BorrowFox: Arthur Pierse

Aiming for "Airbnb-style disruption", BorrowFox allows photographers, freelancers and filmmakers rent equipment at a reasonable price

Name: Arthur Pierse
Company Name: BorrowFox
Co-founders: Alastair Woods and Ciaran Burke
Location: London
Twitter handle: @BorrowFox
Website: www.borrowfox.com

Tell us what your business does:

BorrowFox is a gear sharing marketplace for photographers, freelancers and filmmakers in London. The easiest way to think of it is as a variation on the business model of Airbnb, except instead of renting rooms, our users are renting filmmaking kit.

Our users can rent to and from local professionals and we are building an exclusive community for our users to connect with other professionals, save and make extra money from their idle gear.

Where did the idea for your business come from?

My co-founders work in the creative industry, and after discussing the astronomical prices of filmmaking equipment, we began researching the equipment rental industry.

We realised that there was not a straightforward way to view and compare all the available equipment across London, including kit offered by both large corporate suppliers, and private owners.

The market seemed to be suffering from inefficiencies and old-fashioned rental models… it was clearly an opportunity for an Airbnb-style disruption! And thus, BorrowFox was born!

How did you know there was a market for it?

We started looking at camera rental houses and the current costs associated with renting gear. The traditional rental house has its advantages for working professionals as the gear is suitably maintained by qualified technicians and the overall experience is generally efficient for large production houses.

However, what if you don’t have the minimum £1,000,000 insurance coverage required by most rental houses?

We started speaking to freelancers who spoke of their budget difficulties in hiring gear and decided to build a model that gives them access to high end kit they require at a fraction of the cost.

They were eager for a platform that opens up the market, offering broad price comparisons, peer-to-peer rentals, and a convenient booking and collection process.

What were you doing before starting up?

I worked in the finance sector for several years in London, where I saw a glimpse of the exhilarating ups and downs of starting a business. Once the concept of BorrowFox was formed, I knew it was time to take on the challenge!

My co-founder, Ciaran, had spent a few years building the now very successful Hiive.co.uk, and after we discussed the concept of BorrowFox, he was eager to jump on board.

Have you always wanted to run your own business?

Yes, I always knew that the only way to get the most out of myself would be take a risk and start something from scratch.

How did you raise the money?

Presently, the business is predominantly funded through a handful of angel investors; however, we are beginning the process of raising seed funding to expand our userbase in London and Dublin.

Describe your business model and how you make money:

We don’t want creatives to feel constricted when browsing on BorrowFox. From the moment you sign up, we don’t charge listing fees or annual fees, we do, however take a small percentage of every transaction.

What challenges have you faced and how have you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is that we decided to not seek external funding initially to prove the concept. This was difficult as giving up a steady income to work on a mere idea felt like a huge risk, especially when validating the concept requires market research, MVP development and mountains of testing.

However, patience has been critically important. We are glad that we didn’t rush the launch as we now have a premium brand and a robust platform that our users appreciate.

What was your first big breakthrough?

Securing the initial suppliers on the platform was always going to be tricky, so seeing our first users upload their stock onto our site was big breakthrough for us.

We are pleased to say that we now have over £3m worth of incredible high-end kit on the platform, available for rent across London at any given moment!

What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?

Give it a go! It will be the toughest, but most rewarding experience. The most crucial aspect of it is to not go in alone and to find like-minded co-founders.

Also, remember to maintain outside interests and hobbies so you don’t implode from the hi-octane nature of starting a business – running and golfing have been my saviours!

Where do you want to be in five years’ time?

In five years, we hope to have scaled the business internationally and built communities for creatives to rent kit and collaborate on projects.

We also plan on expanding into other verticals within the creative industry such as renting studios, spaces and set locations.