A couple of central Indiana entrepreneurs wants to be the AirBnB for adventure gear. Josh Roche and John Laughlin are co-founders of Quiptu, a sharing economy platform for outdoor equipment, such as kayaks, trail bikes and camping gear. Their business allows adventurers to rent gear from local owners.
In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Laughlin said they want people to enjoy the outdoors and make it affordable.
“We’re the conduit between the owner and the renter. The owner, who has the gear and the knowledge and expertise, is meeting the renter,” said Laughlin, chief operating officer of Quiptu. “The renter is often dabbling into that activity. So before taking the plunge and spending over $1,000 on gear, you can now ‘try it before you buy it.’”
The business partners, who are also brothers-in-law, launched the company launched last week, eight months after Quiptu Chief Executive Officer Josh Roche originally came up with the idea.
Laughlin says the business concept was born from a logistical problem. Roche, who lives in Bloomington, was invited to a bike packing trip along the Great Divide Mountain Biking Route in Montana. But there were no options to rent an off-road, gravel bike out there for that length of time. So, Roche borrowed a bike in Indiana.
“We had to go and take the bike apart, break it down into 51 pieces, and then ship it to Montana and put it together there. And the whole thing was just was just painful,” Laughlin said.
Once Roche completed the trip, he had to break down the bike, ship it back, and reassemble.
“The conclusion was if there was someone in Montana who would have owned an extra gravel bike, he would have paid double to not deal with that headache,” said Laughlin.
That pain point helped the entrepreneurs come up with a concept. But before developing the app, they conducted over 100 user interviews to examine other challenges for outdoor adventurers, such as storage space for equipment and retail cost of the gear.
The app makes the peer-to-peer introduction, but the owner sets the rental price. Laughlin says prices for a kayak or paddleboard could range from $20-$50 a day, while bikes could range from $30-$100 daily.
“Natural market forces there. We provide some guidelines, but the owner can charge whatever he or she like would like to for the gear,” explained Laughlin.
The team has already notched some big successes. In November, they won the Elevate Nexus Regional Pre-Seed Competition. The following month, they won the 2021 Crossroads Idea Competition hosted by Bloomington-based business incubator The Mill.
“I have been working with Josh and John since they were in the ideation stage. Elevate invested back in November through our Nexus Pitch Competition and it’s been impressive watching them build Quiptu around unlocking the untapped value of outdoor equipment that often goes unused,” said Cy Megnin, an Entrepreneur-in-Residence with Elevate Ventures.
Quiptu is launching in a total of eight markets in Indiana and Colorado. The locations are centered around college towns and metro areas, including Bloomington, Lafayette, South Bend and Indianapolis. The company’s head of marketing, Ben Kirby, is based in Fort Collins, Colorado, where he will work to boost Quiptu’s market share.
“Our research told us that college campuses and college towns are our ideal places for this to happen because undergraduate students tend to be adventurous but don’t have a big checking account for buying gear,” said Laughlin.
He says they want to build towards a network of lessors, so renters have regional options to obtain gear. Laughlin says there has been a surge in popularity in kayaking, biking and camping since the start of the pandemic. He says their app is helping first-time adventurers to seasoned explorers enjoy the outdoors.
“One of our values is ‘Green time over screen time’. We couldn’t be happier to allow the opportunity for people to live their adventure, to get outside and do something fun that would have normally been cost prohibitive,” said Laughlin. “This sort of positive force has us excited and willing to work as hard as we have been on this”
As far as the company name? Laughlin says they’re “looking to ‘equip you’” with the necessary gear to start an adventure.