With the incredible growth of the sharing economy, it’s become a run-of-the-mill practice to hitch a ride in a stranger’s car or stay the night in an unoccupied apartment during a weekend getaway. So it’s only natural that we begin sharing products like lawn mowers, GoPros, and sewing machines, right?
That’s the thinking behind local startup Quupe—its name is short for the word recoup—an online platform that allows citizens to offer their recreational and hobby-oriented items for use. These “lenders” make money by renting out objects like tennis rackets, tents, and video-game consoles that may be collecting dust in storage, and “borrowers” are able to avoid committing to products that they need only temporarily.
Developed by four former classmates, the service taps into a young generation’s tendency to rent rather than buy. “There was a time where everything was very driven by consumption,” Angela Hamilton, CEO and cofounder of Quupe, explains by phone. “Now we’re noticing a trend of people wanting to go away from that and more toward the experiential. They really want to go out and do fun things as opposed to owning everything.”
Hamilton and fellow Quupe founders Zeeshan Rasool, Vijay Ramaswamy, and Amanda Shou came up with the concept while attending Vancouver’s Centre for Digital Media, where they noticed many students borrowing resources such as bicycles, snowboards, and vacuum cleaners from one another. Although they were aware that similar peer-to-peer platforms already existed both nationally and internationally, they sought to create a streamlined experience that would take the hassle and guesswork out of renting from neighbours and other citizens.
A quick browse on the Quupe website reveals a myriad of goods fit for various activities, such as turntables, road bikes, DSLRs, power washers, and canoes. Hamilton and her team take great care to curate the inventory in order to maintain a high-quality aesthetic. A rental calculator is also available, which employs data such as the year an item was purchased, its original price, and its rate of depreciation to determine a fair per-day charge.
Once a borrower’s request to rent something has been approved, payment is made through the platform. Complimentary delivery services are also available if the borrower is unable to meet the lender at a specific location. All products are insured for up to $2,500 in case of loss or damage. “This is a behavioural change,” Hamilton says of the sharing process. “So we really put a lot of thought and effort into how to make it as easy as possible for people.”
Quupe launched in February and has since attracted more than 1,200 users around the city. A mobile application is in the works and will be released in mid-July, first for iOS and then for Android.
Hamilton hopes that the idea will continue to gain traction among the ecofriendly (product-sharing decreases consumption and the number of goods that will potentially end up in landfills) and the outdoors-inclined (at the moment, one of Quupe’s most popular categories is camping equipment).
By connecting Vancouverites with one another, the service also helps combat common perceptions that it’s hard to make friends in the city. “I think some people may be craving connections with their neighbours but don’t necessarily have a reason to or a way to do that,” she says. “So I think something like this can really help bridge that gap.”