The BizSpark startup of the day is Rentcycle, based in the US. Below you will find an interview with Tim Hyer, Founder and CEO of Rentcycle. All the best to them and congratulations for being the startup of the day!
Tell us who you are and your role in the company:
Rentcycle is OpenTable for the rental industry. We connect consumers with local ski rental, tool rental and party rental shops to make renting online as easy as shopping online. Rentcycle promotes reuse by making it easy for consumers to gain access to the experiences they want without the burdens of ownership. As Rentcycle’s Founder and CEO, I can’t help but think I have the greatest job on the planet. I get to work with incredibly smart people to turn complex problems into simple solutions. Each day is a new kind of challenge and it’s been rewarding to watch the idea evolve into reality.
Although I’m involved in all aspects of the company’s operations, my primary role as CEO is to ensure we never lose sight of Rentcycle’s mission. The company was established on a strong set of values, which have brought us to where we are today. These values set the course for our culture, our product, our customer experience, our goals… our everything. Without such grounding, a company risks inconsistency, friction and confusion at all touch points with the brand. It is my responsibility to ensure Rentcycle’s original vision and values permeate the organization. In order to become a meaningful company, we must fully commit to our values and live the brand in everything we do.
What did you do before creating your company?
A visual artist by training, I’m drawn to the intersection of business and design since that’s where I believe innovation happens. Even though Rentcycle is my first funded startup, I’ve always considered myself part of the innovation industry. In college, two friends and I started an online apparel company, which continues to run to this day.
My first corporate job was a Brand Manager for a large technology company, which piqued my interest enough to move to Silicon Valley. Once settled, I worked for an innovation consulting firm called Cheskin where I helped Fortune 500 companies (including Microsoft—coincidentally our largest client) bring the voice of the consumer into their product development cycles. Surrounded by the entrepreneurial vibe of the San Francisco Bay Area, it didn’t take long before I caught the startup bug. I enrolled in The Founder Institute incubator program, which was exactly the preparation I needed to refine my vision for Rentcycle. We’ve been growing ever since!
How do you feel being the most promising ‘Startup of the Day’ per Microsoft BizSpark?
It’s an honor to receive such a stamp of approval, not only from one of technology’s biggest names, but from a program that is so committed to entrepreneurs. The BizSpark program has become synonymous with startups, as I’ve seen though its partnership with The Founder Institute incubator program (from which Rentcycle graduated) and other early-stage tech events throughout the country.
Being affiliated with Microsoft carries a level of prestige that our customers identify with and trust. It also helps us target and recruit the best-in-class developers who specialize in the Microsoft framework. Rentcycle is proud to be a Microsoft-backed startup and is forever grateful for the phenomenal network and resources the BizSpark program delivers.
What is your company’s mission?
To elevate the way society consumes by spearheading the shift from ownership to usership. To inspire a community of sharing that reduces production, reuses what we already have and makes the world a less cluttered place to live. Rentcycle strives to be the place to rent anything online.
In 140 characters or less, tell us what your company does:
Rentcycle is OpenTable for product rentals, providing any store that rents items—from tuxedos to bicycles—with tools to move their business online.
How did you get the idea for your company?
The idea for Rentcycle came while training for a triathlon. Rather than pay $500 to ship my bike cross-country, I attempted to rent a race bike at my destination. The process was so painful; I knew it had to be fixed. The week after the race, I wrote the business plan for Rentcycle!
Tell us about your funding history. Are you currently looking for funding? If so, how much?
Rentcycle recently closed its seed round of financing, raising $1.4 million. The funding was led by Collaborative Fund, a firm focused on investing in startups that shift the economy from hyper-consumption to collaborative consumption—a movement pioneered by companies like Netflix, ZipCar and Airbnb.
A host of other notable VCs and angels participated in the round as well, including Andreessen Horowitz, SV Angel, Founder Collective and Amicus Capital, as well as angel investors including Max Levchin, co-founder of PayPal and Chairman at Yelp, and founder of Shopzilla, Farhad Mohit. As part of the infusion of seed capital, Rentcycle also added two well-known advisors to its management roster: Netflix founder Marc Randolph and Chuck Templeton, founder of the popular restaurant reservation service, OpenTable. We’re excited to have direct access to the best in the business to make Rentcycle a success!
How many employees do you have? How many developers?
Rentcycle is growing fast! We’ve recently expanded from a team of 5 to 7, moving into a brand new office in downtown San Francisco. We’ve got a team of young, passionate go-getters which creates a work hard, play hard dynamic. It’s a fun culture. Currently, we have a development team of 3 and are actively recruiting rockstar developers. Our goal is to have a team where technical people outnumber non-technical members 2 to 1.
Are you hiring? If yes, what are you hiring for and where?
YES! Rentcycle is on the lookout for passionate problem solvers looking to define a movement through disruptive technology. With a recent round of funding under our belt, we’re beefing up our engineering team to build something the world has never seen before. We’re actively recruiting for the following positions:
– ASP.NET/SQL Developer
– ASP.NET MVC Front-End Developer
– UI/UX Developer
We work from a collaborative space in downtown San Francisco with central access to public transit. If you want to be part of a fun culture that’s building a game-changing technology, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.rentcycle.com/company/jobs.
Which platform are you building on? Why?
We are building Rentcycle’s solutions on .NET framework 4.0. Everything is written in C# and MVC3. Rentcycle is now scaling up its resources thanks to our cloud-based infrastructure built on the Windows Azure platform. We believe this is the ultimate scalable stack as it combines a mature and robust framework with a platform that can grow with us. On top of that, the developer tools provided by Microsoft (for free through BizSpark) are the best in the industry so we get amazing productivity and all the tools necessary for collaboration and source code management.
Where do you see opportunities today in the Software/Internet area?
It’s a great time to start something! Never before have we had such unparalleled access to online, social, mobile technologies. And there are so many industries that are ripe for disruption—from government to healthcare to education. One of the sectors I’m most drawn to is online-to-offline commerce (O2O) which is a newer type of commerce where consumers are found online, but ultimately brought into real-world (offline) stores. OpenTable and Groupon are pioneers for this movement, which I believe is only in its infancy.
The beauty of this system is that it taps into the power of local while being inherently measurable—every offline transaction happens and is tracked online. Rentcycle strives to be the next O2O success story. SaaS solutions catered toward niche business sectors also present an opportunity for innovation since there are still plenty of industries that are stuck with old-fashioned or inefficient technologies, pining for a simple solution. Another megatrend Rentcycle actively endorses is Collaborative Consumption and the movement toward access instead of ownership.
What do you think about the BizSpark Program?
Microsoft BizSpark has provided our bootstrapped startup with unparalleled access to professional resources. The program has allowed us to develop a world-class solution at startup cost. Plus, the network has been very helpful since it has plugged us into a community of influencers, industry experts and like-minded thinkers. We’re looking forward to getting even more involved and evangelizing the opportunity to fellow startup companies.
Do you have any advice for young Software entrepreneurs?
Seize the moment. We have unparalleled access to technologies that didn’t exist a decade ago. The Internet and social media have presented immense opportunities to service major social problems with little or no capital. With the right passion and determination, virtually anyone can achieve social change. Carpe diem!
Who’s your role model?
The entrepreneurial experience has given me a lot of inspiration. I am most moved by the doers of the world who actively push for positive change while others sit idly by. I’m even more impressed when these leaders have a strong sense of humility. For these reasons, business leaders like Marc Randolph, co-founder of Netflix, and Chuck Templeton, founder of OpenTable top by list.
Similarly, author and social evangelist Rachel Botsman who pioneered the Collaborative Consumption movement has become a personal hero. I might be a bit biased since each of these individuals happen to be personally involved with Rentcycle—but all the more inspiring!
What’s the ONE THING you would like readers to take away from this interview?
It never hurts to ask. Rentcycle has gotten far adopting this principle. The best part is that it’s universally applicable. From advisors to customers to investors to strategic partners to new hires to board members—it never hurts to put yourself out there and ask for something.
Best-case scenario, you get exactly what you want. Good-case scenario, you learn something. Worst-case scenario, you’re in the same position you were before you asked. Whether a simple introduction or a serious financial commitment, it never hurts to ask. What’s the worst that could happen?