Neighbourhood borrowing in Amsterdam

Like most good ideas, Peerby is incredibly simple. If you need a drill or some golf clubs or a paddling pool, you log on to Peerby and put out a request. Then any neighbours willing and able to lend you their drill, golf club or paddling pool get in touch. No money changes hands and no contracts are signed. It’s all based on neighbourly trust, and it’s the idea of founder Daan Weddepohl. 

The website was launched in 2012 and in the era of peer-to-peer sharing, the idea is gaining traction around the world. A quick Peerby search reveals 100,000 active members and more than 4,000 objects available within a 30-minute stroll of the firm’s office. In June 2014, at the international New Cities Summit in Dallas, Peerby beat competition from across the globe to win the ‘best new urban app’ award. Having raised $2.1 million from investors in November 2014, Peerby is now being piloted in eight US cities.

The insurance option ‘Peerby Warranty’ is currently being implemented in Amsterdam and will role out across the UK this summer. Key to the success of Peerby so far has been the ‘runway’ that accelerators have allowed. In startup-speak, ‘runway’ is the time a firm needs to turn a profit. If it begins with €20,000 and costs €2,000 a month to run (the ‘burn rate’), that gives a runway of ten months before the cash runs out and investors need to see a profit or enough progress to reinvest. It is also the point at which many fail. 

But Weddepohl is convinced that his location gives him a distinct advantage. ‘This is a great place to build a startup,’ he says. ‘You don’t need as much money to live off, compared to London or New York or San Francisco, which are really expensive. I’d say the quality of life here is better and you spend less on it. So I think that’s a good basis for trying to develop something new, you know; you won’t be in deep trouble if you don’t make a lot of money. There’s a lot of support from organisations like the Amsterdam Economic Board and the government.’

Peerby, in short

Peerby is an app and website that enables people to borrow the things they need from others in their neighbourhood. With Peerby, you don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on things you only use once or once in a while, and you feel good by helping somebody out. Members post something they want to borrow, and neighbours get an email or push notification to which they can respond with a single click. It allows you to save money, meet people and live green: one eighth of all the CO2 emissions in the world is caused by the production  and consumption of consumer goods. Members and transactions are growing exponentially since the launch in September 2012. With more than 100,000 active monthly members, Peerby has mature communities in the Netherlands and Belgium, London and Berlin, and is currently emerging in eight US pilot cities.