A new umbrella-sharing startup is growing in New York City – and says it will do for umbrellas what Citibike has done for bikes.
Rentbrella, an app that first launched in Brazil in 2018, sets up automaton-style kiosks filled with 100 umbrellas each across the Big Apple – and rentals are free for the first 24 hours.
As part of the Citibike-like system, New Yorkers use Rentbrella’s phone app to scan codes that allow them to unlock and return umbrellas at various kiosks – a service for commuters who find themselves in a pinch and don’t want to shell out $ 10 or $ 15 for a bodega umbrella, according to co-founder Freddy Marcos.
“Our model is very simple,” Marcos told the Post. “They take an umbrella, they go home, then the next day they return it. ”
If customers do not return the umbrella within 24 hours, they are charged $ 2 for the second day and an additional $ 2 for the third day. If they still haven’t returned the umbrella after four days, they are charged $ 16 and can keep the umbrella forever.
Rentbrella isn’t the first umbrella-sharing startup to hit the storm.
In 2016, a company called BrellaBox started Shark Tank to pitch the idea of renting premium umbrellas at a rate of $ 1.50 for the first 12 hours – an idea that businessman and host Kevin O ‘Leary dismissed it as “maybe the worst idea I’ve ever heard.
And in 2017, a Chinese startup called E Umbrella lost almost all of its 300,000 umbrellas within a week of launching. Unlike Rentbrella, E Umbrella did not have kiosks to store umbrellas and did not charge users a fee if they did not return rentals.
“We are very different from E Umbrella,” Marcos insisted.
Since Rentbrella placed its first machines in New York in October, around 98% of customers have returned their umbrellas within 24 hours, according to Marcos. The company currently has 3,500 umbrellas at 35 kiosks across Manhattan and Brooklyn and plans to reach 100 stations early next year, the founder said.
Since an occasional $ 2 charge doesn’t translate into a deluge of cash, Rentbrella plans to make money selling umbrella ads.
It’s a model that Marcos says worked in São Paulo, where the company has nearly 400 stations and makes a profit thanks in large part to announcements from a health insurance company called Unimed.
Rentbrella does not yet have any sponsors in New York but plans to start selling ad space when it reaches 100 stations, according to Marcos. And while the stations are currently mostly concentrated in offices and residential towers in Manhattan, the founder said he would eventually like to place them in subway stations in all five boroughs.
Rentbrella says it currently has partnerships with real estate companies including WeWork, Braun Management, Moinian Group, Tishman Speyer, Beacon Capital, Chetrit Group, Meringoff Properties and Feldman Realty Group.
Rentbrella plans to launch in London in early 2022 and would like to expand to other cities in the United States and Europe, Marcos said. The company is funding the expansion with around $ 7 million from funders located primarily in Brazil, including family offices and venture capital funds, according to the founder.