The rise of online marketplaces is a business trend that continues to perform globally and has seen significant growth during the pandemic. In Australia alone, 9 million households shopped online during 2020, according to a national report into the eCommerce industry, and spend was up 57% on the previous year (Australia Post, Inside Australian Online Shopping, 2021).
Traditionally marketplaces such as eBay and Amazon have offered consumers extensive product choices from a vast option of sellers. More recently, the growth of peer-to-peer service marketplaces, such as Airbnb and Airtasker have changed the game.
Now, there is a new wave of competitors in the marketplace space – the rise of rented goods and services, or “ownership intermediation,” as UQ Master of Business Administration (MBA) alumnus Chris Evans likes to think of it.
Chris founded Quipmo (short for Equipment for the Moment’) in 2017 – a peer-to-peer marketplace that rents surf, bike and snow equipment. The company has gone on to win several awards, including Austrade's Going Global Award at HYPE UQ SPIN Global Sportstech Accelerator in 2019 and Startup News' 'Most Admired Startup of the year' in 2020.
“The idea of ownership intermediation centres on the concept of consuming goods for the period of time that you need them, rather than purchasing them to own” says Chris.
As an avid surfer who has travelled around the world, Chris saw an opportunity for people to access outdoor adventure equipment when they are travelling, or even in their hometown if they are wanting to try new activities without needing to carry or buy their own expensive gear.
With thousands of listings across 21 countries and tens of thousands of social media followers, Quipmo is surfing a surge of success with an outdoor-motivated market. The company also has lined up major strategic partnerships with world sporting tours and national and state peak sporting bodies.
“Hire gear already exists, but it’s incredibly hard to book equipment online. No one wants to cold call or walk around for long periods of time looking for gear that is perfect for them. Quipmo is a natural extension of what people are already doing,” says Chris.
The challenges of running an online marketplace
Chris admits that while the idea of launching a marketplace business model sounds appealing given the successes of the likes of Uber and Airbnb, it presents an often deeply underestimated set of challenges to a single-sided e-commerce venture.
“Starting an online marketplace business model has at least twice as many challenges as a normal business – given the need to attract both supply and demand. However, the upside is there if you can make it work,” says Chris.
“You need to be pragmatic to growth and use small incremental steps as your measures of success – it’s important to celebrate the fact you are moving forward and creating change.”
In a rapidly expanding digital world with so much choice, Chris believes trust is a vital element that needs to be continually fostered.
“Trust is huge, which strategically is challenging. You need to have social proof and credibility before you even begin to source suppliers for the platform.”
“Building trust for Quipmo has been a two-fold process: firstly, building a social media presence and brand identity is a must; and secondly, strategic partnerships with well-respected brands such as sporting world tours and national peak sporting bodies helps provide a level of reassurance to vendors and customers,” says Chris.
A particularly proud moment for Chris has been the accessibility Quipmo provides to communities and charities to use the marketplace as a sustainable funding model.
“The platform provides all sorts of benefits to many parts of the community,” says Chris.
“It provides new income streams for a wide variety of people and organisations. We have many charities who rent out their gear.”
The MBA that helped Chris launch his business
“My career definitely changed after I completed my MBA – which was when I started thinking about establishing a business.”
“Studying countless business case studies during the UQ MBA gave me a wonderful insight into an incredibly broad range of companies, across industries and across business models.”
“Being around smart and motivated people in my cohort gave me the confidence to validate my ideas and to set my business up,” says Chris.
The future looks bright for Quipmo, with bold plans for expansion.
“Australia represents our biggest number of listings, followed by Peru interestingly. However, solidifying our efforts right across Australia and New Zealand will continue to be our immediate focus.” says Chris.
“I’m incredibly excited for our next steps and can’t wait to see Quipmo’s future unfold.”