Remember that hammer drill you bought, used once, and stored away to collect dust? What if you could make some money by renting it out?
Lincoln, Nebraska, startup T’Work is making it possible.
“We want to be a platform that makes people aware of the inventory on their street and brings two parties together,” said Zach Davy, co-founder and Business Development Director. “The goal is to be as localized as possible.”
T’Work is a peer-to-peer marketplace where people upload pictures of tools available for rent and set a price. Then the company facilitates the transaction between lender and borrower, including agreements, payment and pick up/delivery schedules.
“The value we bring is a legal agreement, replacement guarantee for the lender, and real easy payment,” said Kyle King, co-founder and CEO. “Basically, we are ensuring that the entire transaction goes smoothly.”
Rental rates are set by the lender, although T’Work will make recommendations
“We’re still a true marketplace, the lender can set their own rate” King said. “We do make suggestions to keep costs competitive. There’s no up-front fees, we take a percentage of the transaction.”
Davy said T’Work’s competitive advantage over large stores that rent tools is three-fold.
“We’re closer and more convenient, have longer rental time frames, and offer discounts from places like Home Depot,” he said. “And the inventory is managed by individuals.”
Like many startups, the idea for T’Work came from a personal pain point.
“I bought a house in 2010 that was way too much work,” King said. “I realized that I needed specialty tools, but I only needed them once or twice. Buying them stressed my budget, and inevitably the idea came out of that.”
It took about four years to realize there might be legs to the idea, when King reached out to some key people and started building the team, which includes Product Development Director Cody Leach and Marketing & Customer Service Director Kent Seevers along with Davy.
“I worked with Cody at Don’t Panic Labs for five years,” King said. “Zach, Kent and I were diaper buddies, we grew up together. I tapped these guys because I’ve known them a long time and they offered specific things I needed.”
Launching in Lincoln
T’Work is beta-testing the website and app, and is currently focused on Lincoln as their test market.
“We’re using Lincoln as the test bed, figuring out what works that we can reapply in other markets,” King said. “We’re working on getting more neighborhood-specific.”
To this point, the T’Work team has been joining borrowers and lenders in person to complete transactions and ensure quality.
“We are just now approaching the point where we can handle transactions remotely,” Davy said. “So far we’ve handled them in person, meeting people for the exchange and to sign off on stuff. Automating agreements is the last major piece needed before we scale out.”
Expanding soon to Omaha, Des Moines
While the beta is underway, T’Work is laying the groundwork for expansion. And building an inventory of tools is critical.
“If there’s a marketplace with no tools, it’s a useless product,” Davy said. “We want to get a baseline inventory before we start in a new market.”
How do you start building inventory?
“In the Midwest, we’re building landing pages for each city with a progress bar,” Leach said. “We’ll wait until we get a hundred tools or so before we launch. The progress bar gives them an incentive to put tools on the site.”
Seevers sees potential for faster adoption in communities that are active in the sharing economy.
“We expect most other markets to have higher adoption rates,” he said.
“If a community is more engaged in Nextdoor and other sharing economy-style apps, there will be a lot of overlap,” Davy said. “People that are interested in sharing cars and bikes will be interested in sharing power tools.”
Rod Armstrong is Vice President of Strategic Partnerships for AIM in Lincoln, Nebraska. He is a regular contributor to Silicon Prairie News.