It is frequently said that photography is a more expensive hobby than a recreational drug habit. Whether that’s true or not I wouldn’t know (I’ve only ever suffered one of those two afflictions), but Parachut, launching in beta today, is here to alleviate the burden a little bit with a subscription library service for photography and video fans. As long as you keep paying your subscription fee, you’re free to return and check out as much fancy gear as you like.
Photography is especially expensive for photographers with who suffer from a bit of CADD – creative attention deficit disorder. In other words, photographers who are staring through a telescope one day, then through a microscope the next and want to take their cameras 40 feet under the waves the day after that. If you’re willing to let your gear select your projects for you, rather than the other way around, Parachut is worth considering.
“When we first announced the idea of Parachut,” says Philip Niu, CEO and CoFounder of Parachut, “we had our reserved members fill out their photography profile. This profile told us essential information like what is already in their bag, what type of photography they are interested in and of course, what is on their wish list.”
From there, the company put together the mother of all shopping lists and the list of what’s in their warehouse is verging on pornographic as a result.
Of course, services like BorrowLenses, Lensrentals.com and Adorama’s rental service already give photographers access to a broad range of equipment, but for users who are willing to let their photographic endeavors be a bit more random, Parachut may turn out to be a viable option.
“We are not a rental company,” Niu is eager to point out. “We are a ‘creative’s portal to adventure through gear exploration’ company.”
As the photographer, you don’t get control over what you’re sent beyond stating some preferences. It’s a luck-of-the-draw type situation. The Parachut team will take the information provided by each member and will utilize algorithms and gear experts to put together a package. The package will include everything a photographer needs to shoot with the camera they’ve been sent and you can careen out the door to go play with your new toys.
To fine-tune the experience, the team has been working with a small group of photographers who’ve been trailing the service. For the next phase — the part the company is launching today — it is expanding to a public beta with a waiting list, to on-board new photographers onto the list gradually and to iron out any kinks in the business model.
The company goes beyond photography too, listing everything from studio lighting to drones and a lot of things in between.
Business model innovation
If you’re not completely au fait with photography, Parachut’s model may best be compared to being part of a car club where you don’t get to choose the car you’re sent. Yes, it’ll always be thrilling to drive something new and exotic. But if you’re moving house one weekend, and that happens to be the week you have a trippy-ass trike, you’re going to have to find another way of moving that sofa.
The business model isn’t going to work for everybody, but the Parachut team believes they’re tapping into a large, underserved market of experimental, curious photographers.
“You’d be surprised how many members don’t know exactly what they want to try and are wanting to be surprised,” Niu summarizes the company’s strategy.
Luckily for Parachut, I think the kind of photographers who are drawn to this sort of thing are a pretty self-selecting crowd. If you think the above description of how the service works sounds like the dumbest thing you’ve ever heard, that’s probably you self-selecting yourself out of Parachut’s target market.
If the business model doesn’t scare you away and the $149 per month price tag sounds reasonable, now might be a good time to reserve your spot on the no doubt rapidly growing waiting list.