We talked to Alex Pastukhov of rent4me about renting unused items during the pandemic.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Alex Pastukhov: We are good. My second child was born last winter, and I was dreaming of working from home for some time to be close to my family.
I didn’t expect it to be so long, but we are happy to be together even if it’s tough to work with the running kids around.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded rent4me.
Alex Pastukhov: I’m a software engineer from Ukraine. This idea came to mind in 2014, when I was working in Poland. I had bought a GoPro camera and realized that I didn’t use it so often as expected. It was also so pricy to just keep it. So I was trying to find this service and didn’t find one.
At that time, I was not sure about starting this venture, but after moving to China, I entered into a startups environment like Silicon Valley, so you can’t just keep your ideas on the shelf.
I resigned from my job, moved to Vietnam, and spent half a year building this service. After that, I’ve moved to the US as it’s better to start in a big market. If you fail here – high chances you’ll fail in any other place too.
How does rent4me innovate?
Alex Pastukhov: We are serious about safety. First, we thought about how we could guarantee safety to our clients. The main problem that we are a marketplace, and it’s extremely tough to make all service providers follow the same level of quality and safety. So we encourage sanitization but can’t control it.
We considered making our providers make videos before and after renting to show how things were sanitized. But this adds additional complexity to the service.
Currently, we have a 12hr quarantine in between rentals. So in case the provider doing sanitization is not so good – it’s safer anyway. If we talk about changes inside the company, then we have not so many changes.
Company employees were working remotely from the start. We have team members in the USA, Czech Republic, Ukraine, Belarus, Estonia, and Russia. We used Trello, Slack before Zoom became mainstream.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Alex Pastukhov: We are still in between the RND and beta stages, so that nothing could affect us a lot. Pandemic just temporarily affected our plans as it was unclear when people will begin to trust and use rental services. Today we are optimistic about our future.
The only problem I see is investments. We had plans to start our fundraising campaign soon, but now it’s better to wait for the clear sky.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Alex Pastukhov: When you have a plan, a pandemic could change it a little, but not in full.
Our industry wasn’t hit like tourism. We could expect a financial crisis after the pandemic, but even here, our service could be helpful as an additional source of income for those who lost their jobs.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and rent4me in the future?
Alex Pastukhov: Maybe it sounds unreal, but you can get used to stress. In most cases, you can count any issue as an additional lesson. An expensive one, but really good tutors are expensive too.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Alex Pastukhov: We have a couple of competitors in each country. Here, in the US, we have FatLama and Rentah.
But our solution is focused more on business, so we provide additional tools there.
Your final thoughts?
Alex Pastukhov: When you start a new venture, you have to be prepared for anything; therefore, a pandemic can’t be a huge surprise. It’s just an additional problem.
It’s an excellent time to try new ideas during these times. The world is changing, and some changes will be permanent. Big corporations can’t react to the changes fast, but startups can.