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Uber for Everything (diegobasch.com)
114 points by jamesjyu on Aug 23, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 127 comments



The abundance (of mostly idle drills) the author points to is one of the main ideas behind Kropotkin's mutualism ("anarcho-communism"). Industrialization and agricultural breakthroughs have produced such plenty that it is inexcusable that anybody wants for, well, any common need. In a mutual system, the drill belongs to nobody, and it is taken and used as needed. Idealism? Surely. But many anarchists would tell you that anarchism is an ideal, a goal, more than it is a destination to be arrived at in short order.

So, I'd much rather see a tools co-op than yet another tools rental service; perhaps I fail at capitalism in seeing this as something other than a startup opportunity. Maybe this is what the author is getting at, but the article is couched in startup language.


> Idealism? Surely. But many anarchists would tell you that anarchism is an ideal, a goal, more than it is a destination to be arrived at in short order.

It always struck me, that so many people discard the idea of anarchism either as "a teenage rebel idealism", terrorism, or simply "not going to work". Hence they go back to capitalism or however things work today.

But in the end, what anarcho-communism is trying to achieve is what most of us would agree with: eliminate poverty and exploitation (via equal rights to access means of production), let people have control over their own lives, direct democracy and self-organization. And when people say it's not going to work, it saddens me that we are not even trying to move in that direction. Of course, it may not ever happen, but innovating in this direction surely could lead us to a better world.

Of course, don't take my word for it, as I'm obviously biased. Instead research the topic if you're interested.


  But in the end, what anarcho-communism is trying to achieve is what most of us would agree with: eliminate poverty and exploitation (via equal rights to access means of production)
You can replace the words 'anarcho-capitalism' with every single other political system, and you'd reach the same ideal endpoint. Everything promises fairness. People don't simply dismiss anarchism as 'teenage rebel idealism' because they're unaware of your notions of endpoint, they disagree with it because of inherent flaws (namely that money tends to lead to more money, and any system devoid of oversight or regulation will inevitably lead to a power structure built around those already with power).

There is no panaceatic system -- only the continual tamping of natural power leavening. To claim that your system, above others, will achieve a system that brings about permanent fairness is to belie a shallow consideration for how power accumulates.


Note 'anarcho-communism', not -capitalism. In fairness, I am opposed to anarcho-capitalism for the reason you outlined above:

> namely that money tends to lead to more money

In general, yes - there is no such thing as "panaceatic system", instead I was suggesting to trying to find different methods, organization structures to lower the possibility of (or in ideal world eliminating) power accumulation.


Actually, plenty of anarcho-capitalists basically do disagree on the nature of fairness, and therefore on the very metric on which we want the economy run.


The problem I have with anarcho-communism is that it is identical to the tribalism and village/clan based ways of organizing society that we have progressed out of.

The basic enforcement mechanism under every a-c system I have ever read is to "drive them out of town." Thieves, rapists, ect will be banished from group. We have only to look to the past to see just horrible of a system that can be for people who have a different skin color, sexual orientation, ect from the dominant group.


Anarchism without pacifism is a contradiction, and pure anarchism can only succeed as far as can pure pacifism. Neither are likely to happen, so again, they are more ideals that should influence a more virtuous way of living, and perhaps governing, than near goals to be achieved by force or distance. As such, it's pretty obvious that "driving them out" is as far from virtue or pacifism as you can get, and is totally counter to the spirit of volunteerism. Neither imprisonment nor exile are tolerable solutions for the pacifist.


> Anarchism without pacifism is a contradiction

Please expound on this - that statement sounds unintuitive and generally the opposite of what I'd expect


Anarchism rejects coercion. Pacifism rejects violence, including coercion. They go hand-in-hand. Why would you expect anarchism to be the opposite of pacifism?


Probably because its easy to conflate Anarchism, a clear ideology, with anarchy, a state of social/political/governmental organization that may coincide with Anarchist ideology, but may also more closely resemble Hobbes' state of nature: "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short."


So then how would an anarchist community deal with attacks one it's members?


Capitalism wins mostly because prices communicate information more efficiently than community meetings. Say your society is running scarce of drills, how do people coordinate another drill being manufactured? Maybe someone just likes making drills, but what about more messy things like sewage or garbage or elderly care. Capitalism solves these problems more efficiently. It is more efficient for us all to have a drill than it is for you to waste time going to walk for a drill, finding it not there, etc.


Capitalism doesn't "win"; just like anarchism, it has downsides. In anarchism, as you said, nothing has market value, so priorities are nebulous. Well, the downfall of capitalism (from an ethical standpoint) is that everything has a price, including human life, labor, and injury.

Ethically, I prefer the side of the fence that grimaces at such valuation, even if things are less efficient for that side. Why? Well, because on the other side, the greatest efficiencies are only accessible to the wealthiest people: There is an "efficiency" (quality of life) gradient that is directly tied to personal wealth, and it's disgusting. We've known for a long time now that wealth does not necessarily follow virtue or hard work.

Is there something particular about sewers that prohibits them from being public works? Further, no moral society allows sewage to be solved by pure capitalism, because the obvious consequence would be to let the poor rot in their own filth. Sadly, in many parts of the world, this is the case.

A glance at the world's countless poor and downtrodden shows that global capitalism is a miserable failure, so I think it's unfair to point out theoretic deficiencies of anarchism or other systems as reason to persist with the status quo. "Don't point out the splinter in another's eye when there is a log in your own."


I upvoted you not because I agree with your counter point, but that it adds to the discussion.

I'm a minarchist/anacro-capitalist/geolibertarian somewhere near there anyway, so I understand your left-anarchism point of view. When I say "win" I was referring to the original comment about the overproduction of drills. When evaluated for wether or not it is efficient to have community shared drills vs individually owned drills.

It doesn't matter to me what someone's personal wealth is. At all. If there were an extra terrestrial that had a vast, planet sized space ship just past pluto I wouldn't be jealous of it. I wouldn't claim it. It is his, why should it matter to me?

The only wealth I take issue with is wealth that was created through fraud, like the original bankers that created fractional reserve lending.

People that don't want the poor to suffer should help the poor. I think the best way to help poor countries is to introduce libertarian-style capitalism (as opposed to state-sponsored or fascist capitalism). The poor need contracts, safety, skills, literacy, communication, and industry; these will lift them up from poverty. Not community drills that don't scale, and lead to the poor staying poor.


Capitalism doesn't "win", it just has a greater tendency to take over the world.


  So, I'd much rather see a tools co-op than yet 
  another tools rental service
Having visited my local hackspace I discovered that machines are easily broken and time-consuming to repair, especially when you rely on skilled volunteers doing repairs in their free time.

They had several broken rapid prototyping machines, lathes, drill presses and similar.

I think things getting broken is inevitable, and if I expect other people to fix the things I broke it only seems fair for me to give them something for their trouble. So for-profit tool loans seem like the common sense path IMHO.


Hackerspaces tend to be such "tools co-op", even if often the work is done on-place.


You're welcome to come and borrow my drill any time.


After having seen the following talk with Noam Chomsky, I said to myself "I should really learn more about the history of anarchism and the causes and conditions of its demise".

Who is Chomsky's Favorite Anarchist? http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P8KpRb38Uks


There is a tool rental service close to home. Unfortuately it costs a third of the price to rent it for a day, so I end up buying the tools even if I need them for a week and I know I'll never ever need them again (I"m renovating my house).


Reminds me of something Paul Graham said a few months ago:

"Will ownership turn out to be largely a hack people resorted to before they had the infrastructure to manage sharing properly?"

https://twitter.com/paulg/status/323875236225363968


Communes have been sharing things properly as long as mankind has been around. The trick here is that we have redefined 'properly' as accountably, but it need not keep the beancounters happy and you can still share stuff. The taxman hates that kind of thing, they like to see receipts.


I'd say communes are small scale, and the dynamics of efficiently sharing among a larger number of people are fundamentally different.


Some Ashrams are huge, and that's only one form of commune. A quick bit of googling turned up Auroville, 2000 inhabitants.


"Huge" in context, sure, but compared to the rest of the world? 2,000 inhabitants is impressive and all, but that solution couldn't possibly scale to 10 million.


That's cool. Can this scale to 2,000,000,000?


Does setting up 100,000 communes count?


That counts, however, unless each commune is completely independent, you run into meta issues of interactions between communes. Specifically: unless we take incredibly restrictive precautions to ensure equality, there will always be some losers and some winners.


Um, don't we already have things set up to share things properly and call them Libraries?

In Oakland there is the Tool Lending Library, where you can borrow tools from a screw driver all the way up to gas lawn mowers, electric trimmers, etc.

So, we know we can cover books, magazines, music, and tools. What other things does it make sense to stick in the library?


Furniture. We throw a party, on average, once a month. It's nice to have chairs and a table for these, so we have a table and six chairs, which we use approximately 3% of the time.


These are problems and solutions created by a very weak American social fabric that no longer has any meaningful element larger than the nuclear family. See Robert Putnam's "Bowling Alone."

When I stay with my cousins in India, they can borrow anything they need on pretty short notice. We wanted to play chess -- my cousin went a few doors down to borrow their chess board. He saw that the cardboard chess board was falling apart -- he spent about half an hour fixing it up with tape.

The closest that you see in America, since the days of Elks Lodges and bowling leagues are behind us, are religious communities. Mormons, for example, have a very tight-knit community of friends that they see frequently. Forget a power drill -- if your house burns down, your fellow Mormons will be there in an hour to get you housed/clothed/fed/taken care of.


I would argue that at scale and density, Airbnb has the chance to create a community like this.


AirBNB is all about transience, though - I'm not going to join a community by staying at someone's house for two days. At best, if there's a strong mutual enjoyment, I'd end up making an acquaintance I might grab a drink with if I'm passing through that city again.


The drill example is a good one. I'm currently building a pergola. It's nearly complete, but I need to cut a few more pieces from 4x4s at a 45 degree angle. Somehow I did a decent job of this already on a few pieces with my handheld circular saw, but it's just not the right tool for the job. I screwed up a few times trying last night. What I really need is a chopsaw that will cut @ 45 degrees perfectly well.

I could go buy a chopsaw. I will probably keep using it on occasion. But it's another $200 or so and - I'd rather just borrow one from a friend. But I don't really know who of my friends has a chopsaw I can borrow, I don't want to invest the time to figure that out and then go and get it, and tool rental is ridiculously expensive, and it doesn't generally deliver without even more ridiculous expense.

I also need a nail gun, and the good ones are all air powered, which means I need a compressor, too. Again, I could go rent this stuff, but I want it delivered, and I don't want to pay a price that is pretty close to what it would cost to just buy the tool!

I have several power tools I rarely use. If I could sign up for a service that would let me loan my tools out and borrow tools from others that also join the service, and if the tool sharing service delivered and picked up tools from my home and I requested what I want and made known what I have via an app, I'd sign up right away.

I think it could be done with little cost to the end user.

So - Uber for everything - yes - and Uber for powertools - give it to me now!


> Again, I could go rent this stuff, but I want it delivered, and I don't want to pay a price that is pretty close to what it would cost to just buy the tool!

This is probably the biggest problem with a sharing/renting economy.

Manufacturing has gotten to the point where producing an object is so inexpensive, it's cheaper to buy than rent. But why should that be? At any given production cost, why isn't it still cheaper to produce fewer and let multiple people use them, either via a renting system or something else? You're making fewer objects and still satisfying demand, so why doesn't this save money?

The reason is the labor and real estate costs of administering such a system. You need people to staff the rental/sharing agency. You also need a conveniently-located (and thus expensive) building where people go to pick up and return the objects. Or, if you're doing delivery, you can choose a more out-of-the-way location, but now you're paying the labor cost of drivers.

Because the overhead of running a sharing system is so high, it's actually cheaper most of the time to allocate one of each object to each person, except for the most expensive objects.


  The reason is the labor and real estate costs of 
  administering such a system.
There's also the question of damage an incentives. If I own a nonstick frying pan, I've got every incentive not to scratch the nonstick coating, and if I do it won't hurt anyone but me. If I loan my nonstick frying pan out to 10 people and expect it to come back without any scratches on the nonstick coating, I'd probably be disappointed.


Yes, this is definitely a problem with rental equipment. Most rented tools I've used are in bad shape, though still usable on a one-off basis.

Rental companies tend to charge for excessive damage to the tools (if they bother to inspect the tools upon return). So that can help to align the incentives.

But it doesn't work as well with individuals lending to each other. Think of all the bad eBay experiences people have reported. The reputation system was supposed to solve that, but apparently it hasn't.

I take good care of my tools, and I wouldn't lend them to a stranger. Especially knowing that I'm not guaranteed payment in the event of loss or damage.


This is why a tool sharing service could work. Users would only be paying for the inventory management (an automated system, an app that keeps track of which tool is in which users' home), and - optional delivery - via an uber like service. They would willingly contribute tools they already own to the library of available tools. The capital used to buy the tools will have already been contributed by the users who own the tools they share. In exchange for sharing, they get to borrow tools they don't have. Those who have no tools to offer to the pool would have to pay a little more, and the service could use collected money from those who don't have any "credits" for contributing tools to purchase the most requested but unavailable tools to add to the sharing pool. There would be no central place where the tools are stored, they will just be stored in the homes of subscribers to the service.


> Uber for powertools - give it to me now!

The Home Depot in North America already rents out all those tools. You can usually do it for 4 hours or a day at a time.

I've done this for jack hammers, paint sprayers, post hole augers and concrete mixers. As long as you live near one then it works well.

The best thing about this is the price, very cheap. You can even rent minor tools like drills:)

I guess home delivery would be the next step?


I would not say that Home Depot is necessarily cheap for tool rentals. For example, I'm looking to rent a floor prep tool and it's almost 100 for the day (I'm cheap!).


> "and I don't want to pay a price that is pretty close to what it would cost to just buy the tool!"

Why not pay the full price for the tool + delivery (handled by some monthly membership fee, maybe) to keep it as long as you like, and then push a button on your phone and someone shows up from the service to "buy it back" and return it to the cloud. You'd essentially be paying a deposit to cover the item, and then get the money back when the service got it back.

I'd liken this more to the original "netflix-for-everything", with a dash of exec/uber-for-everything.


You could do this p2p without having to have a central storage of all the tools. Assuming the scale is large enough, there should always be things available that you want. That also covers deprecation in value. The central service could charge a small amount and handle disputes, etc, and come with ratings of how reliable someone is.

You could call it something like eBay.


A less centralized version of that would just be to make it really frictionless to resell things. So when I need the drill for once in a year, I pop uberlocalbuy, buy a drill from someone near me and either pick it up or pay for delivery. After I am done with it, there is an easy way to immediately relist the drill (possibly with an automatically computed depreciation of its value), and then the next person buys it from me.


That's basically eBay + a tool to automatically create listings.


I sort of see CraigsList as a rough version of this already. Buy a coffee table for as long as you want it, then sell it again when done.


I just went through this with a desk I built: https://twitter.com/jlongster/status/370760915735420928. I spent way too many hours balancing my tool budget. I had to do exactly the same thing: cut 4x4s with a circular saw. I also had to make several crappy jigs for various uses.

I would love a real tool rental service that had everything and at good prices.

EDIT: my 4x4 cuts were straight. I can't imagine trying to do a 45deg cut with a circular saw...


Home Depot has pretty cheap tool rental, I'm sure some other hardware stores do as well.


Home Depot's tool rentals are not cheap, they do not get delivered, and they are only for tools that are VERY expensive and usually large and bulky otherwise - things like stumpgrinders and trenchers, concrete saws and jackhammers.


Your desk looks really beautiful :) What species of wood did you use, and what did you stain it with?


Thanks! It's my first serious wood project.

I used red oak for everything but the legs, which are cedar. I didn't know this until now, but untreated 4x4s are hard to find, much less made of oak. I finally found some at the local specialty lumber factory, but they only had cedar and redwood, and cedar was cheaper. It stains so differently, but I think I got it come out ok. A benefit is that it's a soft wood and much lighter, so the overall weight isn't too bad.

I used General Finish's oil-based stains. First coat is Mahogany (where most of the color comes from), and the second coat American Walnut. When wiping off the second coat, it seemed to remove some of the first coat color sometimes, which was weird (I let the first coat dry for 24 hours). But it's mostly the Mahogany color.

I finished it with 4 coats of Waterlox Tung Oil Finish. That stuff is amazing. It's so easy to apply without any errors, and the tung oil really gives it a rich depth. It's also waterproof. The downside is you have to apply several coats.


Yeah, that's an important point. Tool rental exists now, but they use tools so powerful and rugged that they cost an order of magnitude or two more than your consumer-grade tool. And because of their high cost and the normal overhead of running any rental business, they end up offering rental for the same price as you can own a lower-quality lighter tool. And the lower-quality tools are still pretty good. They're a little light on power, and they will break after a lot of usage... but if you had a lot of usage planned you wouldn't be looking to rent either.


Unless you can rent from someone who undercharges for the cost of the wear and tear due to the high usage. People can be hard on rentals.


Here you go: https://www.1000tools.com - specific to tool rentals and very local.

(disclaimer: I started it)


I'm remodeling my house.

I bought most of the tools I use, eg framing nail gun and compressor. I have bought some tools used, like the PEX (plumbing) expanders. For me, buying is cheaper than renting.

I don't know how long I'll need the tools. And I've been very careful to buy models and brands with high resale value.

The contractors I hire often rent tools. Because they're pros. They know the task, correctly estimate the duration, get the job done, and return the tool. When the tool breaks, it's not their problem. And they can pass the rental costs thru to me.


I think this line of thinking, while interesting, is backwards-looking.

One of the major advancements of mankind was precisely being able to manufacture goods at a minimal marginal cost. Set up a billion dollar stamping machine and now you can produce widgets for a marginal cost of a few cents.

Compare that to centuries past where manufacturing goods of any kind- metal, clothing, or food took enormous amounts of resources compared to today and therefore goods were either too expensive to purchase, or had to be shared. Ironically, computers are probably the single best example of this. Previously they were complex and expensive to make, so the fortunate few who had access to one had to share it. Nowadays you can go to Best Buy and buy your own for a few hundred bucks. That is a huge leap in progress. Why would you want to move the other way?


That's a different use case. Computer owners usually use their computers every single day for multiple hours, while drill owners, unless they are professionals or hobbyists in construction, use them very rarely, maybe once or twice a year.


But the cost is vastly different as well. You can get a drill at Wal-Mart for under $40 and it barely takes up any room. People's time is a lot more expensive than the drill so there will never be a time that it will be economical to pay somebody to do just that for you instead of buying a drill and doing it yourself.


Abundant commodities, energy, and capital make low cost mass manufacture possible.

There are numerous items consumers, buy, use a few times, and then discard or store. There are even more items consumers use, and due to poor quality turn in to trash.

I'm not sure which is more backwards thinking. I am annoyed when something breaks and the cost to repair it exceeds the replacement cost.


This works for most goods, but some goods still cost $1k+ to manufacturer and need to be manufactured at some level of quality to be of value to the user. Also, even if these goods could be manufacture cheaply, do I really want to own, store, and maintain all of these items? There are many things that maybe I could purchase and own. Just because I can, doesn't mean I want to. Examples: -A $1500 bouncy castle -A floor sander -Safe and high quality ocean kayak -100 folding chairs


I'm in total agreement- and as such just about everything you listed you would rent instead of buying, and businesses exist to rent them out. When the purchase price drops below some point, it becomes cheaper to buy and own than to rent and so the economics of trying to lend or rent them just don't work out.

There is also a middle ground. For example, many people choose to rent their washer and dryer or living room furniture while most people purchase it. But for an item like a $20 drill, I don't think there is a point at which the small amount of room it takes up outweighs the cost and inconvenience of having somebody come and create the holes for you. Which goes back to my original point- this logic is backwards-looking. There may have been some time in the past when you simply didn't have a tool to make holes so you would have to hire somebody. But because people's time is expensive (as well as the tools) the invention of a battery-operated drill would be viewed as a huge leap in convenience. Now I can just go out to the garage and get my own and in ten minutes do the job that would have previously been very costly.


Most people use their computers a lot more frequently than their power drills, even now when power drills are cheap.


"Communism doesn't work because people like to own stuff." - Frank Zappa

Uber, Groupon, and the other spoilage / sharing successes are amazing, world changing businesses.

But we're not going to live in a binary future.

Some downsides that are immediately apparent in the drill analogy:

(a) Convenience - You wait for the drill (b) Exclusivity - Everybody can own the drill (you're not special) (c) Privacy - Using the drill winds up in somebody's database.

Consumerism will chug along and the sharing-economy will grow along side it, because people will want a choice, and many will continue to want to OWN.


> Uber, Groupon, and the other spoilage / sharing successes are amazing, world changing businesses.

So are Modo, City Carshare, and numerous bikeshare implementations. Except not businesses.

> Exclusivity - Everybody can own the drill (you're not special)

This is different from the current case when you buy a drill for <$100 how? It's a largely-non-consumable commodity.


I think the author hasn't researched the topic very well - there are a ton of startups who have tried this "stuff-sharing/selling model" and it hasn't really worked out.

I wrote a blog post about why a drill is a bad example for the sharing economy: https://www.credport.org/blog/12-Why-a-Drill-is-a-Bad-Exampl...


Your post and outlook on this problem is the result of your definition of "sharing economy" being too narrowly focused.

To me it seems most people interested in the sharing economy only care about to talk about sharing if both sides of the transaction are individuals. If you're open to the idea that the sharing economy could be a transaction between a business and individual, then the market for temporary product rentals suddenly becomes a $40B space. This is nothing new, either. Small businesses have been renting out to other businesses and individuals since the 1950s. And, it's an existing $40B+ industry.

So while sure, peer to peer rentals for small items might never work, that's not to say that an "Uber for rentals" model wouldn't work. Uber started by bringing existing limo drivers online... not by trying to create a new supply side.

Edit: I also find the conclusion and only looking at drills to also be too narrow of a conclusion. Seems like most people when they look at tools only think about power drills. Totally agree that there isn't a $2B market for power drill rentals. However, there is a massive market for all other types of tool rentals.


The Uber for Everything is called Craigslist.

It's a fairly efficient market which means you can generally buy a used drill for the same price that you can sell it for.


Who want to deal with spending, at minimum, two hours of time to buy and then sell a $40 item, when you can just buy the $40 item and keep it on a shelf.


This is, I think, the most important point. The fact is when considered as a single transaction: the $22 drill vs. the $22 guy that comes out drills holes may seem like a wash. But given a usage interval of 6 months and a likely life span for the tool of 5-10 years, you are looking a $220-$440 cost for the service. If your goal is not to profit off people who don't own tools, but rather maximize use of existing tools, and somehow you can make the whole thing work without charging anyone a dime, you are still converting a 5 minute job (pull the drill out of your storage box, and drill 5 holes) into hour or so job (fire up the app, request a drill, it tells you where the nearest one it, you go there and get it, go home, drill your holes, then store it, then some time later you get notified by the app that someone needs the drill so you stay home while that person comes by to pick it up.) Ok, so maybe you could simplify that process, but most of the simplifications still impose time penalties, or costs. The point is, for me, after two jaunts through the process I'd start seeing $22 for my own drill as a bargain.

The whole approach would be more likely to work the more expensive the tool (or other object) and the less frequent your need. Thats why car share services work in cities with 1M+ population, but not in the town of 2000 I live in.

The other thing is informal stuff like this happens all the time. I don't own a MIG welder, but my brother does. He doesn't own a plasma cutter but he has a friend that does. Neither of them own a tubing bender, but I do. So tool sharing is common among existing social peer groups, and it works without an "uber" because there is existing trust within the group that if I borrow and break the welder, I'll pay to repair it. When you lend to strangers, you would need a group to guarantee that your $1200 welder will come back in one piece.


You & the parent comment both offer great points. When looking at them together, along with the OP's article & many others on the "sharing economy", you see there still remains great opportunity & challenges in the almost inevitable "Sharing Economy"


This has been tried so many times, and failed. I suspect that the reason is that it's just not a big deal to buy and have tools you use rarely. Compare that to the cost of owning a car, which includes insurance, maintenance, parking, and not to mention the actual purchase price. That makes car sharing much more valuable, like orders of magnitude more valuable.


It won't work in areas of low density - the convenience and per-transaction cost would be lost. But in dense cities with an ability to deliver in an hour/day to/from your door, it could be very nice. I would get rid of quite a bit of my stuff that I never use, but I keep around in case I buy a desk, or move, etc.


To me, the drill example misses a crucial point about cars. Cars are a pain in the ass to own. First you need a license. Then you need insurance. You need to get it checked up once a year. You need to park it every day and night. You need to refuel it every so often. So Uber doesn't only solves the transportation problem. It relieves you of all these (super) annoying chores and is much more convenient for a lot of people. But uber for drills? Brings more problems than it solves at an individual level imo.


How is this different from what craigslist does?

Searching for "drill rent" in the NYC page reveals http://newhaven.craigslist.org/tls/3961251107.html


It'd have a beautiful flat-design iOS app, delighting users.


Craigslist has no persistence of reputation, so you don't know whether you're dealing with a timewaster or a professional. I find selling things on Craigslist incredibly annoying, with most people just dropping out of communciation,.


It's different just like it's different from finding someone to drive you across town on craigslist (or perhaps hiring a random person on the street with a sign) is different from Uber/Hailo/Lyft. On craigslist, I don't know the person who is renting these tools out, what their reputation for renting things in good condition is, if they're still available, if I can pay with a credit card, and how quickly I can get it and many more questions (Do I have to drive to them? Will they deliver? Do I have to wait until after 6 when they get off work?).


Don't hackerspaces[0] solve this issue? I mean, with hackerspaces, the emphasis is more on building stuff in the space, instead of taking the tools home. But the idea is the same, and it's been around for a while.

[0]: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hackerspace


The car service he describes actually sort of exists. It's car2go and it's around in Amsterdam and London as well.

You rent little electric smarts per minute and get free minutes for putting it back at a charging location. The cars can be put back anywhere in the city though and you can find them using the app which shows you all the locations.


It's not in SF or NYC or Boston, which means hardly anyone on HN or in VCland knows about it.


It will likely be in some of those places soon; they've been expanding quite quickly. A motorcycle is the only vehicle I own, and it was the perfect complement for things like groceries, moving small things, vet appointments, etc. I used it in Austin, and I miss it dearly in LA.


I've thought of putting together a "Netflix for tools" where you order a tool, it gets sent to you with a returnable box and label and you send it back when you're done. A drill is a bad example though. I wouldn't stock commodity tools like drills and saws, it'd be things you're going to have to order online anyway, like tools made specifically for one car.

A good example that I could use right now is a BMW airbag reset tool. I stupidly disconnected an airbag when replacing my window regulator. Now I need a very basic, $20 on eBay, electronic tool to reset the system and get rid of the warning light. I'd pay $10 to have it by the weekend when I'll do the work, and it could be used many, many times over. Every German car I've ever owned had similar electrical and mechanical specialty tools I've had to buy and can't use when I get a new car.


The article addresses a very common problem. Drills are not the best example of tools to rent, since they relatively cheap and you use them quite often. I personally have gone through this thought process every time I worked on my car and needed new expensive tools that are used once. When I moved to a house, I always needed equipment (not only tools) on a short term basis. This is why I started https://www.1000tools.com I wanted to be able to rent tools [specifically tools] from people around me and couldn't find a good enough solution. So, we built our solution.

It's live and open in select cities, 8 weeks old startup.


Not to be overly philosophical, but this problem was more or less created by the urbanization of human culture. I live in a small town in Maine and telecommute to my job. If I need a tool, before I ever even think of hitting up Amazon or Home Depot, I ask around.

Problem solved. Live in communities where your peer group is varied enough that you're likely to be friends with someone with what you don't have and this is a non-issue.

Of course, that's not realistic for the vast majority of the U.S. So I suppose, good luck. I'm gonna go chat with my neighbor about something and see if needs any help.


Hm, diminishing the importance of exclusive ownership? Sharing and optimization of utilization? Doesn't sound very American or capitalistic to me. What's next, long term sustainability and planning? Sounds like socialism, if not communism!

It is kind of ironic that now there is a for-profit, commercial product based on the concept that has been so stigmatized during the Cold War. Perhaps rebranding is what it will take for a less consumerist, less wasteful and more efficient society that can survive global warming and overpopulation.


Capitalism has always been about maximizing utility. It's just that as transaction costs are falling thanks to the internet and other tech, more effective sharing becomes possible. Note that it would still rely on ownership of the capital good itself as well as the sharing marketplace, to avoid the tragedy of the commons.


It actually sounds very capitalistic to me. It's no less capitalist than people than timeshares for vacation proprieties, or people in airplane clubs who jointly own a small plane that they all share.


Markets like "Airbnb for drilling holes in my wall" will take off once we have self-driving cars. Right now to order a "hole in my wall" you need to pay:

1) A human's time to come to you 2) A human's time to drill the hole 3) Capex for the drilling machine

Self driving car tech can solve point 1, which would leave a huge incentive to solve point 2. Even a low cost worker can easily cost $50K all-in (including overhead), so if self driving car tech is commonplace that would mean a "robot that drills holes and knows how to drive itself to the customer's wall" can cost up to $50K / risk adjusted interest rate.

Take interest rate at 10%, that means the market will pay upto $500K per such robot, multiply by a few of those in a few hundred cities and you now have a market oppotunity for 1000 hole drilling robots i.e. 500 million USD. It now becomes interesting for VCs.

Now redo this scenario for every little thing people do in life. Of course eventually someone who will invent the "iPhone for robots", a base robot that does the self driving and developers can make apps on top of it to do different tasks. The robot can go back to base to retool when needed.

This is why I am convinced self-driving cars will take automation to a whole new level. I think PG is right when he says ownership could turn out to be a temporary hack for efficient crowd sharing. (I am saying this as a 100% capitalist.)


There are a lot of people trying to do this. Namenotrequired mentioned https://peerby.com/ but there are others:

http://snapgoods.com/ http://us.zilok.com/ http://www.openshed.com.au/ http://irent2u.com/ http://www.hirethings.co.nz/ http://rentalic.com/ http://www.rentstuff.com/ http://www.loanables.com/ http://www.rentoid.com/

And that's just the ones who are still trying. Many domains are dead.

And honestly, I suspect that they'll all fail. "Rent anything" is too big of a problem for a startup to solve in one fell swoop. I think someone could succeed at it if they picked a market that is really underserved by other existing options and focus on just a small set of goods, in a specific geographic area, and really work the kinks out before slowly expanding.

Becoming the go-to place for tool rentals in San Francisco before your team burns out is doable. Becoming the "rent anything from anyone" company is not.


I wonder if it is too much for Amazon to take on though. The OP mentioned buying a drill with Amazon Prime which is almost on demand use of the tool.

What if Amazon had a "Rent for 4 hours for $5" option on their site (right below the buy button).


How do you imagine them picking the item up when you're done? You wait for the UPS guy? 1 hour pick up time slots? You go to their drop-off location?


Put it back in the box and back outside the door where it was dropped off, and the next delivery guy to come by picks it up. My apartment building already gets multiple deliveries from Amazon each day, so partial-day rentals are theoretically possible without any more visits.

It'd be a logistics nightmare, but Amazon seems to be really good at solving those.


NeighBorrow was trying to do this, but it looks like they've gone from "share the things you don't need with your neighbors" to "pay us a montly price and when you need something you'll get it."

They're over at http://beta.neighborrow.com/

Disclosure: I used to be contracted as a developer by the guy running it. I wasn't the best developer then, but I was a lot younger too.


Honestly, wishing to absolve yourself of common tools? Shame on you.

I've driven back and forth across the country twice with everything in the trunk of a Honda Civic and still brought a drill with me both times. $13 will get you a corded drill (no battery to wear out) at Harbor Fright. While you're there, get a few more simple hand tools you may need someday.

People should strive to own more tools and learn to do at least some things for themselves. It sounds like this guy's actual problem is that he needs to pick up that drill and start using it more without too much planning. Imagine how good of a coder you'd be if you had to schedule an hour ahead and pay $10 every time you saved a file!

Spend some time in LA if you'd like to see the broken society that develops from outsourcing everything to services performed by cheap labor. Utterly disempowered people floating through life afraid of doing anything besides what they're told, because they have no clue how anything actually functions. And it's not like they save time either, dealing with administrative overhead for every little task and invariably supervising the worker from the shade.


Sounds like you missed the point of the article. It's not about not being able to use the tools, just letting them collect dust in your shed.


A lot of this stuff is already in place, perhaps without a spiffy iOS app. You can rent all kinds of tools from Home Depot, and there are lots of places which rent dinnerware.

For example, my wife and I have dinner service for 9 in our house, so when we threw a sandwich luncheon for 30, we rented three dozen plates and punch glasses for 24 hours. I think it was about $40, and it was way nicer than using disposables.


One aspect of Uber that I think is missed as key, is not necessarily sharing, they are offering an existing service, a taxi service. It was there before, you share a taxi, you don't own it. What they did here is to take a very old industry and, well, disrupt it. They make it look elegant (home page looks like a fashion site), easy to use, rating of drivers makes sure quality is high, and no need to tip is a big thing, I hate when taxi drivers complain that I only left 15% and not 20% as if it's mandatory.

Uber make the Taxi service better, more modern, that's all, and it's good enough.

The next Uber IMHO will do the same for another service, any other service, that things like getting your service provider's photo in advance, following their arrival on GPS, no need for cash or credit cards due to a one click payment, known and final quote and pricing, and ability to rate them without the need to answer a recorded phone call with 10 questions, will have value to customers.

Any service that follows this, sharing drills or not, will have a good chance of making it big IMHO.


Sounds like you could just sell your drill!

It all comes down to how much money/headaches are you saving. Let's say the temporary drill/hole making service costs half as much as getting a drill itself ($11 for the service instead of $22 for the drill). If you need to put another shelf in, the service would cost as much as getting the drill in the first place! Also, is it more convenient as a service? Are you sure you want to deal with getting a person to go to your place to put a hole in? Sometimes, I don't want to deal with people and I don't want to wait. Is it worth the effort of ordering on your phone and waiting a hour every time you want to use a drill? Are you saving money in the long run?

I don't think everything can be put in the fancy schmancy "sharing economy." It comes to one simple principle - is something more convenient as a service?

Maybe it is convenient at scale. Maybe renting all the power tools you need or all the equipment you need is more convenient.


I believe that the author is implying, in the first two paragraphs, that they would rather spend more money in the long run than have the drill sitting around unused.


Wow! We're Silicon Valley-based startup and have been working on this idea for several months already! Feel free to join our closed testing that we've recently started: http://yoneibs.com/ or just shoot an email at yo@yoneibs.com (yoneibs@gmail.com)


This is actually pretty interesting


Thanks! Looking forward to have you as one of our beta-testers.


I wonder if a variation of this would work for home-grown produce.

Our house has a 1/4 acre yard, huge garden beds, and a drip system. Even with a household of 6 we've got zucchinis, tomatoes, and lemons coming out the wazoo[1]. Every block in our neighborhood has a few giant avocado trees and more and more people seem to be setting up chicken coops.

On the weekends, my kids will pull their wagon around the neighborhood and sell lemons[2]. On a good day, they'll make $25.

Would be cool if people could request some lemons or eggs and a text could be sent to the closest people who might have them.

1 http://instagram.com/p/dDishZi9tI/

2 http://instagram.com/p/WFiKiEi9u-/


How is a Tragedy of the Commons (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tragedy_of_the_commons) avoided?

There will be enough people who use the drill and leave it in a degraded condition (dirty, broken in some way) that a replacement would soon be needed. Is the answer to this accountability? Or are people better-mannered than I give them credit for? How much of an investment in tracking borrowers would be required?


This can and has been done, non-commercially. http://vancouvertoollibrary.com/ is just one example.


Berkeley and Oakland have some pretty amazing tool-lending libraries as well. SF had one too, but I'm not sure what happened to it.


Toronto also has a tool sharing club (http://torontotoollibrary.com/).


I think a true peer-to-peer sharing network would be a nightmare. However, I love the idea a centralized service that I could rent all kinds of things from. It's like Lowe's tool rental service on steroids. There's been hundreds of times that I wanted to rent something smaller, like an impact drill, or something else that they don't have. A full commodity rental service would be neat.


I'm a founder at Rentabilities and this is exactly what we're working on.

Would love your feedback: http://www.rentabilities.com http://www.rentabilities.com/26135/1-5-rotary-hammer-drill/

As a first step to solving the problem, we've aggregated much of the data on what's available for rent locally.

As a second step, we're currently experimenting with an online booking flow in event categories and it's going well.

For equipment, most people want immediacy and prefer to just book on the phone. So right now, we're just giving consumers that option. However, I would love to give you the ability to book the impact drill instantly.


Wow, that's cool. I live in Richmond, VA, and it looks like all of the rentals come from just a few places: lowes and home depot are obvious. I found United Rentals through your site though. It would be nice to book immediately from your site, because otherwise I'll probably just skip your site and call the company directly after I use your site once to discover the rental companies.

Also, I expected a bunch of tools to be listed on this page: https://www.rentabilities.com/united-rentals-richmond-va/. It took me a little bit to figure out to click a category on the left.

I noticed your site is responsive, too. A random technical point is that you would probably benefit from concatenating all of your js/css into 2 js/css files, since on mobile latency is critical.

It's a cool idea though.


I like https://peerby.com/ for this. You can borrow anything from people close to you.


The car sharing service already exists in Finland. It's not very popular because it's expensive to rent a car for use, and renting one's own car to someone else is not very profitable (so most people won't do it). Besides, it means that the car owner can't use his own car any time he pleases (which is a key selling point of owning a car in the first place).


I think the major issue with this concept is that people are going to want a discount. "Why would I rent when I could just buy for that price", even if we won't get any more (or heck even less) utility by buying, we think that is a better option, just in case.

Given how cheap a lot of this stuff is, it isn't surprising a proper sharing system hasn't shown up yet.


Stuff has become so cheap that using it rarely is not that much of a problem in practice. I'm not sure where the author concluded that it would cost $22 to get his holes drilled - I'm guessing in SF it would be more. That's not too far off from cordless drill prices ... especially if you're only looking for a drill that doesn't last very much.


What we need is efficiency in the second-hand goods marketplace. One partial enabling change would be to eliminate sales tax on second hand goods (or only charge it on the markup).

I don't want to worry about how long I need to possess something at the time I order it. I want to buy it and a repurchase agreement and then sell it back to some marketplace.


I was thinking about the "sharing economy" yesterday and started wondering if you could approach its underlying infrastructure as a software problem. It's easy, in our heads, to generalize the aspirations of the many companies that get lumped in to that category — but could it be accomplished in practice by building tools?


In all honesty i feel like this is an issue of a breakdown in community. If you are a part of a community with a level of trust, it isn't that much to ask a friend to borrow a saw, or a cup of flour, etc. I'm not sure any sort of app or website can replace that level of trust and sharing.


I think you're close -- its a critical mass issue in communities. There are countless networks to handle borrowing (some already mentioned) neighborrow, neighborgoods, peerby, nextdoor...the list goes on. There are also tool libraries in communities across the country and don't forget timebanks whose forums/email lists often turn to I'll borrow x for a time dollar.

Effectiveness is constrained by network adoption/critical mass -- Lyft isn't useful unless there are enough people to have someone available to pick you up when you need them.

>I'm not sure any sort of app or website can replace that level of trust and sharing. Apps/websites don't replace the trust and sharing, they increase the effectiveness of your local relationships. In a lot of cases, living in the same area carries an amount of trust and sharing. Trusting relationships are actually built upon a certain level of risk that is taken at some point -- you trust your neighbor a lot more after you ask them to keep your key and an eye on your home while you're away for a weekend. So its sort of a chicken and egg question. Is there a lack in trust in local communities because neighbors/community members don't interact, therefore peer-to-peer tools will increase trust? Or will these types of networks not succeed because there isn't enough trust?


Maybe like an eBay for rentals. Reputation is everything. Also some kind of micro-insurance to protect against loss or theft. Rapid distribution centers w/ pre- and post- checkout inspection, optional door to door service (aggregate inbound and outbound deliveries to lower cost).


The specialness of Uber isn't the car, it's the driver that is summoned seemlingly magically from your phone and paid just as easily.

The drill analogy only works if you're quickly hiring a handyman to drill the hole, not a delivery person to drop off a drill.


Erm, that's exactly what TFA said.

What if for $22 I could have had a reliable person show up at my place within an hour, drill the holes, and go away?


Don't forget the marketing issue here. Someone wants a drill, you want them to think of you at the same level as Amazon. That will take marketing dollars. Big marketing dollars.

My guess is weak marketing is why every startup in this space will flop.


This is a great idea that I would use all the time, but I don't understand this trend of posting long blog posts of company ideas. If it's a good idea, why don't you just start working on it?


Perhaps because ideas are a dime-a-dozen, but not every idea-haver has the time, energy, desire, or capital necessary for execution. Perhaps someone else will come along and run with this idea. I think sharing startup ideas aloud in blog posts is wonderful for this reason.


This already exists (as many have mentioned). Here's one in the DC / Baltimore area: http://www.toolspinner.com/


I think the idea gets taken a bit too far here. The solution to all cited examples has already been invented: it's called borrowing from friends, family and neighbours.


I think things like this will become far more workable when something like electric delivery air drones become commercially viable.


tool libraries like http://neptl.org/ ?




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