Day #010: Red Tool Box

Why buy a power saw for $100 when you could easily rent it for a fraction of the cost?

Inspired by Michael Bierut’s 100 Day Project, 100 Days to a Better RVA strives to introduce and investigate unique ideas to improving the city of Richmond. View the entire project here and the intro here.

  • Idea: A Red Box-style start-up for tool rental.
  • Difficulty: 3 — This idea will probably show up in Silicon Valley in two years and then take another five years to make its way to Richmond. Lowes and Home Depot will also likely do everything in their power to limit this technology unless they own the rights.

The internet has opened the world to the sharing economy. What started with eBay and Craigslist has exploded, and many of the hottest start-ups right now–like Airbnb, Zip Car, Lyft (see Day #002), and TaskRabbit–are built around this simple idea.

There are three sectors to the sharing economy: product service systems (Redbox), redistribution market (eBay, Craigslist), and collaborative lifestyles (Airbnb, Task Rabbit).

While very few of these services have come to Richmond at this point, there are still a few holes in the national market–which brings us to my first start-up idea during 100 Days to a Better RVA: Red Tool Box.

Redbox, which has around 42,000 kiosks, brought in almost $2 billion in business in 2013 while competing against Netflix, HBOGO, Amazon, and illegal downloads. What if this model were extended to tool rental? How many people own expensive tools that they use for minutes in their lifetime?

The execution would be simple:

A person needs a ratchet set to construct a playground in their back yard. After shopping at the grocery store they pop their credit card into a machine and a door opens. They take out the ratchet set, confirm every piece is in the set and the box takes a picture. The customer gets charged a flat rate and has 24-hours to return the tools. Upon return they confirm that all pieces of equipment are present and the machine takes another picture.

The box would be limited in size but could rent out a standard tool box with hammer, screwdrivers, pliers, etc., in addition to more expensive power tools like drills and electric saws.

The internet has predisposed us to demanding more content cheaper and faster, but we still lag in the physical world. This relatively simple system, that could be profitable, could simplify the lives of Richmonders while putting us on the map in the start-up game.

Love this idea? Think it’s terrible? Have one that’s ten times better? Head over to the 100 Days to a Better RVA Facebook page and join in the conversation.

Photo by: jrhode

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Aaron Williams

Aaron Williams loves music, basketball (follow @rvaramnews!), family, learning, and barbecue sauce.

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