Part of YC’s Summer ’17 class, Fat Lama wants to be a rental marketplace for anything.
Launched late last year in London, the startup has gained early traction among professionals needing short-term rentals of creative gear – like drones, cameras or DJ equipment. But the platform is also filled with weirder goods – like a tuxedo, camper van or popcorn machine. Items are priced per day, with the option to offer discounts if someone rents your item for a longer period of time.
Of course there is nothing new about a service to rent physical items. But Fat Lama stands out because all items are fully insured for lenders, and renters can rent with just a debit card and no cash deposit required. This is very unusual for rental services, are most require credit cards or large deposits, both of which may make it hard for younger renters to use the platform.
Because of the low financial barriers to rent, there is some vetting that takes place before you can rent an item. Before your first rental Fat Lama has you submit some information about yourself as well as a photo of you holding your ID. In total they takes about 30-40 data points to create a risk profile on renters – about 90% of renters are qualified based on that assessment, with the remaining group needing to provide more information in order to qualify.
And of course the insurance doesn’t mean that borrowers aren’t liable for the full value of the item in the chance they break or lose it – they are. The insurance only comes into effect to reimburse the lender if there’s a dispute between the borrower and the company, or the borrower just refuses to pay.
So while the risk is eliminated for lenders, borrowers still need to be careful with the expensive camera or drone they’re using for the day. But eventually Fat Lama wants to offer an additional insurance service as a premium option for renters, so just in case something does break no one is liable for it.
Chaz Englander, cofounder and CEO of Fat Lama, explained that high-end equipment is only one part of the company’s vision. Eventually Englander sees someone’s lifestyle revolving around Fat Lama – like allowing them to rent a wetsuit to go surfing or borrow a GoPro for a music festival. Essentially the platform wants to let you do things you otherwise wouldn’t, because it may be impractical to buy an expensive physical good if you only need to use it once.
The startup is also beneficial to renters – the average transaction amount right now is around $80, meaning that lenders are making real money. For popular items like drones the average rental could recoup a lender around 10% of the cost of the drone – meaning it would pay for itself after a dozen or so rentals.
Right now Fat Lama is only live in London, and on track to do $21k in net revenue this month and $80k in booking volume. The startup is preparing to launch in San Francisco and New York in the coming weeks.