A new startup is betting that the creative class will flock to rent drones, Google Glass headsets, high-end cameras, and Oculus Rift systems online. New York-based KitSplit is a self-declared "Airbnb for creative equipment" that allows production companies, studios, and individual artists to lease out their unused equipment for short-term periods. The company, which launched in December, takes a 15% commission from the rental of equipment leased online. As of this writing, more than $1 million worth of cameras, drones, and other high-end creative equipment are available through the service.
"I had this idea since I'm someone who rents equipment a lot and do a lot of tech-related artwork and installations," says cofounder Kristina Budelis, a former New Yorker video producer whose "Drone Booth" we previously covered. "I’m always renting or borrowing things, which gets expensive and time consuming." Cofounder Lisbeth Kaufman added that the site was designed to offer a more streamlined experience, available to a wider audience than just friends or work contacts, for the informal leasing of specialized equipment used by videographers.
A DJI Phantom drone can be rented for $150 for 24 hours, a high-end RED Scarlet-X camera for $395, and a Google Glass headset for $30. While most of the items KitSplit members lease belong to the camera family, there are also Arduino systems, microphones, and production RVs for rent. In order to lease equipment, buyers must sign a contract holding them financially responsible if the equipment is damaged or stolen.
At the moment, KitSplit is still geared toward a smaller audience. Rentals are mostly limited to the New York metropolitan area for now, and Kaufman and Budelis are still figuring out the logistics for delivery of equipment. Site users currently have to arrange to pick up and drop off equipment themselves. Much like Airbnb, the founders underscore the vetting of users. Potential users have to submit LinkedIn or Facebook info, and explain why they are interested in participating in the community.
"We want to serve the indie creative industry," Budelis added. "Many of our members are traditional filmmakers, but for people working with Oculus Rift, it’s even harder. We're even seeing increasing overlap between those communities—especially in New York City."
The company is part of a larger wave of startups offering low-cost rentals to creative workers. In California, where drone photography has made (quasi-legal) inroads in the entertainment and real estate industries, several companies offer drone rentals. There's also a number of vendors offering high-end camera rentals. But KitSplit is among the first applying the Airbnb or Uber model to the industry.
KitSplit is currently in beta and plans a public launch later in 2015. The company has received logistical support from New York Women in Film & Television, InSITE fellowships, the DogFish accelerator, Troma Entertainment, and the Big Vision Empty Wallet creative collective.