Three years ago, John Alexander was on a mission to build his own Go-Kart.
While he didn’t know it at the time, the project would push him to build a company instead.
As he got deeper into the construction of the Go-Kart, he discovered a slew of tools he needed to complete the task. Rather than purchase the equipment — an expensive prospect — Alexander’s wife recommended he rent everything he needed. But a quick Google search showed a glaring need in the market.
That sparked an idea: What if there were an online marketplace where people can rent out anything they own — from tools to heavy machinery to strollers or car seats?
Now, that’s what Alexander and co-founder Will Jackson are building with Xchange Post.
“We want to be the place where you can rent anything,” Jackson said.
Xchange Post is an easy-to-use app that will feel familiar to users of apps like LetGo or OfferUp. The platform allows people to post their item, its daily or weekly rate, and its availability. Renters can look for items matching their search description, bid on the product, and list the dates they need it. The app has an integrated liability tool that confirms the condition and functionality of the product, transfers ownership of the liability to the new party, and transfers it back after the rental period has ended and the product is returned in working condition. Xchange Post charges a 10 percent service fee for every rental.
To start, the company is building its community around tools and hardware, a $400 billion market in the U.S. with an evident need for rental options. The founders foresee themselves expanding to additional markets quickly, such as children’s items (think strollers or Pack ‘n Plays) that families may not want to pack while traveling.
“We want to bring together resources that are mostly unused and dormant into one place,” Alexander explained. “We waste billions of dollars on tools we use once or twice. The average tool in your garage spends 99 percent of its time idle, collecting dust. Someone — maybe your neighbor — needs this resource and is willing to pay for it.”
XchangePost has achieved many successes already, including being featured in the Top 100 Startups at the Collision conference, participating in City Startup Labs, and most recently winning the Charlotte Veteran Showcase (along with the $50,000 grand prize.) But their journey to this point has been far from easy.
Alexander described their first meeting with an investor as both defeating and draining. The potential investor told them, “Why are we here talking? It’s not going to happen. If it was a good idea, someone would’ve already done it.”
“We drove to New Orleans for the next conference, and we had no energy. The first investor we ever talked to sucked every bit of energy out of us,” Alexander said.
Alexander is active duty in the Navy while Jackson recently retired after serving for 24 years. Last year, the duo brought on Army veteran Fred Kessler to lead their technology and development. The founders rely heavily on their Navy recruiting background as they seek to build their company.
“[At that conference,] we both turned into recruiter mode,” Alexander continued. “We stopped every investor to talk to them and get ideas. That gave us energy to propel us forward.”
After a few more investor meetings, the team noticed a pattern: Everyone they met said they had heard of this idea before. They were certain someone was doing it, but could never say who. This has been a significant hurdle in their progress, as they explain repeatedly to people that this is not being done in the market.
Rather than continue having the same conversation with investors, the team went underground to supercharge their development of the app.
“We were focused on making people happy instead of building our app,” Alexander said of the decision. They returned with a fully functioning app nearly a year later and were met with great support from the community.
Jackson described a recent pitch event in Asheville where one of the judges asked, “How many people in the audience would use this app?”
“Everyone’s hands went up. We already knew there was a market. This was our baby. We’ve had amazing feedback over the last two years,” he said.
That has brought with it a sense of vindication.
“It felt like we were discarded as, ‘Someone else is doing this. We’re not going to take you seriously,’” Alexander said. “When we finally saw that the app looked like our vision, it felt real. All the development, all the conversations, all the late-night phone calls and days at the office… we finally have this.”
Through their business and involvement with organizations such as City Startup Labs, Alexander said they hope to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community.
“We are committed to bringing economic mobility to the urban areas of Charlotte,” he said. “If we can get a startup community going and get people interested in taking these risks in the community, we’re going to help the economic mobility of so many entrepreneurs in Charlotte who have yet to be discovered. We don’t want people to think getting an MBA and working in a huge tower is the only way to be successful in Charlotte. I was born and raised in Charlotte. You can do this. There’s no other city I’d rather be in at this time.”
Their advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is to get the word out and love what you’re doing to weather the difficult times.
“There’s no such thing as too much publicity because you’ll miss the connections that will help you grow,” Alexander said. “Building a startup takes time. Tell everyone you can. Don’t hold back. Go out there and let everyone know.”
The Xchange Post app is set to launch in the App Store by the end of the year. Next, they will set their sights on identifying partners and investors to drive their platform forward.
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