This 2 years old start-up have raised over $3M and Chaz Englander, Co-founder & CEO is hoping Fat Lama, his peer-to-peer rental service becomes the go-to place for people looking to rent out their belongings, a situation he describes as a win-win for both lenders and borrowers.
Below is the full interview
Hi Chaz, thanks for agreeing to share your story on YHP. Can you give us some background information about yourself?
I’ve always been into the startup world. Prior to Fat Lama, I was at Angels Den, a London-based Angel funding platform. But the impetus for Fat Lama came when myself and the now-co-founders of Fat Lama were refurbishing an office space in Hoxton. We were on a very tight budget but we were having to spend a lot buying things we only needed temporarily: tools, ladders, drills, industrial vacuum cleaners etc.
We reckon we wasted around about £5,000 on those, while we were sure that most of the equipment could have been lying about in the very same block. From there, we got talking and the idea for a peer-to-peer rental service was born.
Tell me about the early days, the type of challenges you initially encountered?
From the start, we knew that a robust and universal insurance policy was a must - of course, our users are often renting out their most prized possessions. Getting terms that worked across an almost infinite number of variables was a huge challenge - not least because the insurance industry can be a little cautious toward innovation.
What is Fat Lama? And what are you trying to solve with it?
Fat Lama is a peer-to-peer rental service - we bring together people who own gear with people that are looking to rent it. The problem we are solving is a fairly timeless one.
Consider the number of times you’ve needed something you knew you’d only ever use once - maybe a ladder or a power tool, a bike or a camera - and ended up buying it because you had nobody to borrow it from. Our platform is a more efficient option for both parties, generating earnings for lenders and savings for borrowers.
How have you been able to fund it so far?
So far we’ve raised a little over $3m through multiple seed rounds, with investors including Greylock Partners and Y Combinator.
What advices would you give to entrepreneurs looking to raise funds for their start-ups?
In the very early days, funding is a numbers game - meet as many people as you possibly can.
About the first few months, how excited were you, tell us about how those months felt, what happened?
It was a lot of hard work! But, obviously, incredibly rewarding building a team and getting early traction.
How did you initially get traction?
Our early success was in leveraging off existing rental trends - getting talking to communities who regularly rent already equipment, but in a more traditional hire shop way. For us, this meant establishing ourselves amongst communities of photographers, filmmakers, DJs and other musicians in London.
What are the most crucial things that you have done to grow your business?
I’m a restless person, and a crucial element of growth has been that the entire team shares that. Every part of the company - from the back-end to the operations team - believes that this idea can change the way we live and consume.
What would you say has been the highlight of your entrepreneurial journey so far?
It’s been amazing to see the platform grow organically across the UK urban landscape since our launch in 2016, but the real highlight for me was our incredible launch into New York at the start of this year - the response was crazy, we had over 1,300 items listed in the first 48 hours of the site going live.
What should we be expecting from yourself and the Fat Lama team for 2018?
We’re focusing heavily on growing the team in order to improve the product. Besides that, we’ll be continuing our American roll-out.
Lastly, what advices would you offer entrepreneurs starting out today?
A good decision made today is better than a great decision made next week.
Don’t ‘shop’ for advice - find a few people whose opinions you trust.
Never get complacent!