Gavin Cammell, one-fourth of Auckland start-up Flack, talks taking on industry giants and working long hours to make the business viable.
What does your business do?
Flack is a peer-to-peer hiring platform that allows people to take items they have laying around the house that are hardly used and make some money by hiring it out on a web app. It allows people to hire goods close near them at a cheaper price than they would from the traditional rental companies. We aim to be the hiring version of Trade Me in New Zealand - the place to go to in the country for hiring. Every listing on Flack is free but we take a percentage of the rental fee from every booking.
What was the motivation for starting it?
Ben Somerset came to me about two years ago now and over those Christmas holidays he had an old wooden telephone pole in his backyard that he was wanting to hack down and he didn't have anyone near by that had a chainsaw he could borrow and Hirepool was going to charge him a fortune one and he said "Man, there's got to be a better way" so we had a chat and decided we could have a crack at this.
We both knew Shanon Jackson and thought he would be an exemplary addition to our team as he's a development genius. In June this year we had a desire to move faster so brought an ex mutual colleague of ours, Ricky Hopkins, to speed up development. Things have really been picking up for us in the last month and we're really excited with the growth we're seeing.
The business was a long time in development, after 18 months we launched it in November last year. We've got just over 2500 users now and 270 items listed on the platform.
How big is the team?
It's just the four of us. None of us work on it full time just yet.
How do you encourage people to list their belongings on the site - are Kiwis willing to hire out their belongings?
That's been in the interesting part - gaining people's trust. That is still our biggest challenge so far. Everyone we talk to absolutely loves the idea, but when it comes to listing their stuff they are more hesitant. We have cover where we will cover theft or any damage up to $2500 but I think we still have a way to go being a small start-up. If people haven't heard us they are less willing to trust us, but we are working on ways to improve that.
What items are commonly listed on the platform?
We have all sorts of items, including chainsaws, log splitters, kayaks, tents, water blasters, drones, bouncy castles, trailers and mulchers. We even have a tractor in Cambridge for $200 a day. And Snowboards and skis, we want to get more of these on board also, which is our big push at the moment. We want to have a broad range of items on the platform.
How much did you guys invest to start Flack?
We haven't put in much - it has been more time that we've put into it. I think we've put about $4000 each into it, and that has mainly gone on advertising and legal fees. In terms of time, I'm up most nights to about 11pm working on the business and I know Shannon and Ben are up pretty late too.
What is the long-term plan for Flack?
We really want to be as renowned as Trade Me, for hiring, so if you have any item that you need for hiring for a week or going on holiday then you go to Flack. We also want to take a chunk of business out of Hirepool. We think this is an industry ripe for disruption, because it is an expensive process at the moment from hiring from rental companies, so we want to give people an income and a cheap way of renting stuff.
The potential is huge. Hirepool's most recent valuation valued the company at between $366 million and $425m - and they focus primarily on tools and equipment.
PwC predicts that globally the sharing economy will be worth more than $483 billion by 2025, up from $32b four years ago. We see a good opportunity to carve out a good portion of that.
What advice do you give others thinking about starting their own venture?
Running a business is definitely a hard grind - be prepared for a hard grind, and the age-old "overnight success" definitely doesn't happen overnight.