Outdoor equipment can be expensive to purchase, and rental gear isn’t always easy to find—that’s the rationale behind Quiptu, an early-stage startup that aims to connect individuals for an online rental marketplace.
The company was founded by brothers-in-law John Laughlin of Westfield and Josh Roche of Bloomington, Indiana University graduates who are working to recruit users in advance of a planned June 1 app launch.
Quiptu—the name is shorthand for “equipment to you”—will operate similar to other peer-to-peer rental platforms like Airbnb. Equipment owners can list items that they’re willing to rent out, using the platform to connect with those who are looking to rent a bicycle, kayak, tent or other outdoor gear.
“We’re creating that matchmaking piece,” Roche said.
The site will also allow equipment owners to offer delivery services for a fee. A renter who wants to do some mountain biking in Brown County, for instance, could find a local bike on Quiptu’s platform and potentially arrange for the bike’s owner to drop off and pick up the bike at the trailhead.
The delivery feature will set Quiptu apart from other available options like gear rental shops, Roche said. “There are people that are going to be very interested in getting a high-quality bike that’s already in the place they’re going to go.”
Quiptu was born out of an experience Roche had last year. He was invited on a long-distance mountain biking trip in Montana but didn’t have a bike. So he borrowed one from a friend, disassembled the bike, shipped it to Montana and reassembled it. After the ride was over, he went through the same process in reverse.
“I just got back and said, ‘Man, there has to be a better way,” Roche recalled.
Their original name for the venture was WANDR. They decided to change the name after learning of a high-end home rental venture with the similar name of Wander.
The partners plan to launch Quiptu first in a handful of markets in Indiana (Indianapolis, Bloomington, West Lafayette, South Bend and Fort Wayne) and in Colorado (Fort Collins, Boulder, Golden and Denver).
They selected Colorado because it’s a hub for outdoor activity, and because Quiptu’s head of brand and storytelling, Ben Kirby, lives in Fort Collins.
Quiptu’s initial markets are heavy on college towns, under the theory that college students will be prime rental customers. Roche and Laughlin also believe they’ll get some business from people who are renting as a way of testing out expensive gear before they decide whether to purchase their own.
Roche, who currently works as a senior financial analyst at Bloomington-based Cook Medical, said he plans to devote himself to Quiptu full-time within the next several weeks. Laughlin’s background is in operations, partnerships and technology, and in his current “day job,” he serves as partnerships director for Near the Box, a software engineering company founded in Detroit.
The partners have had some early indicators that their idea has promise. In November, they won the Elevate Nexus Regional Pre-Seed Competition, and in December, they won the 2021 Crossroads Idea Competition hosted by Bloomington-based business incubator The Mill. They’ve also secured early funding from family, friends and select angel investors.
Now, their main task is to find people willing to list their gear with Quiptu. Their goal is to have at least 50 pieces of equipment listed in each market by the time the platform launches in June.
“The whole thing fails unless there’s supply,” Laughlin said. “We’re trying to build an atomic number in each of the markets that we’re launching.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly identified Laughlin and Roche as college friends. The two are brothers-in-law, and the story has been changed to reflect that. That earlier version also failed to note that Quiptu’s early funding came from select angel investors as well as family and friends. You can see all of our corrections here.