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Ad agency execs create app for sharing items

November 4, 2016

Two executives at a digital ad agency have created an app that allows people to borrow and lend items that spend more time in storage than in usage, and they're hoping it ultimately changes the way people purchase certain big-ticket items.

The free "sharing and savings" platform is called Viy, and it debuted on Apple App Store last month.

Several apps and websites have attempted to serve this purpose—including Snapgoods (which is no longer around) and NeighborGoods—and many have facilitated sharing and renting among strangers.

But Viy, its creators say, is designed for sharing with only trusted friends and family members and, ultimately, for enabling shared purchases of items like snow blowers, power washers and more right through the app. 

"The world does not need another fondue set," said Jacob Leffler, who along with business partner Brian Phillips founded the app and ad agency The Basement in 2007.

"There are enough of them out there already to support fondue parties for years to come. We just need a way to get them into circulation. Viy is that way."

Phillips said: "We're really trying to build a platform that facilitates shared ownership—the idea that we're going to share in things and, at some point, mutually invest in items."

The app works like this. Users create so-called divvies, which are lists for shared items based on a category, like maternity clothes or portable kitchen appliances. Individuals can open such lists to everyone in their network or to specific people, who can add to the list and request items.

Owners set a duration for how long they want to lend an item, and algorithms within the app calculate how much money and space people save by borrowing instead of buying.

Phillips said the idea for Viy is rooted in the early 2000s when he used a digital platform at work to share and borrow DVDs. He and Leffler's development on Viy began in earnest in 2014, even though it had little to do with day-to-day client relations.

"Sometimes our agency will pick an internal project that everyone can get behind," said Phillips, mentioning short films and a children's book. "We're very selective in what we do with that time, because obviously it's very valuable outside of our clients. And it was one that we both agreed was worth our time."

As with many new apps, the creators are more interested in growing the user base than drawing revenue. But they suggested that monetization could be tied to its long-term goal of facilitating purchases.

They acknowledged that retailers may not be too excited about people borrowing instead of buying, but said the app could make way for purchases where cost was previously a barrier to entry to some.

"If people had a platform that facilitated shared purchases, they could afford higher-quality products that could withstand more usage," Phillips said.

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