Spinlister, a peer-to-peer bike rental service, allows bike owners in over 40 countries to rent out their bikes. Potential renters can check out cycles, rates, owners and locations online. If they find one they want, they agree to rent it, paying Spinlister the fee set by the owner plus a 12.5% service charge. Spinlister then forwards the rent to the owner less a 17.5% commission.
The service is popular with tourists and locals, especially in places without municipal bike-hiring services. By encouraging cycling, it helps cut pollution and congestion, while promoting a healthier lifestyle. For Marcelo Loureiro, CEO of Spinlister, the social connections are “especially exciting”. He explains, “Owners give renters invaluable local information about the best rides, sites, bars, restaurants etc. so, not surprisingly, many become friends.”
The bike is the renter’s full responsibility while they are using it, and they may need to pay for a replacement if it is lost or stolen. Spinlister also covers up to $5,000 in damages in the US and Canada if the renter is unable to pay. And reviews are collected from the owner and the renter following every bike rental.
Based in Santa Monica, California, Spinlister is a relative rookie in the so-called ‘sharing economy’ – a marketplace of online companies that connect people who temporarily need something, somewhere, with people who have spare capacity of that something. An early player was Airbnb, now a hugely successful web business enabling people worldwide to rent out their spare rooms short term. RelayRides is a similar service for cars.
“Spinlister is exactly the sort of entrepreneurial business we can expect within the sharing economy”, says David Bent, Director of Sustainable Business at Forum for the Future. “As with any new domain, many will fail. But some will win big. Meanwhile, we will shift from being passive consumers to active providers and users – with the prospect of much less environmental impact for just as much fun.”
Spinlister had teething problems last year – a name change and a shutdown (both temporary). It re-launched in April 2013 in the US, then globally in July. Already, it’s listing over 2000 bikes, and a new iPhone app is available. Loureiro hopes the service will eventually become the go-to place for all sorts of peer-to-peer outdoor equipment rentals. “Later this year we hope to start listing winter sports equipment”, he says. “After that, who knows?” John Fencer
Photo credit: Flickr Mt. Hood Territory