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The ShareGrid team.
The ShareGrid team (Brent Barbano, Marius Ciocirlan, and Arash Shiva).

The “sharing economy” has disrupted everything from transportation to lodging, and many industries in between. ShareGrid is betting it can do the same for film and photo production.

The Seattle startup is a peer-to-peer rental marketplace for film and photo equipment. Creatives can offer up their gear, which is insured by ShareGrid, to earn some extra cash. Those who need equipment for a shoot can rent it from other professionals for less than what traditional rental services charge.

“In the film/photo production world, over $50 billion of equipment sits idle with creative individuals and companies,” said CEO Arash Shiva. “ShareGrid is the first marketplace to unlock this inventory and make it available to other creatives that currently rent over $10 billion a year.”

ShareGrid CEO Arash Shiva.
ShareGrid CEO Arash Shiva.

Shiva founded ShareGrid with product designer Marius Ciocirlan. The two met when they were working as lead designers on Groupon’s mobile apps. Brent Barbano, a director of photography based in L.A., is also a co-founder.

“Together, we built ShareGrid to give artists freedom — to give them access to the tools they need and the financial freedom they desire in order to focus on their craft,” Shiva said.

ShareGrid is headquartered in Seattle and currently operates out of Los Angeles and New York. The startup plans to expand to additional cities.

We caught up with Shiva for this Startup Spotlight, a regular GeekWire feature.

Explain what you do so our parents can understand it: “We help filmmakers and photographers make extra money by renting out their professional gear to locals, fully verified and insured.”

Inspiration hit us when: “The idea for ShareGrid was conceived with inspiration from my reading of futurist Jacque Fresco’s essay on a “Resource Based Economy,” as well as Marius and Brent’s direct struggles renting gear in the film industry and noticing an opportunity to apply the sharing economy model to help their friends make money from their gear.”

VC, Angel or Bootstrap: “We bootstrapped to profitability before closing our VC funding, and that was key to prove to ourselves and to investors that this was a real business with a solid foundation to grow on. Even though it was a struggle, I encourage other founders to seek funding, as it forces you to test your assumptions.”

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Our ‘secret sauce’ is: “Insurance! We never thought we’d get into the insurance business starting out — but securing our exclusive insurance partnership and building it into our platform was the key factor that fostered trust between our members, and gave them the confidence to rent gear on ShareGrid.”

The smartest move we’ve made so far: “Testing our idea with a landing page and survey before building anything.”

The biggest mistake we’ve made so far: “Doing little market analysis when starting out. We learned about where to focus our energies after launch.”

sharegridWould you rather have Gates, Zuckerberg or Bezos in your corner: “Bezos! He understands marketplace dynamics better than anyone.”

Our favorite team-building activity is: “Locking ourselves in a room and solving big problems together. That, and playing FIFA on our Playstation 4.”

The biggest thing we look for when hiring is: “Internal drive, willingness to learn and adapt, sense of humor, as well as being able to debate your ideas without ego.”

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to other entrepreneurs just starting out: “Make sure to speak with your potential customers early on to understand their pains, and always be shipping!”

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