GearCommons is taking over the sharing economy as one of the most popular peer-to-peer gear rental companies in the country.
Co-founder Mike Brown explained that the purpose of GearCommons is to reduce the barriers to getting people outside. He recalled a story when he and co-founder James Rogers participated in a snowshoe marathon in Vermont two years ago.
“We were renting an apartment [through Air B&B] at the time, and we had friends who were runners, but didn’t have the right gear. We also had friends who had snowshoes who weren’t going to run in the marathon,” Brown said. “James and I asked each other, ‘Why isn’t there a company like Air B&B or Zip Car for the outdoors?”
Brown said that he and Rogers realized that their idea was pretty unique, as there was no other peer-to-peer outdoor gear sharing company in the market at the time. In what Brown calls the “coming of age in the sharing economy explosion,” the two of them, along with Joel Weber, started GearCommons.
“The purpose of GearCommons is getting people outside…to see them have this ‘lightbulb moment,’” Brown said.
GearCommons has now grown exponentially, with gear exchanged in every state, as well as in Canada, Zambia, and England. Brown pointed out that the most concentrated areas are in Boston and the greater New England area, as well as Colorado. Over the past couple of years, Brown said that the GearCommons team polled its users for feedback. The communication between users and GearCommons has set the company apart from its competitors.
What the team found was that customers’ biggest concern was “what happens if someone damages my gear?” Now, people lending out gear can require a security deposit on their gear, which has created a built in mechanism for accountability and trust for gear lenders and users.
Over the past three to five months, different retailing companies have started using GearCommons to improve their online rental sales. Brown explained, “Users don’t actually care where the gear comes from, as long as it is available for a cheap price and in good condition.” GearCommons has since built in a feature for retailers looking to rent out gear.
Brown said that GearCommons has not limited him or his business partners from adventuring in the outdoors. This summer, he looks forward to backpacking in northern Spain, then participating in the running of the bulls. “It’s kind of a bucket list kind of trip,” Brown said. Rogers continues his passion for alpine climbing and backcountry skiing throughout New England and beyond.
Brown added that the GearCommons team is putting together a documentary film inspired by the sharing economy. “It’s a kick starter campaign for us… we are going to hold a contest in which two winners will go on a trip with the help of companies like Air B&B, Zip Car, and GearCommons… from the lens of an outdoor adventurer,” Brown said. He believes that people do not realize that it is possible to go on these amazing trips without owning gear, a car, or place to stay. He said that the sharing economy opens up doors for the outdoorsman.