Tool rental website Sharehammer building business

May. 12, 2013 @ 09:24 PM

For the most part, the pressure washer that Durham resident Eric Boggs bought a few years ago has been sitting in his basement, collecting dust, he said.
So in April, he said he listed his pressure washer on Sharehammer, a website that launched recently to allow the owners of tools in the Triangle to rent them out.
Boggs said he tried it out because he’s friends with the founder of the tool-sharing website, and he also saw it as a source of earning easy money. For renting the washer out to a stranger for two days, he said he made $20.
“All I had to do was list my pressure washer on Sharehammer and carry it upstairs when the renter came by to pick it up,” Boggs said. “They dropped it off on my front porch when they were finished. Piece of cake.”
The website launched in March, said Sharehammer founder Michael Novi, who is a Durham resident and the sole full-time employee at the Web start-up. The website has about 100 people signed up, he said, and has facilitated about 10 rental transactions.
The 36-year-old Novi said he was able to build most of the website himself. He said he has a computer science degree from Virginia Tech and a Master of Business Administration from New York University, and has worked at several technology start-ups previously.
He said his work history includes time at a game development company and at a company acquired in 2006 by Microsoft Inc. called Massive Inc. which inserted advertisements into video games, and he also was the first full-time employee at the Durham-based technology start-up Argyle Social.
Boggs, who was the former CEO of Argyle, said Novi helped to build core pieces of Argyle’s technology. The company is a provider of social media marketing software.
Novi said he started Sharehammer as a hobby project. He was working on a remodeling project in the kitchen of his Durham townhome, and needed a tile saw. He said he had the option of buying a saw for $90, or renting for $30 per day.
Now he owns a tile saw, and doesn’t need it most of the time. He said he felt there should be a better way.
In addition, he said he saw other sharing websites emerging.
The list includes Airbnb, a San Francisco-based company founded in 2008 that allows people to rent, or rent out, their homes for vacations or trips. Homeowners create an online profile, list a space for rent, upload photos, name a price, and set their availability.
Novi said he used the website last year to rent a one-bedroom apartment in New York City. He said the apartment was located in a neighborhood where he used to live. He said he was able to show his wife the kind of lifestyle he had there, instead of experiencing the “hotel and touristic lifestyle.”
There’s also DogVacay, a dog boarding website. While Novi said he hasn’t used the site, he said he does have interest since he wants a dog, but doesn’t feel he has time to take care of one full-time.
Novi said he believes the sharing websites can help people more efficiently using resources. He described the philosophy as “collaborative consumption,” a term he credited to Rachel Botsman, who wrote a book called “What’s Mine is Yours: How Collaborative Consumption is Changing The Way We Live.”
“Think of all the things (we) purchase and store, the expense not only of purchasing, but buying a place to store (them)…” he said. “Not everyone has to own a lawn mower or a paint sprayer, or a ladder used once or twice a year.”
In addition, he said he also believes Sharehammer can help build community.
“Not only can you make money if you’re the owner, or save money as a renter, in these type of deals, but you also start to meet more and more people,” he said. “There’s a side effect of your community gets a little bigger and a little closer together.”
Novi makes money from the site by adding a 15 percent service fee onto the cost of the rental.
The site provides guidance on how much the tools should be rented for. According to http://blog.sharehammer.com/, rentals should be a sixth, or a tenth, of the purchase price of a tool or piece of equipment for a week, a third of the weekly price for a day, and half of the daily price for the hour.
The website automatically fills in the pricing if a similar tool is found online, Novi said, although that amount can still be edited by the owner of the tool.
“An owner can decide to ask for whatever amount they would like, but the marketplace will get to decide if it’s a good deal – by renting the tool a lot, completely ignoring it,” he said.
Novi said there is already a tool-sharing website founded previously called ToolSpinner, and a website called SnapGoods that allows for renting of a wide range of stuff.
Home Depot allows customers to rent tools ranging from electric jack hammers to pressure washers to concrete saws to demolition hammers.
Novi said he believes the real competition for Sharehammer will be the low-cost tool seller Harbor Freight Tools.
To improve the site, he said he’s currently working to create an internal review system for the website so renters and owners can review their experiences with the rental and the tools.
He said he also is working to create a free loan feature so that if a friend requests a tool, a person can waive the rental fee.
He said he hopes this will encourage friends to list tools and share among friends, while also opening up possible rental possibilities.
The website currently limits people from listing tools to this geographic area. Novi said he wants to grow the website in the Raleigh-Durham area to 5,000 users by the fall, and then to expand to other areas.
He said he wants to see the website launch in areas such as Charlotte, Atlanta or Houston, where he believes there will be more people who own their houses, and need to work on them.
He said he has financed the launch of the website himself, which he said has been less than $5,000 in investment. He said he’s also working as a consultant for other start-ups.
“Right now, I’m funding it myself because the flexibility to figure out what works, and what doesn’t, in an environment where there’s not a lot of expectations about earnings, is important to me at this point,” he said.