Can an ‘Airbnb’ of Outdoor Gear Take Off?

spinlister (1)Everyone wants to be the Airbnb of something. Spinlister is among them. Launched with much fanfare last year as a bike-sharing marketplace, the platform failed to gain traction, its owners ultimately deciding to sell the business to one of their earliest investors, Brazilian businessman Marcelo Loureiro. Despite Spinlister’s lack of momentum, Loureiro isn’t fundamentally altering the business. Instead, he shut it down and relaunched it with an eye towards renting many more types of outdoor equipment. And he recently raised a $1.65 million seed round from friends and family to help the process along.

The question remains whether enough people want to rent their outdoor goods. Yesterday, I chatted briefly with Loureiro about why they should, and what he hopes to do about it.

Your business seems very hard to scale. Is that fair?

We need to connect with the right audiences first. Originally, we were just connecting with the tech community, and a lot of bikes got listed, but not a lot of users joined. Now, we’re targeting more hard-core cyclists, and while we’re not seeing exponential growth, it’s solid and constant.

When are you broadening out Spinlister’s offerings?

In mid-December, when we have enough inventory, we’re planning on opening up the platform for other sports equipment, starting with skis and snowboards. Afterwards, we’ll add skateboards and surfboards and camping gear and kayaks — anything you have in your garage that you aren’t using. A lot of cyclists have snowboards or skis, and a lot of snowboarders have bikes, but we weren’t talking to them. There’s a whole community that’s just sitting on gear and we’re now very focused on creating awareness [within that community].

People rent their bikes for $20 a day on average. How much of that fee do you collect?

I take 30 percent: 12.5 percent on the renter’s side as a service fee as 17.5 percent as a lister’s fee. It sounds like a lot, but it’s what we need right now to keep the lights on. We do have people making [real] money renting bikes. If you have a good bike or bikes in a good location, you’re going to get the business.

Where are you seeing the most traction? 

We have bikes listed all over the world. But right now, we have the most inventory in San Francisco and New York, with 350 bikes in New York and 500 bikes in SF.

Is that more or fewer bikes than people are trying to rent in those cities?

We have more demand than supply. My fulfillment [rate] is around 35 to 40 percent of requests because I don’t have the inventory, or sometimes the bike’s owner isn’t available in time or the bike is broken.

Other complicating factors must include drop-off and pick-up, along with theft, despite that you cover damages. Why are you so convinced of this model?

Access trumps ownership; it’s where things are headed. You used to own CDs; now you access Spotify whenever you want. I think similarly, people will access, versus own, their gear. I talked recently with [big wave surfer] Laird Hamilton, and he [suggested that with Spinlister] everyone who lives by the beach who has a few boards can have a business without having a shop. It’s the same with people who own multiple bikes.

Down the road, there are lots of opportunities to [capitalize] on the knowledge we’re amassing about what kind of equipment people like to use. That kind of data could be very valuable to brands, for example, who could also test new gear within the platform.

It’s early. This year has been about building and fixing a lot of stuff; in 2014, we go after the users.

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