If you’re a big fan of bikes and Airbnb-type sharing economy startups like me, you might have been disappointed to learn that Liquid (née Spinlister), the peer-to-peer bike rental startup, was shut down a few months ago. The service, which launched in New York City last spring, had just opened up to the general public a few months before being put on hiatus. Well, now it’s back, resurrected by one of its seed investors while the founding team moves on to pursue other interests.
After slowly making its peer-to-peer bike rental service available in a few various markets throughout the U.S., Spinlister made it into the TechCrunch Disrupt Battlefield in San Francisco last September, and soon after launched nationwide.
But then things got weird. A few months later, the tiny little startup rebranded as Liquid, suggesting that its marketplace for bike rentals might expand into a marketplace for other things. And then, both Spinlister and Liquid went dark, as the team shut down rental capabilities and contemplated what they were going to do next.
I met with Spinlister/Liquid co-founder Will Dennis a few weeks ago, as he talked about some ideas that the team had become more passionate about. They liked the idea of video discovery and video messaging, and he showed me some early prototypes of the things they were working on. But it was clear that they weren’t really that interested in continuing to focus on bike rentals.
The good news is that Marcelo Loureiro, Brazilian entrepreneur and seed investor in the startup, was interested in keeping the peer-to-peer marketplace alive. With that in mind, he took over the site and quietly brought the old Spinlister site — and the Spinlister brand — back to life earlier this month.
Loureiro is the quintessential image of the self-made serial entrepreneur, previously building companies in the apparel, restaurant, and beverage industry. He founded Brazilian clothing startup Mandi.net, and had been part of Sagatiba Brasil, a liquor company that sold to Campari a few years ago. Prior to that, he had sold an Internet portal company to Portugal Telecom, and had also run a chain of restaurants in Brazil.
When he invested in Spinlister, he liked the startup’s plans to make better use of underutilized assets, giving people access to things that they otherwise would have to own. And while the ‘Airbnb-for-x’ model still isn’t mainstream, Loureiro believes there’s still a huge opportunity for companies to take advantage of the peer-to-peer business model.
“The peer-to-peer business is going to take a while to take off,” Loureiro told me by phone. “But I still think the idea is really good.” With that in mind, he’s brought back the old Spinlister site, allowing users across the U.S. to once again list and rent bikes through the platform.
While not much has changed since the site went dark, Loureiro has big plans for Spinlister. More than 500 bikes were listed even while it wasn’t operational, but he’s hoping to update the site to make it more attractive and grow the community. That means more social features, as well as the launch of a mobile app to make renting more seamless.
Loureiro hopes to have some major updates ready to release by Memorial Day, when he plans a bigger marketing push around the service. That could also mean opening up the service for rentals outside the U.S., essentially making Spinlister available all over the world.
In a followup email to our original conversation, Loureiro showed some massive enthusiasm for Spinlister, especially after being in the liquor business for so long. It was, frankly, refreshing — especially for an entrepreneur who hadn’t originally founded the startup he’s now running.
“As I told you yesterday I wasn’t expecting to be running Spinlister now,” he wrote. “But I am certainly enjoying the ride and [am] confident on the potential of the business. If I am going to succeed, I don’t know. But I am not afraid to fail.”