Kit kit kit. You’ve probably got too much and somehow it’s still never enough. It can be incredibly useful to own your own gear, but if you’re not using it every day – literally, in the case of a new camera – it can be hard to justify buying stuff from a business point of view.
UK startup Fat Lama want to change that with a service that matches your idle gear to users that want to pay you to use it. It’s like (drumroll please) Uber for camera gear! Yes, you do get to fill in your startup article bingo cards now. And no, I’m not going to get weird about their spelling of llama. Oh wait, too late.
I caught up with Fat Lama’s Will Duncan over email to find out a bit more.
Newsshooter: What service does Fat Lama provide?
Fat Lama: Fat Lama is a peer-to-peer rental marketplace for stuff. Whether you’re looking to borrow a camera for a photoshoot or rent out your spare lens whilst you’re not using it, Fat Lama helps connect people who are looking for an item with people who have what they need.
What sort of equipment can owners hire out?
Cameras, lenses, gimbals, drones, music equipment, bikes, clothes, furniture- almost anything! We can’t insure overly dangerous items (guns, chainsaws, chemicals etc), vehicles, properties, pets, or your grandma. But if your item isn’t one of those things, then you can list it!
Why would a person looking to hire equipment come to Fat Lama rather than a regular hire house?
Great question! Price is undoubtedly a primary reason for peer-renting as opposed to traditional hire avenues. Rental rates on Fat Lama are, on average, 30% cheaper than hire shops. There’s also no need for deposits. Since we insure all the items listed on behalf of our lenders, we don’t require deposits from borrowers which speeds up the borrowing process.
Also, not being a rental shop means we don’t have a closing time! It doesn’t make sense to us in 2017 that hire is solely available during working hours. If you spill a drink on your decks 2 hours before a DJ set then Fat Lama is the first port of call, as there may well be a lender nearby who can help you out at short notice. Approximately a third of our rentals are booked and collected on the same day. The breadth of available items is also a draw for many. Where else can you hire a projector, road bike, Blackmagic camera, garden furniture, a popcorn maker, and DJ decks in one place?
Finally, Fat Lama doubles up as a kind of networking platform. Many filmmakers and photographers have told us that they meet a huge variety of interesting industry names through peer-rental. Fat Lama helps you find people you share interests with, creates a sense of community and is great place to meet other film, TV and photography professionals.
What are the risks for the person hiring the equipment out? Would they need extra insurance?
Incidents whilst items are being borrowed are very rare. But to be safe, all items listed on Fat Lama are insured on behalf of the lender in case anything were to happen to their item whilst on rental. The cost of insurance is covered in our service fee which is 15% of the amount the lender earns from their rental.
What services does Fat Lama provide – do you take care of deliveries, for example?
Fat Lama helps people find the things that they need to rent fast and helps lenders make money by hiring out their belongings safely. We don’t currently have integrated logistics, but our team will help you every step of the way, whether you’re lending or borrowing.
What cut does Fat Lama take from a typical hire?
To cover the cost of insurance and to keep us chugging along, we charge a fee of 15% to lenders on the amount they earn from rentals. So we only make money when our lenders are making money! We also charge a fee of 15% of the cost of a rental to borrowers.
Who sets the pricing?
Our lenders can charge whatever they like for their items – it’s completely up to them. However, most recognise that the lower they set their prices, the more rentals they’ll generate and the higher their overall income will be!
What might it cost me to hire, say, a Sony FS7 kit through Fat Lama and how does that break down in terms of fees for the hirer and [Fat Lama]?
A typical Sony FS7 Kit costs around £92/day ($119 US/day), depending on the specifications, with £12 ($15.50 US) of that being our fee. Significant savings can be made for rentals longer than one day, too! We have a huge variety of cameras available at a range of different price points.
Even IKEA deliver nowadays
So for me the lack of ‘integrated logistics’ is a bit of a pain – in London one of the good things about dealing with conventional hire houses is that they generally have a team or a courier able to drop kit to your door. However if you’re on a shoestring and able to make pickups/drop-offs yourself that’s obviously one easy way to save a bit of money.
Gimbal for hire
I needed to hire a gimbal a couple of weeks ago and I was able to find what I needed on the Fat Lama site. I didn’t end up hiring through one of the users there, because of the added complication of having to pick it up myself – no one who had what I wanted (a DJI Ronin-M) was close enough to make it worthwhile. Every one was generally a fair bit cheaper (up to 25% less) than our usual hire house though, and it also seemed possible to find users that bundled other items like a monitor or spare batteries at little or no extra cost.
What was also interesting is that there were lots of people hiring out one-handed gimbals like the Zhiyun Crane for very reasonable day rates – not kit that you’d really find at a conventional rental house. So to try before you buy or for prosumer-style gear that it might be hard to not, well, just buy, Fat Lama could be worth a look.
Likewise if you’re looking to make your camera work a little harder for you, Fat Lama might be worth checking out as a service. The fact that the company insures your gear while it’s out on loan is a big weight off, although of course at the end of the day you are still essentially handing over your kit to a stranger. Probably worth investing in some good bags and decent protective gear if you are sending out your prized RED kit into the world…
You’re also competing against other users for customers. Fat Lama don’t hold inventory like a traditional hire house and aren’t taking any risks on the hardware. If your camera turns out to be a lemon or just unpopular that’s your problem, not theirs. Likewise from the punter’s point of view because they’re happy to hire out pretty much anything you’re unlikely to get much technical support over the phone if your FS7 is set to the wrong recording mode or needs a firmware update.
However it’s a new world out there and a service like Fat Lama is another option for anyone looking to gear up for a shoot. They’re live in the UK now and are looking to expand into the US next. Would you make use of Fat Lama on a future project? Have you hired kit out peer-to-peer before? Spill the beans (and your rates!) in the comments below.