When we last covered peer-to-peer bike rental startup Spinlister, it had made it into the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield earlier this month after being chosen as an Audience Choice winner. It’s also now part of the Greenstart accelerator, which is focused on “digital cleantech” startups.
Like an Airbnb for bikes, Spinlister’s marketplace lets users with a spare set of wheels list their bikes for rental. Founded in May 2011, the company wants to make use of the millions of bikes that just sit around not being used and help their owners make a little money off them in the meantime. Leveraging its platform, bike owners can post pictures of their rides, set rental prices, and negotiate pickup times. Meanwhile, renters have a choice from thousands of bikes for rental by the hour, day, or week. And for facilitating the exchange and providing the platform, Spinlister takes a small cut of the bike’s rental price.
Since there are millions of bikes available around the world, but only a small fraction gets used on any day, Spinlister sees a huge opportunity to disrupt the local bike rental market, which today is controlled mainly by a number of small chains throughout the U.S. Normal bike rentals cost $16 a day on average, and much more in many major metropolitan areas. But Spinlister users can find rentals on its marketplace for as little as $5 a day. To convince users to list their bikes, Spinlister had struck a deal with a major insurance provider to insure bikes up to $5,000 apiece against theft and damage.
Prior to Disrupt, Spinlister had launched in just two cities, San Francisco and New York, looking to appeal to bike owners — and bike renters — in both of those markets. And it had been pretty successful in early usage. Six weeks in, renters were pulling in an average of $50 a week for bikes that were otherwise going unused. With that in mind, Spinlister is now making its peer-to-peer bike rental marketplace available to users throughout the U.S.
Spinlister might be opening up rentals outside its two initial markets, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be a free-for-all for new users. In New York City and San Francisco, it’ll remain open to all comers, whether that means renters or listers. But in new markets, there are a few rules in place to help get supply up nationwide.
All current users will be able to rent bikes anywhere throughout the U.S. But for new users, in order to rent a bike, they’ll have to list their own. The idea is to increase the number of bikes that are available in new markets rather than constraining supply. CEO Will Dennis defended the decision, saying that to date, most renters are actually bike owners themselves who just happen to be visiting new towns and want to ride bikes while there. And in order to help drive demand, Spinlister is discounting new or unpopular bikes by making any unrented bike free for the first day.
That said, the startup will already have some inventory when new users log in from new markets. Prior to its nationwide launch, Spinlister had been taking listings from all over, even though rentals weren’t yet available. It now has more than 500 bikes listed from its users, with thousands more available through bike shops it has partnered with.