Get Ready To Mootch, NYC

Image from mootch.it

Living in Manhattan, the words charm, trend, and bustle become attached not only to your vernacular, but also your bank account. Imagining the endless possibilities of life in Manhattan, might have placed you playing in Central Park’s grass-ridden fields or eating late night pizza on the steps of the MET. Yet, when the price of reality strikes, the city’s lust quickly melts away, along with that fifteen dollar poached egg. To help alleviate some of the financial stress, a new app, Mootch, created by recent NYU graduates hopes to help the city’s burdening costs become a little easier.

Mootch’s co-founders, Hannah Salwen and Lauren Graham, decided to use the plethora of resources NYC residents already own, but may not use all the time, and create the platform that facilitates this borrowing at a minimal cost. The idea for this on-demand sharing app came from an experience Graham had while moving into her own apartment where she found out that painting the walls can be quite expensive.

“My business partner Lauren, went to Home Depot to buy supplies; paint, a paint brush, a roller, a paint tray, all the things you need to paint a room, but when she got to the register the amount came to $200 for all these items — items that would use one time and then put in the closet,” Salwen said. “She decided to go back home and go door-to-door to see if her neighbors had all the supplies, which they did, letting her rent the supplies from them.”

When Salwen and Graham ended up taking the same entrepreneurship class at NYU, the two decided to embark on making this experience, a business; venturing into a world, Salwen, an accomplished co-author of “The Power of Half: One Family’s Decision to Stop Taking and Start Giving Back,” had previously only tried at ten years old with her failed blanket business. They agreed upon the name, Mootch.

“For the name, we wanted to take something that could be viewed as negative and turn it into a positive,” Salwen said. “At Mootch, we’re taking something old and stagnant and redefining it with a disruptive model.”

When the app officially launches in February 2015, the idea is for Mootch users to have access to mundane items such as kitchen supplies, pricey cameras, a tent, or an air mattress, all at the hands of the app. To fund the initial costs of the business, Salwen and Graham used another sharing platform, Kickstarter, where they surpassed their $15,000 goal with 109 backers. Beta Mootcher and NYU sophomore, Molly West says that the app has been extremely efficient for her, both products and cost wise.

“I rented hangers along with big speakers for a party that I’m having, from Mootch, and I listed my Mophie (extra battery) iPhone case, graphing calculator, and blow dryer,” West said. “The app is really efficient because you know exactly what your are getting and Mootch makes that happen quickly and easily.”

According to Salwen, the development of the app has given Mootch’s four-person team the biggest amounts of stress. The team has hired two developers: one that works front-end and one that works back-end, but building the app has taken much longer than expected. To test out their different ideas, though, they have built a prototype where Graham and Salwen along with Stanley Vaganov Marr, Mootch’s Chief Technology Officer, and Jessie Schmitt, Mootch’s Financial Planning and Analysis Manager, can experiment, without having the final product.

Mootch joins into this relatively new sharing economy that has grown in the last couple of years due to apps like Uber and Airbnb, that have helped customers achieve a faster, more accessible way of life.

“Apps like Mootch, are creating a really fascinating new economic environment where individual people of all classes now have greater access to information and goods, at a much lower cost,” Economics major and NYU junior, Sofia Toohey said. “The biggest hit would be that globally, production is much less centralized, but we do not see this necessarily as a bad thing as it gives individual entrepreneurs a chance that they could before have had.”

Perhaps, the biggest potential struggle in launching a renting app, is getting people to actually put their items up for rent and lending them out to complete strangers. To combat the obvious, Mootch will be partnering with local businesses in order to make sure there is always enough supply for “Mootchers.” So far, though, Salwen has seen a remarkable amount of interest from the market.

“What we are learning is that people are much more willing to rent then share,” Salwen said. “Other platforms in this space have built their models around being environmentally friendly and communal, while we love that, we are focusing on convenience and simplicity.”

Safety-wise, Mootch, has been working with Zipments, a NYC courier service, to deliver the products. Additionally, Mootch has joined with an unidentified insurance company specializing in collaborative consumption to make sure all products are insured before being rented out. Salwen picked these companies because they have multiple locations and will be able to scale with Mootch’s growth.

According to West, renting out her items already seems second nature because of other on-demand apps that have made this business practice commonplace.

“In the same way we can know all about anyone by Googling them, or have thousands of friends on Facebook, people are increasingly viewing one another as fellow human beings and less as strangers or aliens,” West said. “It’s completely safe to Mootch an item — the person renting from you has to put down a deposit of your choice that is reimbursed only when the items are safely returned, so what’s the harm?”

Toohey believes that while apps like Mootch create a vast amount of opportunity for entrepreneurs, the problem could occur when larger corporations can no longer compete with the apps that have extremely low costs. For larger companies, this means higher production costs and wages, which could put them out of business. Although, she does take into account that with many of these apps, there is not even a larger corporation to compete with.

Salwen, who has always believed in giving back and lending a hand to others, sees Mootch as the ultimate opportunity to grow and find new business.

“Hopefully in twenty years, Mootch will have been acquired by one of the big players in the sharing economy and we will all be working on something else,” Salwen said. “Before then, we plan to spread to all major cities in the U.S. and possibly internationally.”

To become a Mootch Beta Tester, visit their website at http://mootch.it.

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