June 14, 2018 | Abby Phillips

Finding affordable equipment rental options for work in the environmental testing, farming, surveying, laboratory and medical industry can be difficult, if not impossible.

Robert Preville came upon the gap in this $50 billion rental market while at his second business, a distributor of electronic and testing measuring equipment. Most equipment manufacturers are focused on sales, not providing opportunities for leasing the equipment for a specific period of time.

“The customers came up to us and asked us, since the equipment is expensive, if we would consider renting,” says Preville. “We were opportunistic and we built a line of revenue wrapped around equipment rentals and realized how lucrative that business can be.”

His experience at that first marketplace company came in handy after he sold the business and moved to unify a highly fragmented rental market by founding Kwipped, an equipment rental marketplace that connects companies and suppliers in over 27 industries.

Kwipped allows businesses in these underserved industries to reach out to multiple suppliers at once and receive quotes through the platform without a middleman. For example, a small laboratory might need a centrifuge for a specific project, but doesn’t have the budget to purchase one. Through Kwipped, they can reach out to several different suppliers, request quotes, use the in-platform messaging to ask relevant questions and pay for just the selected rental period.

Customers can also browse the inventory and rent from one entity instead of requesting quotes from multiple suppliers.

The standard Kwipped contract, which is directly between the customer and supplier, saves time and money for large organizations — they agree to the terms upon signing up for the platform, so there’s no need to run it by the organization’s legal entity over and over again.

“The contract gets executed on Kwipped, but you’re not renting from Kwipped. We’re the platform that provides the value and connection between them,” says Preville.

The platform also offers a leasing option for longer contracts and facilitates lending options for the interested parties to move forward.

Kwipped has more than 800 suppliers on board with $150 million in assets; 8,000 organizations, including Apple, Coca-Cola and Sherwin Williams, have used the platform to source and secure rentals. Their revenue model is based on a fee-per-transaction.

“To understand the opportunity in this market, you need to understand what drives rental demand, and what drives rental demand is contract work,” says Preville. “If you need equipment to perform a service for one of your customers, you need to add the cost of that equipment to the customer’s costs. If a pharmaceutical company is hiring a research organization to facilitate trials, the equipment can be rented and paid for within those contracts.”

So far, the Wilmington, North Carolina startup has raised a little over $1 million in seed capital and is getting ready to fundraise a Series A round this year to meet demand for more suppliers. Preville says that raising their seed round was a positive experience, as they found strategic seed investors within the region. However, he says that there’s a glaring gap in the Series A phase and they will have to reach outside the area to find funding.

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