The transportation piece of the sharing economy goes beyond cars and ridesharing; people also are hungry to rent out their bikes.
When we first spoke with peer-to-peer bikesharing service Liquid (formerly known as Spinlister) last December, the startup was just gearing up for launch. Cofounder Will Dennis told us at the time that he believed "being able to pay your utilities or take your girlfriend out to dinner just for renting out your bike is something that people can connect with."
He was more right than he could have known—just seven months after launch, the service has 600 bikes available to rent in cities across the U.S. That’s not counting the listings from 80 other countries that Liquid is holding onto until it launches internationally. Liquid is now growing its user base by 8% each week.
Part of the site’s success lies in its simplicity: List your bike with a picture, some details, and a price (these seem to hover in the $15 to $25 per day range), and wait for people nearby to search for your bike type and schedule a rental. Details can be worked out through the site’s messaging system, and Liquid offers reimbursements for bike damage up to $5,000. The service is also insured for $1 million per claim.
The only hitch: People who request bikes can cancel at the last second without repercussions, so there’s no guarantee that someone will take your bike until they show up. The presence of user reviews discourages bad behavior, but it’s not always enough.
The service is web-only for the moment, but Liquid is building a mobile app. Work on the app began during the startup’s 12 weeks in the Greenstart digital cleantech design studio and accelerator. "They allowed us to accelerate the process, working with us to put out some great interaction design, interface design, and build the bones for something that we’re excited to put out," explains Dennis.
Like the site, the app will be simple to use. People looking for bikes need only select a bike type and size that they’re interested in, and relevant nearby bikes will pop up. Bikes aren’t highlighted only because of their high quality or low price; Liquid also takes into account whether they have owners that are "known for giving the best experiences," according to Dennis. Bike owners, in turn, are given a heads-up that someone is looking for a bike in their area.
Liquid is now raising $750,000 to hire new talent and continue building its platform. The recent name change, however, doesn’t reflect any sort of new direction for the service. Says Dennis: "We felt like Liquid was more representative of what we’re doing, creating a liquid marketplace. It’s access over ownership."