A Singapore couple built an 'Airbnb for things' so we'll stop buying stuff we only use once

It is really difficult to stay away from shopping when you live in Singapore.

But there's the other side of consumerism we overlook.

How many of us have bought something at a sale and have only used it five times, or less, so far?

Probably a lot of us.

I have bought a few bottles of inexpensive nail polish and thought to myself, "Hey, I'll learn how to apply nail polish myself and save money going to a mani-pedi session."

The reality: I ended up not using them at all, and cleared all of them during spring cleaning while preparing for Chinese New Year.

Even though some items don't cost much, it's really more about the wastage and the amount of space taken up than the price you pay.

STARTING LIFE TOGETHER ON 'A CLEAN SLATE'

Founders Pauline Lim (right) and Chuan Wei Zhang.Photo: Facebook/Pauline Lim

Chuan Wei Zhang and his wife, Pauline Lim, are first and foremost experts in their own fields.

Wei Zhang is the tech whiz and the founder of Wizer Studios.

Recently, he's added another title to his name as the founder of Lendor.

Pauline is an adjunct lecturer at LASALLE College of the Arts and a fashion designer who owns her own line.

She is the girlboss who sees through the whole process of producing her apparel from start to finish.

On top of all that, she is also the other half of Lendor.

She's been in the industry for five years now and through her own participation in the production has realised that she contributed to the "world's most polluting and wasteful industries".

So she quit, and revealed that she would only go on with her fashion business once she found a solution to not contribute to that wastage.

I saw how much waste was being produced from what I was doing… the more I did it, the more I didn't feel comfortable with it, so I wanted to put a stop to it for a while.

Photo: Facebook/Lendor

Wei Zhang noted that as Singapore transformed to a first-world country, standards of living and earning capabilities improved, and that also led to high levels of consumption of goods.

As young and open-minded individuals, it wasn't hard to change our lifestyles and we are also part of this Journey to Zero Waste movement.

"LEND ME SOME SUGAR, I AM YOUR NEIGHBOUR."

Fans of the 2000's pop hit, 'Hey Ya' by Outkast will know this lyric well as it drops before the bridge of the song.

In the past, our parents and grandparents would tell us stories of their kampung neighbours during simpler times, and how these very neighbours helped them in times of need.

Nowadays, we hear more laments about that inconsiderate family of four living upstairs doing their chores late at night, or that neighbour on the same floor singing karaoke loudly.

They want to turn that modern alienation among neighbours back into that nostalgic kampung spirit feeling with their rental marketplace concept.

Photo: Facebook/Lendor

The idea for Lendor came about in December 2016, and they began working on it the first working day.

Wei Zhang credits the Wizer team for their experience and expertise in creating the app in under six months.

The time taken to build an app with similar functions and the level of comprehensiveness from scratch would probably take another team up to nine months - as long as carrying a baby to full term.

The urge to launch it quickly is always there and we have a group of stakeholders/users that we consulted [who] had different opinions so we had to keep refining, adding and changing to achieve a product market fit and in fact, we are still in that process.

Lendor was officially released on 3 July this year.

Wei Zhang envisions Lendor to be the "Airbnb of Things" where people can borrow and lend things that they do not use often to people in their proximity - for just a small price.

Wei Zhang said in an article,

For instance, there are plenty of urban farmers scattered across Singapore and they can make use of Lendor to share/rent equipment with one another, who may not be someone staying next door.

He may be a few blocks away which is still convenient to pick up and return.

The same can apply to photography groups, cyclist groups, e-scooters group[s], etc.

Photo: Facebook/Lendor

There are now close to 3,000 items in 24 categories.

They have just hit the 1,000 downloads milestone and had 400 sign-ups in the eight weeks leading up to their launch.

Every month Lendor sees over 20 transactions, which equals to a couple of hundred dollars worth of Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) per month.

The team has observed that the following three traits of an item will rent well and fit in the rental economy.

  1. Occupies space (e.g. ladders, trolleys, photography backdrops)
  2. Is expensive (e.g. cameras, luxury handbags)
  3. Has low utility rates (e.g. drones, board games)

One of the items they found weird to rent or be rented out was breast pumps.

Our initial reaction was hygiene concerns… Then we realised that this item could be a lifeline for low-income or single mothers after speaking to a mummy.

There are already communities of mummies sharing and renting these items via Facebook.

The founders took out about S$50,000 out of their own pockets to build Lendor - and they are not looking to earn any of that money back any time soon.

Ultimately, Wei Zhang and Pauline hope that "Lendor can eventually become a force for social good".

They are currently working on getting government agencies to come onboard, listing "idle inventories" on the app to be loaned out for free.

HOW LENDOR WORKS

For example, the Lendor (owner of the item) has a DSLR camera he bought a year ago but does not use it frequently so he puts it up on the app and rents it out for $10 a day.

The Lendee (user who wants to rent), requires a camera for his photography project and rents this DSLR camera instead of buying a new one for a hundred times more than he can afford.

The Lendee can use the app to block out the dates of the rental - like Airbnb.

The transaction process is simple and secure; after settling on a location and price, an e-contract is generated that records each activity that goes on between both parties.

There are no listing fees, commissions, or extra charges for the first six months.

What Lendor hopes to achieve is that the Lendor can recover some costs of the item by lending it to someone who needs it - and not totally profiting off a low-income student, like the above example.

Lendors can also loan their items out of goodwill too.

Photo: Facebook/Lendor

FUTURE PLANS

The app is currently free to use and monetisation will happen in early 2018.

Digital payments could be introduced in three to four months time, so that is when they are looking to charge a five to 10 per cent transaction fee.

Another possible mode of monetisation is working with an insurance company to underwrite loaned items.

However, in the case where an item is being loaned out on goodwill, the app will not take a cut from the transaction since that item is free.

Even though they have these plans, Wei Zhang and Pauline noted that the sharing culture is not big in Singapore.

They hope that majority of the items will be rented out for free or at low rates and that the result is a not-for-profit mentality.

Photo: Facebook/Lendor

Wei Zhang and the team are currently developing the web platform and coming up with a feature which can let users "ping for items […] the same way you ping for an Uber driver".

Now, Wei Zhang intends to work on Lendor full-time.

Wizer Studios will continue to serve their regular clients and wrap up their current projects. He said,

The sacrifice is tremendous because we are transitioning from a profit generating business to one which has yet to monetise.

The team is dreaming big as they draw up plans to target Korea, Hong Kong, and Japan in the future.

When asked what advice Wei Zhang would give to his younger self,

To my younger self at 25: You could have built something on your own but you kept building it for others! But I am proud of the fact that you could have had a cushy life like your mum always wanted you to have (in the corporate world), but you did not succumb to that temptation.

You can check out their Facebook and Instagram, and get useful tips and information on how to be a good Lendor/Lendee here.

Psst! Here's a promo code for you!

Photo: Facebook/Lendor

Download Lendor on the iOS app store here and the Google Play store here.

More about

Apps
Purchase this article for republication.

BRANDINSIDER

SPONSORED

Most Read

Your daily good stuff - AsiaOne stories delivered straight to your inbox
By signing up, you agree to our Privacy policy and Terms and Conditions.