Kelsey Kerr believes the stuff that’s sitting in closets, cabinets and basements can stop collecting dust, and start getting used by others. In the meantime, it can also generate some money.
In May, Kerr and a small team launched Nearby, an app that helps facilitate transactions involving everyday stuff, like tools or stuff for the kitchen. While there is an option to sell items, the app also allows short-term rentals. Effectively, it allows people to pay to borrow an item.
The idea, Kerr said, is to save money — whether it’s saving an outright purchase or recouping costs for people who bought stuff that is sitting around. Kerr believes D.C. is an ideal place to launch since it has lots of people moving in and out.
“This app is really going to apply to people who are straight out of college or just moved to a new area…Those people would be target users,” she said.
Kerr found a need for such a service in her own life, whether it was to borrow a food processor for a potluck or camping gear for a weekend trip. She started working on it about a year ago with cofounder Kei Sakaguchi. They split up development duties, with Kerr handling Android development and Sakaguchi working on iOs. Kerr left a job as a software engineer at the Washington Post in May, and Nearby launched in D.C. a few days later.
The service requires a willingness to lend out stuff to people you may not know. The initial concept was to allow only for requests, but Kerr said they made changes as a result of feedback from people who said they would willingly post items.
“A lot of people wanted the ability to go and list their stuff,” Kerr said.
Need an egg to finish that recipe? Vanilla extract? A pinch of cinnamon? Download Nearby and start sharing today! pic.twitter.com/i2Ia8uO4z9
— Nearby (@thenearbyapp) June 20, 2017
Along with those listings, the version that launched sends push alerts about recent requests in the area. For users looking to borrow, it shows items that are available in a user’s vicinity using geolocation. The two people involved can negotiate the price. The company makes money via a fee of 14 percent + $.30 on each transaction.
Kerr is aware of a potential competitor in Denver, but right now the team’s focus is growing where they are. That involves getting out and meeting folks who could become users. Along with meetups and other tech events, Kerr said they also picked up a spike in downloads at the Glover Park Day neighborhood festival.
“We’ve definitely found that the face-to-face interaction results in more people downloading,” she said.
The startup is also exploring launching on college campuses, and is raising money via Kickstarter.