You’ve got stuff, but not all the stuff you need. Dutch startup and TechStars London first cohort member Peerby is hoping to unlock the use value of that stuff with a collaborative consumption model that features some crucial differences when compared to others who’ve tried to turn caring into sharing for neighbourhoods.
On Peerby, which has already launched successfully and grown at a fairly rapid clip at home in the Netherlands, users post requests for items that they need from their surrounding community, rather than just offering up a list of available “inventory” based on what they owned and are willing to share, the way it works on other networks that have attempted similar things in the past like Neighborgoods and StreetLend.
“We’re launched basically in the whole of Holland,” Peerby co-founder and CTO Eelke Boezeman told me in an interview. “And we’ve got about 15,000 members there. We also have an active community in other places including London, Berlin, Spain and New York. We don’t restrict it, and while we’ve focused on growth in Amsterdam, it’s growing organically elsewhere, too.”
Peerby’s request-based system for local borrowing and lending has earned it fairly high success and engagement rates – the startup claims that over 80 percent of its requests are fulfilled by Peerby members within 30 minutes of their posting. They maintain that this is because on Peerby, you aren’t dependent on having to find what you’re looking for before you request it. In some ways, the model Peerby has chosen is similar to what Localmind did for local Q&A, with its crowdsourced software for community intelligence platform, which was acquired by Airbnb late last year.
So how do you make money from something that is more successful the more it can encourage people to act somewhat altruistically and spend less money rather than more via sharing with their neighbours? Peerby sees multiple routes to revenue, including premium subscription plans for members who want more, possible rental mechanisms for high-value items, offering insurance coverage on things like cars, and group buying mechanics that can enable a whole community to go in together on something everyone in the neighbourhood needs.
“We’re going to look at renting, because for a power drill, sure it just lies around and you might as well lend it out,” Boezeman said. “But if it’s your racing bike, that’s a different story. We’re also maybe looking at subscription. But the key thing is that when I joined Peerby, I never thought this would work. Now, every day we have 25 exchanges, and that’s for a system that people still definitely aren’t used to.”
Peerby’s organic growth has helped it get to this point, but to grow further it needs to push more actively to expand its communities in London and other international destinations, and that’s what it’s currently seeking 600,000 EUR to accomplish. It may not be the first network based on the idea that borrowing from neighbours is better than buying things you’ll rarely used, but it may have the right timing and recipe to capitalize on the growing interest in collaborative consumption.