Tim Jackson has had a colorful career. He is a former journalist (Financial Times, Independent, Economist and Red Herring) and was the managing director of the $700 million Carlyle Internet Partners Europe Fund. He founded QXL in 1997, a UK-based eBay-like online auction site that went public in 1999 at a valuation of around $400 million. And he’s also written three books. In other words, he seems to keep busy.
Now he’s on to his next challenge, launching and growing a U.S. based DVD lending site called LendAround. The core idea of swapping DVDs isn’t new – services like Peerflix gave in an honest try and eventually gave up. Another service we’ve covered is Swaptree, which is still going and recently raised a fresh round of funding.
LendAround is taking a slightly different approach. First, the site is focusing on loaners, not outright permanent trades. And the goal is to let your friends browse your DVD collection and borrow what they want, and LendAround keeps track of who has what. That removes the issue of people forgetting who borrowed what.
Jackson also believes that the quality of available movies will be much higher with a lending service vs. a swap/barter site. When people consider what DVDs they are willing to swap, they tend to choose the worst 10% on their shelves, he says. That explains why services like Peerflix tended to have masses of unwanted titles and few popular ones. When you are lending to friends, you’ll include all of your DVDs, knowing you’ll get them back.
There are 2 billion DVDs in U.S. homes, Jackson says, and 80% of those are watched just twice a year. Jackson envisions people swapping DVDs with neighbors, work colleagues, church members and sports clubs, where people already know and trust each other and for the most part can hand over the DVDs in person, skipping the mail.
Eventually Jackson wants to expand the service to include other items.
LendAround is currently in private beta but you can sign up for it on the home page. Users are given fifty invites each, and we’ll be adding it to inviteshare tomorrow to help users get into the service. I’ve tried it out – it’s still a little rough around the edges but I found it easy to add titles via a title search or bar code. And I can now peruse Jackson’s 234 DVDs (I’ve requested a loaner of Fight Club). The service is free to use, and the company hopes to make revenue from DVD purchases and future paid services.
Update: If you don’t want to wait for inviteshare, you can get into LendAround right away. The first few hundred people that email email@example.com will get immediate invitations.