. Don’t let anyone (and certainly not me!) discourage you from pursuing your idea. My experience has been that one regrets the things you don’t attempt more than the ones you attempt and fail at.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the comment Larry!
      Certainly nothing would deter me now. :-)

      Reply
  19. As you have specifically asked for “Acrredited angel investors”, does that rule out interested private investors? The contracts are fairly boilerplate, aren’t they? I’m just curious as to why you have limited yourselves to this one way of raising capital. If you are open to private investors, I’m interested.

    Reply
    • What Erik said. You’re in a unique situation where you have a LEGION of Loyal Fans/Followers, many of whom like myself feel indebted to you.
      While I normally loathe crowdfunding projects… This is one that I would actually support, partially out of Karma.

      Reply
    • Also want to add, thanks Chris for your very kind words and support! We definitely appreciate it!

      Reply
  20. The idea is great but to be honest I – with my team – tried to do build such platform at least two years ago and it went nowhere. Mostly because people it is to much to do to rent something you want to use one time (but to rent tis you have to order it and them turn it back) – to much effor. But anyway, best of luck! Wish you more luck than me :)

    Reply
    • Thanks.
      I think you’re right actually!

      I’m reminded of BJ Fogg’s behavioral model, which says that for every action there is a curve contrasting motivation and ability.
      An action, like answering a phone requires motivation and ability. You’d really have to be doing nothing to take a call you don’t want to have. And can’t answer a call you want to take if you can’t hear it.

      In this case ability would be ease of us, and motivation could relate to the value of the item (either that it’s a high value item in $, or valuable to the person who needs it do to supply/demand or rarity).

      Without talking about our ease of use features, one strategy for the business would be to start with high value items… People are more willing to go across town to rent a camera that saves them $200 vs a rake they coulda bought for $5 (and maybe more likely to borrow). Then as the density of the network fills in, you have don’t have to go as far to rent items and therefore lower value/motivation items have higher ease/ability.

      Which is to say, it’s kind of like the Linkedin problem. Why be the first one to join a network? Displaying the value proposition then is most difficult.

      Reply
  21. Wow, I’d been thinking recently about how I wished there was a site like this. I recently bought myself a tamper for a retaining wall project next to my house and would love an easy way to share this with my neighbors and lower my cost.
    Renting my lawnmower would also be awesome. Do you have the site up yet or not?

    Reply
    • Hah, awesome! Yeah, like I say, people like you have the equiptment Home Depot is making $500m/year on, and you’d be willing to rent it out cheaper than them!

      Nope. We’ll launch in Austin first in a little bit.

      Reply
  22. Best of luck on your new venture! I laughed when I saw the comment from an ex-Portlander because here in my Portland neighborhood we have a community site that folks use to share such items.

    One thing you didn’t address is how you will make sure that the borrowed items arrive at the renters’ doorsteps in safe, working order. I expect that is among the things you had to keep vague….

    Can one of you contact me privately regarding the help you requested? I’d prefer not to go into specifics here.

    Again, good luck!

    Reply
    • Yep, pretty vague. :-p Sent you a message.

      Reply
  23. Goodbye TravelisFree.

    Reply
    • We have a long way to go before that could even happen.

      Reply
  24. This is a super-cool venture, and I would definitely be someone who would participate in such a thing– and I know lots of people would join me. Great idea, and great good luck! Thanks for all you do here.

    Reply
    • Thanks! Super appreciate the kind words and encouragement! :-)

      Reply
  25. Also interested in investing still :)

    Reply
    • I sent you an email.

      Reply
  26. Have you heard of Baro in NYC? My friend works there. Maybe there could be some cooperation between them and your start-up.

    Reply
    • Yeah, I have, although I haven’t tracked them as closely in a while.

      We’ve definitely come to / gotten support from other founders in the general space, and so maybe that’s a possibility down the road! However, right now I think we have very different approaches and are in different regions. So I don’t think it would make sense right now, but I appreciate the offer, and who knows what we’ll be thinking about a year from now.

      Reply
  27. Hey Drew, best of luck with your business venture. I will miss you wonderful, in depth airline routing posts and hope you still have time to update what has been posted already. Either way, all the best hope one day to catch up back in NYC.

    Reply
    • Thanks John!
      As I said in my last post, the irony is that I’ve had my best posts – like the United stopover and routing rules secrets, and that series – they were written/posted in a brief window a few years ago when I was stationary in Virginia and working for someone else and writing the blog on the side.
      The evidence would indicate that my best content comes during these times.

      I’m optimistic that I’ll be able to discover some more routing rules and what not. :-p

      Reply
  28. This is a brilliant idea. It’s clear that the need for something like this has already been established. You won’t need to twist arms to get people to jump on board because the time is ripe. If you build the platform, people will come.
    Why have others tried in the past and gone nowhere? Who knows? The good news is that every past failure has helped build a roadmap of things-not-to-do. Drew, Carrie and the team will be able to navigate the shaky waters of startups with the insight learned from those failures.
    All the best to you both!

    Reply
    • Thanks for the encouragement! We sincerely appreciate it!
      Drew

      Reply
  29. When I first started reading I thought ‘what’s new’ but after reading completely the idea looks great. Two questions:

    1. How will shipping work? Is it shipping by post or renting items locally only by meeting in person?

    2. Funding – have you thought about kickstarter or something on those lines?

    Good Luck!

    Reply
  30. Thanks!
    #2. We’ve considered a number of things. Luckily, I think we can get to profitability quickly, evident via pre-launch traction/partnerships, tests, and our very low burn rate.
    We don’t even want too much more right now, and we don’t need anything more to make it work. We’re determined regardless.

    For 1, there are three main features for users to choose from, none of which cost us money or additional infrastructure. Two would be additional cost to the user, but small.
    Unfortunately these are strategic ideas that won’t be revealed in the first generation and I don’t wish to discuss explicitly in this setting.

    Reply
  31. DREW, GOOD LUCK, THE US GOVERNMENT HAS GRANTS FOR START UP BUSINESSES. RECYCLING IS SOMETHING THAT SAVES ENERGY, CUTS DOWN ON “GLOBAL WARMING” THUS SAVES OUR PLANET. OUR GOVERNMENT AWARDS GRANTS TO BUSINESSES OUTSIDE THE USA AND TO BUSINESSES IN THE USA THAT PROTECTS MOTHER EARTH. FOR MORE INFORMATION JUST GOOGLE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT GRANTS. FUNDING IS THE #1 REASON MOST BUSINESSES FAIL. I CAN TELL FROM READING THE BLOGS THAT YOU WRITE THAT YOU ARE SUPER SMART. IT’S GOOD THAT YOU ARE SURROUNDING YOURSELF WITH SMART PEOPLE. GO THAT EXTRA STEP AND FIND SOMEONE THAT HAS A PROVEN TRACT RECORD IN BUSINESS FINANCE AND ADD THEM TO YOUR TEAM.

    Reply
    • Thanks Janet!
      I’m not sure if we’d qualify for such grants, but I’ll into it. I definitely agree on the value of having proper cash for a business, which is why we keep our expenses extremely minimal. Because I’d rather this succeed than have a cool office, or even an income from it!
      Thanks much for the kind words and for commenting!
      Drew

      Reply
    • Thanks Ramsey! 😀

      Reply
  32. We used this service for the last few years in Sydney to not need a car http://www.goget.com.au

    Also another interesting one is Tushare – http://about.tushare.com/ which started out doing something similar and ended up being that the viable business was parcel delivery

    Reply
    • Actually we signed up for something similar – Car2go. It’s slightly cheaper than taking an Uber. But yeah, pretty cool concept. And as these things get better at convince, the value of owning a car goes down – especially given the cost.

      Reply
  33. Great idea, and definitely something we would use. I’d rather not own all those things and just share them when needed. Something to keep on your radar: it’s my impression that Airbnb is actually thinking about these kinds of things as they move forward. I don’t say that to dissuade you, though – if you create something worthwhile, perhaps they would eventually buy you out. :)

    Reply
    • Thanks! I hope you get to use it soon. :-)

      Don’t worry, it would be rather impossible to dissuade me at this point. 😀 But in general, I don’t worry much about incumbents coming into our market. It would certainly be a different product, as our core competencies are different. Although the marketplace part would be the same.

      But also, I’ve watched airbnb closely for years – maybe because I’m bitter that I started a homestay booking site, bookable via email, many years ago we never put effort into. 😀 But anywho. Their hiring patterns, acquisitions, and shift in mission seem to indicate that they are getting into events. So some aspects are similar, so perhaps you would book a room and a bike tour… or something. And it would all be p2p. But it wouldn’t be actually competition with us.

      Who knows, but I’m not worried. 😀

      Reply
  34. Great concept.

    I can see the ‘surge’ pricing for snowblower rentals

    Reply
    • Thanks!

      Ya know, I think many good ideas around this come from thinking about snowblowers – as everyone (including the owner) needs it on the same day.
      Too bad we chose Austin… I’m missing that innovation spark from snow. 😀

      Reply
  35. Hi Drew,

    I saw you at Chicago Seminars and have followed your blog ever since. Exciting to hear about your new venture! Are you familiar with Jeremiah Owyang’s organization Crowd Companies (http://crowdcompanies.com/). Might be a good resource for you. He’s always interested in companies that are bringing the sharing economy into new market segments.

    Reply
    • No, I haven’t heard of him. I’ll check out his site.

      And thanks for following us and sharing in our excitement!
      Drew

      Reply
  36. About 2 months ago I had a similar idea. Mine originated with a desire to go kayaking and not wanting to buy a kayak. Sports/outdoor activity equipment would be really cool. My idea morphed into not only Kayaks, but canoes, scuba equipment, bikes etc and then (scuba)cameras, gopros etc. Wish I had more time outside of grad school to work on it, but it sounds like you’ve got quite the headstart on me.

    One concept I thought of was liability for the product. i.e. what if I rent someone my gopro and they bring it back broken. My thought was to have the owner be able to put a hold on a credit card (similar to hotels) that could be cleared when the product is returned in working condition. Something like listing a rent price + hold price, the person renting “pays” both with a credit card, then I’m able to click a button to clear the hold when they bring it back. This would have the side effect of limiting people to renting out items that they would feel comfortable with a hold price that is below a normal credit card limit (maybe 5,000). This was specifically thought about for high price items such as scuba cameras that can go for multi-1000’s when bought outright.

    Anyway, I’m obviously a huge fan of this idea. I’m not a homeowner yet, but when/if I become one, the ability to “rent” tools would definitely come in handy. Hopefully you’ll expand to gainesville, fl pretty quickly (not holding my breath)!

    Reply
    • Funny. Yeah, I think the irony hits people in different ways. There are tons of Kayaks not used, and yet they weren’t available to use.

      And I definitely think your right about the general concern of liability. I’d say it’s the biggest user concern – “what if my item breaks?”, and if you can’t clearly articulate a value-proposition solving that, you won’t get the high value, (high motivation, high profit items).
      Anyway.
      Thanks for your continual support and comments, Ben!
      Drew

      Reply
  37. I have no doubt you guys can get this off the ground. It sounds great.

    Reply
    • Thanks Haley! B! :-)

      Reply
  38. Fantastic idea. Would consider investing, please send more details. I know you and your team can pull this off.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words Chris, I’ll send an email.

      Reply
  39. Well this sure won’t work for toilet paper…but for everything else: Booyah! I’m so excited for you all!!!!! And jealous! The biggest real downside is that I will likely have to wait at least a year before you would think of releasing this in MY small town, and I want to list and rent stuff today! Seriously, my town would be a perfect place for this to be very successful: small area with fair density, wicked strong sense of preferring to hire our neighbors over outside sources, adequate but not excessive affluence, but your website would save folks from the embarrassment of asking your neighbor to borrow something, and if it’s someone 2 blocks away- who would know that they have and would rent what I need. Your site takes away something socially unacceptable (the asking/loaning embarrassment factor) and turns it into something socially supported and financially beneficial!!!

    Too bad you can’t take small investors- you’d have a huge crowd of interested parties already. Not out of past indebtedness but because we believe in the idea, we believe in you and Carrie, and like any good travel (or financial) hacker, we are interested in jumping on a potential money making deal when one looks exciting.

    One thought on liability for damage. Possibly consider options involving insurance. Small fees that everyone pays to cover true accidents, which absolutely will happen with regularity. This would take away customers fears, and take away the lost customers that feel disappointed when they had to pay a ton cuz the lawnmower broke down the one time that they rented it, or the loss of customer that doesn’t use the system again cuz someone broke their snowblower and they had to go to unwanted trouble to collect making the whole experience not worth time and trouble. Of course disappointed customers spread their opinions like wildfire. The tricky part would be preventing the dishonest folks that keep renting that drill and misplacing it….and misplacing the next item… for their own black market profit.

    …gosh, I could even envision someone renting a famous painting (or something of the like advertising status) to show off in their home during a party just to show off their connections and affluence to their guests… the many many places this could take off too.

    Have Fun Drew!!!

    Reply
    • It’s funny because you talk about the demographics of your town, and it really applies to everyone.

      Like on a comment I shared that only 50% of americans with two car garages can fit cars in those spots. But that’s in contrast to the average person having $7.7k in credit card debt. The irony is that all of america has too much stuff, and too little money. And we help both.

      And like I try to say, it is better, easier, and cheaper to rent from your neighbors. It’s a better way all around.

      Also, I totally agree on the insurance aspect! 😀

      And regarding paintings and random things, it’s “the long tail”. Sure most of the transactions happen around things like cameras, cars, tools, etc… But because of that, there are already major competitors in those spaces. And although I explain why we bring 100x improvements over those competitors, the fact is that the majority of the things people need can’t be rented. Period.

      While it may not be sustainable for a business to pop up around renting paintings… your neighbor might already have it. So individually it might not be profitable, but collectively, those things could make up more transactions than the industries with competitors. In fact, we may get more traction there because there are zero competitors. It opens up a totally new opportunity for renting.

      That’s all fun. 😀 But more importantly, thanks for believing in us! We super appreciate the encouragement!
      Thanks much!
      Drew

      Reply
  40. I sent an email to your newsletter e-mail account. As your project aligns with some of my personal passions, I am interested in getting additional information on your strategy and I have connections with Angel investors. Regardless of what happens, I wish you all the best in helping reduce waste and improve long term sustainability with items we currently have.

    Reply
    • Thanks for the kind words! :-)
      (Also, sent you an email)

      Reply
  41. This is an awesome idea. Your biggest technical challenges are:
    – creating the app/website
    – being able to transport the goods around quickly

    Since these goods are local, transportation is an easier problem, than, say Amazon – but it’s still very difficult

    To be successful I think you need to crowd source the transportation as well as the renting. Here’s one possibility:
    – to rent or borrow you have to borrow/buy a WiFi connected “rent box” that is big enough for your biggest item
    – when you want to rent something you post it on the app and put it in your rent box
    – someone selects that they want to rent your item
    – “rent delivery” routes are auto calculated and given to people who want to make a buck.
    – when a delivery person arrives their phone unlocks the box and let’s them take the item to deliver it. They deposit the item in the rent box.

    Done, delivered. Would be even better if you could give your starting point and destination and the app would try to give you pickups/dropoffs near those locations so you could make a buck on your way to doing something else.

    I would recommend not trying to write your own map app.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    • Also, I would be willing to give feedback on your high level technical requirements and design specifications

      Reply
  42. This sounds fantastic! I can’t wait for it to reach California!

    Reply
  43. Love your blog, and all your thoughts about your business – I hope you’ll continue to share what you can!

    One idea regarding the transportation – there are a lot of Uber drivers who’d love to make an extra few bucks if they could easily transport small items from one local neighborhood to another. And think of all the pizza delivery people in the world. Lots of opportunity for local delivery!

    Reply
  44. This is a very great idea! Unfortunately, you are fighting the consumerist foundations of which capitalism is based. However…there are things working for you
    1. Millennials-opposite of the baby boomers in almost every way
    2. The tiny house boon (these guys definitely need to rent lots of stuff)
    3. PokemonGo! People are actually going outside-may be more inclined to go rent stuff
    We are living in a different time.

    If people are easily willing to rents rooms in their homes on Airbnb than that makes renting pottery wheels much more plausible. Best of luck…it will be so cool to see this idea go from proof of concept to full reality…

    Reply
    • Ad hoc thought. You will need to have a way to ensure the integrity of the products being rented and contracts yes? If it becomes a “he said he said” or a whodunnit if there is product damage..it could be bad for your brand. Like do both partied take cell videos of product demo (as in the pottery wheel as functional proof..

      Anyway, you guys are smart people and will figure these things out :)

      Reply
  45. Jamba is pleased with this idea. Can I rent out my telescope to fellow astronomers?

    Reply
  46. Great idea, Drew. I love the passion and I have complete faith that you will make it work.

    How much are you looking to raise with the initial round of investors? The idea sounds intriguing and I would like to throw my hat in the ring as a potential investor.

    Reply
  47. From your response to the comments, I can glean how well to have researched, and thought through your idea. It sounds exciting, and I wish you every opportunity for success.

    Could you send me an email regarding investing as well?

    Rick

    Reply
  48. Cool idea Drew. I’ve got a lot of knowledge in the on demand economy space and I’ve always been a fan of your site. Lmk if you’d like to chat, happy to help or even do more.

    At a minimum, I can intro you to a friend who’s built this exact type of software that I think you’re going to use and is now selling and licensing it to on demand companies in the US.

    Reply
  49. Great idea. I was waiting for someone to do it.
    I thought about this and if I had to implement it, it’d be at a geographical level like street or city. You’d have many transactions that way.
    Example: Let’s say I need a lawn mower. I could search for somebody nearby, schedule a pickup and after the job is done return it back to them.
    If I went the craigslist way, I’d spend far more time co-ordinating and communicating. I’d not go CL unless it’s a high end tool but then the owner may not want to rent to an unknown stranger.

    Which is when I thought about connections like linkedin. I can vouch for a friend so another friend of mine can rent to my first friend.

    One of the first areas to target was home improvement/maintenance tools. It’s not that everybody has a drilling machine, plumbing tool or electrical equipment. I wonder how you would ensure the health of the equipment rented when it’s returned. Probably you can buy/offer insurance for the transaction and increase/decrease the premiums based on history. Make sure that buyers/sellers don’t game the system.

    Great idea. Look forward to your product.

    Reply
  50. Love the idea. Would like to know more about a potential investment.

    Reply
  51. This may be off topic but of general interest to parents of young children. For the latest on “unaccompanied minor” travel read Friday’s (07/22) Summer Hull’s “Mommy Points” blog detailing her 6 year old daughter Cate’s experiences. I don’t often refer to other blogs but I’ve never saw it discussed here. Lots of current info –

    Reply
  52. Drew, just remember, an “accredited investor” just has to certify that they are one – you are not required to look at their books and certify that they meet the standards.

    Reply
  53. Drew, I interned at a business incubator a few years ago, and one of the companies in the the incubator at that time was called rentstuff.com. Their concept sounds very similar to what you’re trying to do.

    The company didn’t make it, but I’d be happy to connect you with the founder so you could learn from him. Shoot me an email if you’re interested.

    Reply
  54. How is this different then rentything.com or zilok.com and others?

    Reply
  55. Stud!!

    I love this idea! Where I live in Hawaii, it always confounds me, when I gaze upon the rows and rows of unused surfboards and bicycles, almost always laying in wait, dreaming of being ridden, but just gathering dust and sea salt. Same when I look at all the boats in the marinas. Or cars in the parking lots.

    In my building, I am thinking of organizing a surfboard, bicycle, kayak, and car sharing program. This is especially crucial, since space is so limited. For instance, we only have 20 parking spots, for 98 units. Luckily, Uber, Lyft, and hopefully soon, driverless cars, are helping alot!

    Reduce, Reuse, (and share on) My Brutha!

    You’re still always welcome to stay with me here in Waikiki. I remember I just missed meeting up with you in Kiev a few years ago, when I was staying at the IC Kiev for over a month on a PointBreaks deal.

    Reply
  56. I had this idea before but there is potential problem. Since the people want to rent the tool in their neighborhood, they use your website to find the tool. However, when they want to rent again, they go directly to the same person without the website.

    Reply
  57. I have some friends who started something like this about 10 years ago. They’re still going but it’s been a VC frenzy, done on the side so they could afford to live endeavor. But they’re still going and I think they’re just now turning a profit. Good luck to you as you try your hand at a tech startup! I’ve been involved with successful and failed efforts, I think I’ve broken even in money terms but I’ve had a lot of fun doing it!

    Reply

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We have spent the majority of our marriage traveling full time, living out of hotels.   All the while, we list our expenses publicly, budgeting $25,000 a year for our nomadic life while still staying in mostly 4 or 5 star hotels across ~20 countries a year.
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