It all started when Morgan Porter was preparing to test a 3-year-old theory.
Sitting unused in his Chesterfield garage were four items: a generator, hedge trimmer, tent and power washer – all items collecting dust, all items that were in fairly good condition, and – theoretically – all items that may be able to generate a decent cash flow.
Porter’s hunch was that he could post the items online with an offer for someone to pay to use the stuff temporarily, kind of like what Airbnb does with real estate.
“I wanted to see if someone would rent one of the items I had posted on Craigslist,” Porter said.
After a few days, Porter had a taker for his power washer.
The person was willing to pay $25 a day for the tool for a job that would last a couple of days. Porter ended up netting a quick $100, which he said proved his theory: People are willing to pay a nominal fee for stuff they don’t have themselves to complete daily tasks – as long as the lessor and lessee can find common ground on a rental price, the item is in decent condition and the lessor isn’t a creep.
But Porter wanted to take it beyond Craigslist.
“There really isn’t much of a market or safe domain for people to list and rent their private items out,” said Porter, a managing partner at local web development firm Left + Right. “We felt we could produce a site that could link people to items they needed for a short period of time…all while allowing the people willing to let people borrow those items to pocket some extra cash.”
Rent Llama was born.
Dubbed the “AirBnb of stuff,” Porter said Rent Llama will allow people to rent out their non-real estate items – from lawnmowers to stereo speakers – all for a small daily or hourly fee.
Once the site launches fully, Porter said clients can post listings for free. Once a client’s item is rented through the website, Rent Llama will charge a fee per transaction.
Porter, who serves as Rent Llama’s CEO, is joined by fellow Left + Right coworkers that have each been vested in the new venture: Thomas Brewer, chief technology officer; Monica Bohanon, director of communications; and Trent Cox, user interface and site designer.
Startup costs have been relatively nonexistent, Porter said, since the tech quartet specializes in developing and implementing websites.
They recently debuted snippets of Rent Llama’s website at the RVATechJam in late July.
A beta site – www.rentllama.com – is now live, a measure Porter said will help the company gauge the market.
“People can actually go online, and sign up what items they may be interested in renting,” Porter said. “That gives us an idea of what items people have, and what is in demand.”
A full public launch of the Rent Llama site is set for October, Porter said, with Richmond serving as its primary test market.
“We’re targeting mostly central Virginia,” Porter said. “Hanover to the north, Chester to the south; Henrico, Charles City and Goochland.”
There are four main categories Rent Llama plans to incorporate into its rental site for potential clients: tools, like specialty saws and wheelbarrows; leisure items, such as tents and coolers; electronics; and events items, such as tables, chairs and bounce houses.
Once the full service launches this fall, Porter said clients will be able to create an account that will allow customers to pay them directly through the site. He said the company is also looking into measures that will protect the client and consumer by implementing ways lessees can make sure potential clients are not using stolen currency to rent items.
Long-term safety measures for Rent Llama also include linking renters to insurance groups to ensure their items, if broken, stolen or destroyed by a lessor, are covered through the website.
“Safety is going to be an important part of this program,” Porter said. “With some of the higher-priced items, we could complete a background check for a fee…all of that will take time, we just want to gauge the interest at this moment and see where it goes.”