Attempting to bring a brick-and-mortar industry online is no easy feat. It takes time, investment, and a willingness to roll with the punches. San Francisco-based startup Rentcycle graduated from Founder Institute in 2009 with a mission to bring the “rentals industry” online, offering free, realtime reservations for consumers and cloud-based business management and product listing solutions for local rental shops.
After graduating from Founder Institute, the startup went through several beta launches, before raising a $1.4 million seed round from Collaborative Fund, Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel, Founder Collective, and Amicus Capital, as well as angel investors including Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and Chairman at Yelp, and Founder of Shopzilla Farhad Mohit.
Like Airbnb, Zipcar, and many others, Rentcycle has been looking to ride the collaborative consumption wave (or revolution) that has us sharing our cars, homes, and more. This was one part of the interest from investors that led to the startup’s funding last year, which also led to Netflix Founder Marc Randolph and Chuck Templeton, the founder of the popular restaurant reservation service OpenTable (and board chair of GrubHub), joining the startup as advisors.
Templeton’s involvement, as well Andreessen Horowitz Partner Jeff Jordan (who is the former CEO of OpenTable), in particular has been valuable to the company, which, from the start, was given the tagline of “OpenTable for local rental businesses.” Today, this comparison with OpenTable goes a bit deeper, as the startup is unveiling a new in-store rental management solution for small businesses.
This new strategy to offer local businesses a full in-store and online solution is being backed by a new name, as the startup is officially rebranding as Getable, with a redesigned website to boot. CEO Tim Hyer tells us that, among consumers, the startup had often been pegged as a bicycle rental platform, and while it does offer bikes, it also rents everything from tools and equipment, party and events supplies to sports equipment.
Hyer says that the collaborative consumption movement has proven that people, especially those in younger generations, are increasingly comfortable with the idea that they don’t have to own everything in their lives, especially when presented with the alternative of gaining access to something, rather than owning it. The new name is meant to give consumers the sense that any product is accessible, on-demand, from trusted rental establishments.
The startup’s rental management technology has been deployed with ten early partners throughout San Francisco, and Hyer hopes that the company’s new solution will bring it much closer to the core operations of local rental businesses. Again, the in-store system, which provides both hardware and software, is similar to OpenTable’s terminals, which manage table availability at the restaurant level and sync reservations across multiple channels.
The team wants its new rental solution to establish the same kind of indispensable relationship between rental businesses and their customers that OpenTable has been able to find between restaurants and diners.
Getable recently surpassed 100,000 unique rental listings in the San Francisco Bay Area, and has been forging partnerships with nationwide rental services like Rent The Runway and Adorn, which offer designer fashions on a budget as well as BorrowLenses, an on-demand photography equipment platform. This also brought Toygaroo to mind, and Hyer tells me that they’re currently in negotiations with the startup over the best way to bring its subscription toy rental service to Getable.
To date, the startup has processed $250K in rental transactions, a number which should grow as it rolls out its rental management technology. Getable is targeting San Francisco first, as it wants to reach critical mass in its home city before expanding nationally, although it tentatively has plans to roll out in other cities for later this year. Getable has largely flown under the radar since its funding in August, but with this new product and look, the startup is obviously looking to become a bigger player in the collaborative consumption space.
The rental industry, as a whole, is an $85 billion market, but most of the 65,000 rental businesses in the U.S. don’t have an online booking system. Even a corporation as large as Home Depot, offering rental opportunities in 2,200 locations doesn’t offer online booking because of all the disparate pieces that go into scheduling, like organizing a payment method for late fees, damages, a system for cancellation policies, etc.
Although P2P businesses like Airbnb have struggled with the new model they’re helping to create, especially in terms of insurance and damages, Hyer says that Getable has the unique position of being able to play in a space where most of the businesses they deal with are well-established and have had their own individual insurance policies for years. Instead of worrying about the dangers inherent to P2P rental, they can focus on becoming a full-service management solution as well as the online portal through which these businesses interact with their customers.
For more on Getable, check them out at their new home here.