Start-up of the week: Instequipped

8 Feb 2016

David Brett, founder and CEO, Instequipped

Our start-up of the week is Instequipped, a marketplace aimed at helping owners of construction and farming machinery get more bang for their buck.

Instequipped is an online marketplace that allows business owners in the construction and farming industries to source high-quality machinery easily, or earn money on their idle equipment by hiring equipment to one another.

“The platform allows equipment owners to upload their equipment, set their terms and prices, and safely hire out their equipment to other vetted members,” said founder and CEO David Brett.

‘Finding a clear and concise way of communicating the value and potential of your idea is crucial to winning both customers and investors’

“Instequipped is also a quick simple way for renters to find, book and manage high-quality machinery and equipment.

“Our aim is to become the world’s leading online, peer-to-peer equipment hiring marketplace and to provide business owners with a convenient, trusted alternative to expensive machinery hiring services.”

The market

The global heavy machinery hiring market is worth over €30bn annually and is expected to grow at 12pc or more by 2022.

The UK and Ireland market combined are believed to be worth in excess of €5bn.

“The Irish and the UK are largely fragmented with little embrace of digital technologies,” Brett points out.

“In a similar way to how Airbnb and Uber have shaken up the hotel and taxi services, we believe the market is primed for a digital solution to disrupt and innovate how people engage with these services.”

He said that Instequipped solves a genuine pain point for both owners and renters alike by providing a technological solution that offers superior capabilities which eliminate inefficiencies of current machinery hiring solutions.

“With our service, customers have been able to identify more equipment available in their area, allowing them to browse for best prices.

“On average, our most engaged and active renters say they have successfully reduced their contracting expenses by 5-20pc,” Brett said.

The founder

Brett got his first tech start-up experience working with a team of friends, pitching in the finals of the accelerator program UStart while studying in DCU.

“After that, I moved to Chicago and gained experience working for an e-commerce research company and digital agency.

“It was also while working and travelling abroad I gained insight into how fragmented the heavy machinery hiring industry was, and how slow companies have been in this sector to adopt and embrace technology solutions.

“Upon returning to Ireland, I identified the same issues in the Irish market and felt that a first mover in this space had potential to quickly gain a large market share,” Brett said.

The technology

Users simply visit and can then instantly start browsing vetted and trusted contractors nearby to find the perfect match for their requirements.

“Our platform easily allows our customers to search for their required equipment, identify the nearest supplier, message other members, book and pay online.

“Owners, on the other hand, can create a free profile and begin maximising their machinery’s ROI by easily and safely renting to other members.

“Members have total control over their profile and services, setting their price, managing their schedule and choosing the renter that they wish to hire to.

“Having launched our beta product just a few months ago, we experienced really good feedback. Having carefully analysed users’ feature desires and requirements, we believe our product has been refined to a point where we can now really push to acquire a greater community.

“We’re currently working intimately with our customers to ensure our platform is fully matching their requirements. To date, this process has been remarkably successful, as our customers have reported large reductions in contracting expenses. To date, we have had limited resources, so we have not been able to put much focus on marketing or sales campaigns.

“However, we believe that this customer experience approach has been key to our success, as we have an average monthly customer growth of 15pc, much of which, we have learnt, has been through word of mouth referrals. We are looking to build on this success by setting up a referral reward program.

A giant leap forward for traditional industries

In terms of challenges along the way, Brett said the biggest so far has been getting people comfortable with using new technologies and abandoning traditional methods.

“In Ireland, 90pc of heavy equipment hiring still goes through traditional bricks and mortar service companies. Our challenge today is to convince construction and agriculture businesses that a superior alternative exists to their traditional solutions.

“Furthermore, as a marketplace’s true value is dependent on high volume, low-value transactions, it is vital we can attract a large community of customers and ensure that their experience is positive in order to drive repeat bookings.

“We consistently look to our customers for feedback on their user experience to ensure our platform is both simple and enjoyable to use. With this motto of constant improvement, we have managed to achieve a high level of customer engagement and activity, which has dramatically increased our number of repeat bookings.”

Brett says that Ireland’s start-up ecosystem is coming together thanks also to the efforts of multinationals.

Walk and talk

“Ireland has a really vibrant tech start-up scene. There’s a lot of top-class talent here, and what’s most important is that there are a lot of initiatives and activities organised to bring entrepreneurs together to share ideas – even more so than what I’ve seen in much larger cities, where you would expect more to be going on purely due to size.

“But it’s not just domestic entrepreneurs and start-ups contributing to this, a lot of the large multinationals are helping our tech scene by hosting open training and advice events.

“My best piece of advice would have to be, once you think you have the right idea go out and speak to as many people as possible about it. This can help on a number of levels – by speaking to as many people as possible, you gain many different perspectives on your idea, and people can help identify challenges or future pitfalls you may not have been able to anticipate yourself. This can help you pivot and progress with your idea, avoiding problems which could cost a lot of time and resources to deal with later on.

“Moreover, talking to as many people as possible is great practice for that all-important investor pitch.

“As you speak to an ever-increasing number of people, you’ll find yourself adjusting and shortening your explanation each time, until you eventually find a short, simplified description of your business idea and goals.

“Finding a clear and concise way of communicating the value and potential of your idea is crucial to winning both customers and investors.”

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years