UBC alumni pray for rain as they launch Umbracity, Vancouver's first umbrella sharing program

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      It might be dry out right now, but two young entrepreneurs are preparing for autumn rain as they launch an innovative umbrella sharing service, currently being piloted at UBC. 

      Inspired by similar services like car2go and the city’s proposed bike share program, Umbracity provides users with umbrellas on a temporary basis if they’ve forgotten to tote one around on rainy day.

      UBC alumni Amir Entezari and Babak Asad came up with the idea in the midst of a rainstorm. Without umbrellas on hand, the two faced a situation known all too well by Vancouverites.

      “It was such a reoccurring issue and we wished there were an easy way to access umbrellas,” said Entezari in an interview with the Straight.

      Created with both convenience and sustainability in mind, Umbracity’s founders are seeking to remove the burden that comes with carrying an umbrella, while also reducing the number of broken and forgotten umbrellas in the city. 

      The entrepreneurs developed a fully automated rental kiosk where registered members can rent umbrellas free of charge for up to 48 hours.  Kiosks have been installed in four different buildings at UBC: the AMS Student Nest (2329 West Mall), the Fred Kaiser building (2332 Main Mall), the Forestry Sciences Centre (2424 Main Mall), and Buchanan Building Block A (1866 Main Mall).

      If umbrellas aren’t returned within the 48-hour period, users are charged a small daily fee, up to the umbrella’s full value of $20. 

      Although the service is only currently available at UBC, a student card isn’t required to sign up—anyone can register at one of the kiosks at no cost. 

      The bright yellow umbrellas, made exclusively for Umbracity, are created out of lightweight yet sturdy materials, and are fully recyclable.

      Entezari and Asad partnered with UBC’s AMS Student Society to test out the service, and society representative Chiyi Tam said that the feedback form users has been positive.

      “We have been so grateful for the warm and curious reception by the UBC community,” said Tam. 

      “The kiosk design looks very intuitive, and we haven’t needed to explain what it is to anyone in person.”

      Tam said that she and Umbracity’s founders have also been overwhelmed with online feedback, as their website and social media platforms are getting plenty of international traffic. 

      In light of the service’s success thus far, the team behind Umbracity is keen to expand it into the rest of the city.

      “We’ve noted that the kiosks work best for locations with reoccurring traffic. We would first look at other campuses and workspaces where people frequently visit. Then we would look at key short-term transit locations such as hotel lobbies,” said Tam.

      Entezari and Tam said that after speaking with representatives of post-secondary campuses, they would look to contact Translink and the City of Vancouver.