Gearo: Bringing new affordability to outdoor recreation

Tech Startup: Gearo's app acts as a fully-featured system for retailers to handle outdoor gear rentals

Tech Startup: Gearo

WHERE: Denver
FOUNDED: 2016

Initial Lightbulb: What Justine and Andrew Barone, Gearo’s wife-and-husband co-founders, first saw as a consumer-facing iPhone app emerged as a back-end service tool for outdoor shops to manage rental gear. “The whole idea was to make gear more accessible,” says Justine Barone, the company’s CEO.

After learning rental shops liked the platform and wanted to use it to manage their rentals, the Barones pressed the pause button in late 2017 to pivot to a new B2B model. “They started asking us if they could use it for all of their transactions, to manage all of their rentals,” Justine Barone says. “They didn’t have any really good options to manage their rentals and were using pen and paper and Xcel.”

Relaunching in June 2018, the Gearo team now includes 10 employees and interns.

In a Nutshell: Gearo’s app has evolved into a fully featured system for retailers to handle outdoor gear rentals. “Basically, it’s a booking platform for these outdoor retailers where they can see all of their rentals in one place and manage their inventory and their customers, and we also have a marketplace component we’re hoping to drive traffic to them with,” Justine Barone says.

Gearo still attracts a growing consumer audience, she adds, dubbing the company “the OpenTable of outdoor gear” that plays matchmaker for rental shops and their potential customers. “We’ve been able to create a community on both sides,” she says. Users simply search by location, time, date and activity and get results from rental shops in the specified area.

The pricing for rental shops varies, and Gearo offers a flexible model. “We work with our retailers on pricing, but generally do either commission, subscription or a combo of both,” Justine Barone says.

The market has responded. “It’s been really, really good,” she says. “It’s been growing quickly. It was definitely a great pivot.”

Gearo’s year-over-year growth was 750 percent from 2018 to 2019, and clients include more than 100 retailers, primarily in the West and encompassing gear for skiing, bicycling, paddle boarding, kayaking and other outdoor activities. “There’s a big need on the ski side,” Justine Barone says, noting that Gearo had to do a second beta test in late 2018 to account for the complexities of ski rentals. “It was a completely different beast.”

But the broader market likes the functionality as well: “They like us because we’re specifically built for retailers, and with retailers. We’ve got a unique value proposition in that sense.”

Gearo moved into gear sales in September 2019. “We’re doing this rent-to-buy cycle and helping to optimize gear sales as well as the rentals,” she says.

For 2020, the plan is “to continue scaling, grow quickly, and really just position ourselves with the retailers to help them optimize their gear as much as possible.”

The Market: Analysts estimate outdoor gear rentals grew 24 percent to $2.1 billion in the U.S. in 2018. Justine Barone notes, “Our potential market includes the retail aspect which is $140 billion, so $145 billion is our TAM [target addressable market].”

Financing: “Today, we’re completely bootstrapped,” she says, “but we won’t be for long.” Fundraising for an angel investment round was underway in late 2019.

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