A new Seattle startup wants to help neighbors share items and expertise with each other while donating to a good cause.
Founded by two former Rhapsody executives, MyNeighbor is a marketplace that connects people in need of services or goods with those that already own such resources. The company’s one-line pitch is an “Airbnb for neighborly needs and deeds.”
The service lets lenders post things they already own — a ladder, a kayak, a carpet cleaner, for example — or a expertise they have like tutoring, baking, dog walking or piano lessons. Borrowers can browse their specific neighborhood library of offers and can contact lenders directly with MyNeighbor’s mobile app.
Brendan Benzing, previously the Chief Product Officer and GM of the Americans for Seattle-based music streaming company Rhapsody, said that MyNeighbor is an “amalgamation” of the industries he’s worked in over the years.
“I spent much of my career working in the consumer technology industry focusing on local media, and entertainment that utilized both mobile and internet technologies, so this is really just an extension of all of that,” Benzing said. “I am also fascinated with businesses that empower people to be part of the experience, enabling them to create, provide, produce, which can improve the overall experience.”
Benzing co-founded MyNeighbor with Sebastien Martel, a long-time RealNetworks veteran who was most recently a senior director at Rhapsody.
“My co-founder Seb and I also worked in the on-demand streaming music industry where we were immersed in the principles of access over ownership that have been embraced in the digital world, and we felt this was a powerful concept when applied to things in the physical world,” Benzing added.
MyNeighbor has a bevy of competitors. On the lendable goods side, there are sites like Neighborgoods.net to community groups on Facebook, Yahoo, and Nextdoor that help neighbors help each other. Brick-and-mortar seasonal retailers and traditional rental stores also pose competition.
But Benzing said that MyNeighbor’s peer-to-peer nature differentiates the service from others, as does the focus on borrowing and lending of goods.
“The activity of lending is fundamentally different than the relationship forged in a retail environment where relationships, loyalty and trust are often fleeting, especially for non-commodity goods,” he explained. “MyNeighbor encourages real identity and for neighbors to foster longstanding recurring relationships to solve daily dilemmas. The act of two or more people getting together has significant higher order benefits than traditional retail experiences, and once trust is established it can be used to extend the value proposition of MyNeighbor beyond its initial charter.”
MyNeighbor also lets lenders easily donate some or all of their earnings to a charity, community organization, or local school. Benzing said he was inspired to implement this feature after watching a Ted Talk from Dan Pallotta.
“In focus groups with neighbors across the country before we began work on MyNeighbor we learned that there are instances where neighbors may not want to charge a direct neighbor,” he said. “And while that didn’t decrease their desire to lend, the idea of charity alleviated the notion and even increased the appeal. The idea of raising money for your favorite charity without spending a dime resonated.”
The company plans to make money by taking a small portion of each transaction. It is exploring a possible marketplace fees associated with a new feature that would enable transactions within the app.
MyNeighbor employs five and has raised $265,000 to date.