Even as he sat in his sunny home office overlooking the Toronto towers, Jordan Smith, Founder of Renterii, was proud to boast about being a Prairie startup. This Transcona alumni’s passions for innovation and business were fueled by his need to create connected communities, reduce waste, and demonstrate how innovative tech startups can successfully evolve in Winnipeg.
After finishing his Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Winnipeg and Toronto, he wanted to do and see as much as possible during his travels. However, his Millennial shoestring budget made many leisure and outdoor adventures inaccessible. While gazing across a long row of stored kayaks beside a beach, Jordan was intrigued by the equipment’s dormancy between uses. He started to think about what opportunities would be available to those who would enjoy the equipment for short periods economically.
Smith noted that Winnipeg is a city where there are maybe two or three degrees of separation. “You could be sitting at the King’s Head Pub and see your business associate or an ex-girlfriend,” Jordan laughed. This closeness is how he found out about North Forge and its incubator and accelerator program; a random business encounter with an acquaintance who introduced him to local business growth opportunities, which set his current startup path in motion. “The North Forge Founders Program tied into Manitoba innovation, which is exactly what I was looking for,” beamed Jordan.
The Founders Program helped Smith focus on his innovative rental concept’s value proposition during their development phase; keeping the customer top of mind for the item’s usage and within a circular peer-to-peer platform was essential to bringing Jordan’s idea to life. He wanted the experience of listing, discovering, and renting everyday items from local community members to be seamless. “It’s a process where you can do this all in one place,” Smith explains. “This is supported through our in-app payment processing, local item accessibility awareness, national insurance coverage, and regional delivery.”
One of Smith’s goals was to centralize and modernize the rental market via a mobile app. Renterii’s differentiation from legacy rental companies is that they connect the listed rental to an individual’s lifestyle needs; this is done through categorizing the item into particular experiences you’d like to have. He did this by understanding each item and the different ways to utilize it. “If you’re feeling adventurous, active, or artsy, for example, we’ve connected local items to rent based on the type of experience you want to explore,” he explained. He wanted his users to have the accessibility to create the experience they wanted based on the items that connected to their lifestyle needs. Maybe it’s renting a bike from your favourite cafe to get to work, a Japanese restaurant offering picnic baskets to enjoy your sushi in the park ”…or your neighbour offering kayak rentals for a new experience on the weekend.
Sharing experiences helps bring people closer. Getting to know your neighbour through the story of these items on his platform is how Smith wants to foster community connectivity. Every item has a past in how it came into possession by the owner. Maybe it was a gift from a cherished person in their lives, was integral to an award-winning project, or was used on a trip with many happy memories. Sharing those stories about trails to take or tips and tricks on optimally utilizing an item’s features can create strong community bonds.
Reducing risk was another element Jordan knew he needed to consider in this double-sided, on-demand marketplace. He surmised that both the customer and the item owner would benefit from rental insurance. “We wanted it to be worry-free wherever you are,” explained Smith. Jordan partnered with a national insurance company that designed policies to precisely remove the risk and discomfort of renting valued belongings to strangers.
Another of Smith’s goals was to reduce waste entering landfills. Instead of throwing away items that you have no further use for, you can easily place them on the Renterii app so others can enjoy an experience with them. This type of transaction enriches our lives by saving the environment in unison.
With all these goals in mind, Jordan focused his research and created the Renterii minimum viable product (MVP) through North Forge’s mentors and Entrepreneurs-in-Residence guidance. “Be vulnerable, be an open book; no one is going to judge you. All of the constructive criticism I received helped me grow,” says Jordan. This guidance enabled him to think about his ideas from another perspective and see the reality of the situation. This unbiased business experience is what helped diversify Jordan’s thought process. Being able to bounce ideas around with experienced business owners from various industry backgrounds has helped him think about his business from different angles propelling him to open his mind to endless possibilities.
Enriching your lifestyle and building a community through shared experiences are Jordan Smith’s ultimate goals. If you’d like to discover new adventures available in your location or have items that would enrich other’s experiences, download the iOS or Android Renterii app. If you or are a business owner looking for new opportunities to showcase your value proposition and reach a new customer segment, contact Jordan via email or give him a call at 647-573-2037.