Forging a new sharing economy community to save the world from over-consumption.
A few weeks before speaking to Angela, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed with the amount of stuff I had gathering in my home. My closet was filled with clothes and shoes I bought on sale and have never worn. Lying around in my room were trinkets, souvenirs and so many things that didn’t have any value. I made the decision to live more minimally and eliminate stuff that I didn’t need. So when Angela shared with me the vision of her startup, Quupe, I was hooked.
ANGELA HAMILTON: CEO & CO-FOUNDER OF QUUPE
In a world of overconsumption and having too many things, Quupe gives us a silver lining. Their mission is to be the leader in peer-to-peer rentals, encouraging communities to share with each other instead of buying something new every time a need arises.
Angela’s startup is a marriage of her lifelong interests in technology, community building, event planning, writing, and design and help create a way for neighbours to share resources.
💭 LIFE BEFORE THE STARTUP
Angela describes herself as a lifelong founder, writer, and instigator. I personally think that’s a bit of an understatement.
First off, she holds a bachelor’s in theatre and two master’s degrees: one in journalism and the other in digital media.
She has been a journalist and editor in the media industry. Her resume is prolific and noteworthy, having worked at companies including Men’s Health, The Museum of Modern Art, Sony Music Publishing, Ziff Davis, and Polo Ralph Lauren. She also served as tablet editor for McClatchy’s Washington D.C. bureau, overseeing digital and mobile publishing for 33 newspapers across the U.S., including The Miami Herald and The Kansas City Star.
That’s not all. Quupe is actually her second startup. Her first company, Supersnack, was a non-profit which fundraised and produced events for AIDS charities in New York and Washington, D.C. Their performers included John Oliver, The Mountain Goats, and Aziz Ansari, and in what was a shining example of grassroots activism, Supersnack raised hundreds of thousands with no corporate backing and no single gift larger than $1000.
So why did Angela leave her impressive career in the digital media and journalism industry to start Quupe?
⚡️ THE BEGINNINGS
The story starts when Angela and her partner were moving to South Africa. Excited for an adventure to start a life in a new place, they packed everything and landed in Cape Town. Things quickly took a turn for the worst.
On the second day, they were robbed. Everything was stolen including their IDs, passports, bags, and credit cards.
Devastated (and a bit embarrassed), the two of them rethought their decision. Instead, they decided that living in Vancouver might be the best. Here, Angela joined a program at The Centre for Digital Media, where she met her soon-to-be co-founders, Zeeshan Rasool, Amanda Shou, and Vijay Ramaswamy.
🚀 THE JOURNEY
Each one of the four co-founders moved to Vancouver from different countries. Zeeshan is from Pakistan, Amanda’s from China, Vijay’s from India, and Angela is from the U.S. Quite the combination of unique backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives.
While each team member was from a diverse culture, there was a thread of similarity that ran between all of them:
We’ve each noticed the consumption issue in our home countries, which together with Canada comprise about 45% of the world’s population.
This issue was further sparked by their time at The Centre for Digital Media. They discovered that lots of people borrowed items from each other (like irons or vacuum cleaners), but there was no comprehensive way to manage this.
Curious and driven to solve a problem, they started with a lean prototype: an Excel spreadsheet that simply recorded all the information. From there, they started matchmaking between lenders and borrowers. The team of four soon realized that they had something.
“It was just clear to me that I had a rare opportunity to work with some really genius people. My co-founders come from all over the world and they bring this wealth of experience and different skill sets. Our different backgrounds complemented each other.”
After graduating from the program, Angela originally planned to continue with journalism, but she was drawn to this project and the amazing people she got to work with.
And that was how Quupe took off.
Their first concept was free borrowing between neighbours. Angela and her team wanted to create a service that would facilitate those interactions. One of their advisors told them that there was no real business model to offer if they continued with this path.
After an intense brainstorming session, the team decided to pivot to peer-to-peer rentals and that money would exchange hands between the neighbours. They found more success with this new, scalable business model.
📍 QUUPE TODAY
Quupe is a sharing economy community for neighbours to rent things to each other. Quupe users will be able to travel anywhere in the world and rent cool things from locals. When they’re at home, they’ll be able to get whatever they might need, whenever they need it.
“Our generation is becoming more about experience, rather than consumption and ownership. It’s this interesting time where we are seeing people not wanting to fill their house with stuff.”
Now you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking. Won’t lenders feel afraid that their belongings might be broken or stolen by borrowers?
Surprisingly, this rarely happens! Most people who come on to platforms similar to Quupe’s are coming on to do well. They’re not wanting to defraud people. The types of people who are drawn to this platform are those you can just automatically trust just by virtue of the fact that they’re there at all. So, it’s a whole community based on a trust system.
(But to encourage more people to lend their items, Quupe also offers a guarantee for everything that goes on the platform, insuring up to $2500 if something happens to go wrong.)
🔑 LESSONS LEARNED
If you have something that you’re passionate about, you will find ways to continue saying yes and getting ‘yeses’ out of people.
With her first startup, Supersnack, there were a lot of moments where things seemed to be impossible. Her experience taught her the value of perseverance. Angela kept leaning or doors and windows until opportunities would open.
As an entrepreneur, you have to be comfortable with being in that limbo wondering if your startup is going to take off.
Probably every entrepreneur struggles with this to some degree, Angela included. It’s a personal challenge for her, not being able to know the answer.
Talk to customers. Spend every single day talking to ideal users and customers.
Make it a part of the daily habit of not just your workday, but the entire company’s workday. It’s easy to get caught up in product development and marketing emails and so forth. But at the end of the day, the face to face time and your connection with the customers to make sure that you’re building something that they absolutely love is everything.
“10 years down the line, I imagine this world where when someone needs like a power washer or a cordless drill they know they can easily and cheaply borrow it from someone rather than buy one themselves. I really love the idea that if we actually make Quupe into a success, it has the power to shift consumption habits for people. We can help reduce the amount of waste from old, cheap consumer products that end up in landfills.”
👣 QUUPE’S NEXT STEPS
In Vancouver, Angela and her team are working to figure out what kind of ideal communities are here and the customers who are likely to adopt their service. Looking beyond Vancouver, they are also figuring out a national rollout strategy and hoping to launch in Toronto in the near future.
Hey I’m Celine, Content Creator for Launch Academy 🚀, Vancouver’s leading startup hub. I’m also a 4th year marketing student at the Sauder School of Business of the University of British Columbia. I love trying new healthy recipes🌱, working on creative projects 🎨, and picking the brains of ambitious and inspiring people 💡. Here, I share my conversations with local entrepreneurs who are making a mark in our community.