Equipment Share, a Columbia-based online startup for renting and leasing heavy equipment, has moved to Silicon Valley — sort of.
The winner of October’s Columbia Startup Weekend was selected to participate in Y Combinator, a Mountain View, Calif., business accelerator that has worked with startups like AirBnB, Dropbox and Reddit. Y Combinator has also worked with another Columbia Startup Weekend winner, Zapier, an app management company that won Startup Weekend in 2011 and went to the accelerator in 2012.
Y Combinator, commonly regarded as one of the top startup accelerators in the world, offers $120,00 of investment and three months of mentoring to assist early-stage businesses.
Equipment Share has been working with Y Combinator since Jan. 1. Founder William Schlacks says he and his brother, Jabbok, take turns making the trip to California every week in order to keep the business going in Missouri.
“They have been a huge help, particularly with their network,” William Schlacks said. “And of course the investment, which allows us to hire developers full-time.”
Equipment Share became a physical manifestation of the Schlacks brothers’ idea during Startup Weekend. As contractors who had dealt with the purchase or rental of expensive equipment in their jobs, the brothers had been trying to think of a better solution. Prior to Startup Weekend, though, they didn’t have the skills and connections available to start the wheels turning.
Startup Weekend, an event held in cities across the world, brings entrepreneurs, designers, developers and more together to pitch ideas and create prototypes for startup companies. By the end of the weekend, three companies take home prizes awarded by a panel of judges.
Since winning, William Schlacks says, the company has grown to include about eight full-time employees. In the past four months, they have worked to develop the website and partner with shipping and hauling companies that will help Equipment Share reach more customers.
Currently, the business is operating entirely in mid-Missouri, and Schlacks says Equipment Share has a small group of 20 to 30 contractors that it has been able to get started on sharing equipment. He says one of the company’s goals in working with Y Combinator is to widen its customer base and become more market ready.
“We are totally in mid-Missouri, so the next three months we will nail the concept and work out the kinks, and in April hopefully scale it nationally,” Schlacks said.
Currently, Schlacks says the only funding is from Y Combinator and what’s coming out of the founders’ pockets. He says the next step is to raise more funding to expand the number of customers that Equipment Share can reach.
“Right now, what we are going to shoot for is growth from an investment standpoint,” Schlacks said. “The mantra is whatever helps contractors. The core concept is letting contractors rent to each other, and we don’t want to lose sight of that.”