The equipment rental market size is predicted to grow to $56.86 billion by 2020, with a compound annual growth rate of 6.1 percent, according to the American Rental Association and HIS Global Insight.
Wilmington, North Carolina-based KWIPPED Inc. is looking to capitalize off this growing and sizable field.
KWIPPED offers an online marketplace for prospective renters and suppliers to come together for transactions. Some of its most notable clients include Coca-Cola, Apple, Wal-Mart, General Electric and many top universities, including UNC-Chapel Hill.
Robert Preville, founder and CEO, started the company about three years ago after selling two of his previous entrepreneurial ventures — MFG.com and GlobalTestSupply.com. MFG is an online marketplace for manufacturing services and was bought by Jeff Bezos’s portfolio company, Bezos Expeditions. in 2005.
Another one of Preville’s projects, Global Test Supply, is a distributor of test equipment. Preville took the marketplace portion of MFG and combined it with the equipment distributor aspect of Global Test Supply to form KWIPPED.
The website for KWIPPED was developed in late 2014. Marketing, sales outreach and other business developments began in the spring of 2015, making the website fully operational.
The company raised $580,000 in January and another $272,000 in October, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings.
Preville is an active angel investor via IMAF Cape Fear in Wilmington, and his portfolio includes the Greater Wilmington Business Journal, WILMA Magazine, NextGlass (a beer and wine recommendation mobile app), Entigral (a RFID sensor software), and Ground Floor (a peer-to-peer lending) network. He is a father of two and holds a B.S. in mechanical engineering from the University of Maryland.
KWIPPED offers users 20 different categories ranging from restaurant equipment to medical equipment to computer equipment. Its two newest categories are ophthalmic and dental.
The company itself doesn’t own a single piece of equipment.
“We are ultimately a tech company,” said chief marketing officer Robin Salter. “Our platform’s job is to match companies with quality suppliers and match suppliers to customers.”
Easy and efficient
KWIPPED makes a previously cumbersome process easy and efficient.
The majority of its marketing efforts are put toward search engine optimization so that when people search on the Internet for a specific type of equipment rental, a link to KWIPPED is at the top of that person’s search results.
In the beginning, selling KWIPPED’s value to potential suppliers was a bit of a challenge, but the company has obviously overcome that. In their third year of business, KWIPPED has approximately 600 suppliers and more than 1,000 registered renters.
With regards to aggregating these suppliers, Preville had some instant connections due to his previous projects. But for the past couple of years, the focus has been on outreach and business development in order to attract more suppliers to the website.
Supplying the suppliers the proof of KWIPPED’s value has become easier as more renters and highly recognizable brands come to the marketplace. Within the past four to five months, suppliers have even started to come to KWIPPED first asking to be a part of its online marketplace.
Jess Nicholson, a sales account manager at Scientific Calibration Inc.. said, “We had all this idle inventory just sitting around – now, thanks to KWIPPED its out in the market making us money and attracting new customers.”
Being a supplier or renter on KWIPPED is free. The way the company makes money is through a transaction fee that only occurs when a deal between a renter and supplier closes.
Salter describes the process as easy money for the suppliers because KWIPPED handles all the billing, security deposits, insurance and shipping logistics. “Our company isn’t making money until our suppliers are,” said Salter.
They even do background searches on renters to make sure they are viable customers. KWIPPED ensures that users are connected to a company or a scientific/engineering based project as typically they do not rent to singular, private individuals.
The only work the supplier has to do is put their equipment onto the website and give renters quotes for their equipment requests, which can be done electronically through KWIPPED’s online portal.
Universities are customers
Universities were some of the first renters to come to the website, and there are over 100 registered universities on KWIPPED, including Yale, MIT and Duke.
“Lots of these schools are involved in science, technology and engineering research projects and they do not want to buy expensive equipment that they might not need when the project is over, so they come to us looking to rent,” says Salter.
Many companies and organizations need equipment for longer than a traditional renting contract allows. This is why KWIPPED recently launched a leasing program. Many clinical trials and research companies have multiple-year long projects, where they either do not have the capital to buy the necessary equipment or they don’t have the desire to own the equipment after they are done with the project.
Leasing offers renters lower interest rates and a buy-out program at the end of the lease, if they become interested in owning the equipment.
“Were planning to partner with multiple leasing companies so that when users applying for a lease come to KWIPPED, we are able to distribute that lease request to multiple companies who then compete for that business,” says Salter. This will give the best outcome for both renters and suppliers.
Another new feature for the company was the role out of its mobile app in July 2017. This app is for suppliers only, and it allows them to respond to renters and their requests in real-time.
“Our suppliers are busy people,” says Salter. “A lot of them are not at their desk all day. They are out working in the field, so they may not even see the requests from the customer until the next day.” The app allows suppliers to be more prompt with their quoting and keeps transactions running at a fast and easy pace, keeping suppliers and renters happy.
The possibilities are endless for KWIPPED. Well, almost
“We didn’t end up filling the request for the dead body-finding radar because it was just an individual person,” joked Salter.