When Spinlister, a peer to peer bike-sharing service (think "Airbnb for bikes") launched over a year ago, it was an immediate hit with cyclists and investors, who sank $450,000 into the platform.
Then something strange happened. After about six months, founders Will Dennis and Jeffrey Noh decided to change the name of Spinlister to Liquid and rebrand it as a platform to share everything, not just bikes. "They thought bikes only were not sufficient for the business to survive," says Marcelo Loureiro, a key investor in the platform. "I said it’s too early to change the name, and they said we’re going to change it anyway. They were playing the venture capital game. They thought if they were tapping a bigger market, they could get more money."
Seven months in, Spinlister had 600 bikes available to rent across the U.S. But the startup wasn’t prepared to deal with the winter season, when bike rentals dropped. That drop—combined with a name change that confused users—eventually prompted Dennis and Noh to shut the service down altogether. Now Loureiro has revived it, bringing back the Spinlister name along with a new iPhone app (the original service was web-only) and a global reach.
"They called saying 'We’re shutting down Spinlister.' I said 'Thank you very much, let’s stop now, let me buy Spinlister back from you,'" says Loureiro, an entrepreneur who moved to the U.S. from Brazil five years ago.
Even when Spinlister was shut down, it had over 500 bikes listed in its database. Now, over three months since Loureiro relaunched the startup, it has 10,000 users and 2,000 bikes listed around the world. When we spoke at the end of July, Loureiro told me that the app had 2,000 downloads in the last two weeks. "It’s going to be a process," he says.
From the user perspective, the core Spinlister platform has remained mostly the same under Loureiro: renters select a bike style and size as well as their location. Bikes are generally listed for between $10 and $35 per day, and Spinlister covers up to $5,000 in damages in the U.S and Canada (Loureiro is hoping to bring insurance coverage to the U.K. in the near future due to rising demand).
But there are some subtle tweaks. In the original platform, it was easy for bike renters to accidentally conduct a rental deal outside of the service, leaving Spinlister without a cut of the rental price and renters without an insurance guarantee. Now the reservation system has been tightened up and users can’t message each other without a formal bike request in play.
Behind the scenes, Loureiro has overhauled Spinlister’s infrastructure. "A new developer had to fix everything," he says.
Like Dennis and Noh, Loureiro wants to expand Spinlister, but only to other sports. By early November, he hopes to bring skis and snowboards onto the platform. Surfboards will come soon after. "The real goal for Spinlister is to be the peer-to-peer outdoor gear rentals hub," he says.
Spinlister has an entirely new team now—no one from the original platform remains. Says Loureiro: "Possibly the most valuable asset we have right now is the brand. People like it and people support it."