Premium — a word that is thrown around in the video space; and one attributed to the content that streams on more “serious” platforms like AOL, Amazon, Hulu, even Vessel. It’s a word that open platforms like Vimeo and YouTube have strived to achieve as they commission work from the more production and narrative-focused creators. And up until recently, many creators simply had to ride the ad-supported or direct-to-fan pathway towards revenue, scrape together funds for better equipment and talented editing teams, or hope for time at one of YouTube’s various big-budget studios. On the heels of successful companies like Lyft and AirBnb, the sharing economy is thriving right now. In 2016, two companies are tapping that trend and looking to provide ways for video creators to pro-up their works.
Meet Kitsplit and VidMob — two very different businesses but each aimed at solving for one big problem in the video industry: the accessibility to resources that elevate production quality, whether physical equipment or the people themselves.
KitSplit is exactly as it sounds — a company based in NYC that functions like an AirBnb for camera equipment between individuals. Rather than renting from a camera equipment store like Adorama or Foto Care, now creators can form a two way street of production support. Creators without the best tech cameras or equipment can rent it from their peers, which in turn supports the person renting out their gear.
We caught up with the founder of KitSplit Lisbeth Kaufman to get a better sense of how the business works and how creators can benefit from borrowing and leasing their gear. (Learn more on VidMob here).
VideoInk: What’s the big picture mission for KitSplit?
Lisbeth Kaufman: KitSplit is a one-stop shop where you can find high quality gear to rent from hundreds of vendors, get it insured, and have it delivered on demand. You can also make some money renting gear you own to insured and vetted creators.
Our big picture mission is to democratize the production process by making it easier and more affordable to get high-end equipment. We believe that everyone deserves the opportunity to pursue a creative vision and also make a decent living doing what you love. We aim to remove barriers in the production process as well as provide equipment owners a safe and convenient marketplace to rent out what they own. We take care of the logistics so you can focus on making amazing art!
VI: It seems you’re trying to empower the creation of higher quality content and using the on-trend “shared economy” to do this — was that born from a pain point you personally experienced?
LK: Yes exactly! We all come from the film/media industry and have experienced the hassle and financial challenge of renting high quality equipment first hand. Kristina, one of our co-founders, came up with the idea after working in the video department at the New Yorker Magazine and also freelancing for clients like JP Morgan and Makerbot. She found herself spending more time lugging equipment to and from rental shops than actually using the gear on shoots. Meanwhile, she knew that there were tons of people and companies nearby who owned the exact equipment she needed. So she came up with the idea of starting a sharing economy or AirBNB-style marketplace to connect people who own equipment with those looking to rent.
VI: It’s a good time for the sharing economy, especially because companies like AirBnb have paved the way. How has this translated into the video space?
LK: 2015 was an amazing year for us! We grew our New York area membership to 2500+ people and companies. We were also named one of the top 25 most Indie-friendly companies of the year by MovieMaker Magazine.
What we’re most proud of though is helping thousands of people get easy access to affordable rentals for amazing productions! Two of the coolest projects we supplied equipment on was a Virtual Reality shoot for Unicef and a shoot at the White House.
VI: What products are people borrowing / leasing the most?
LK: Our most popular products are Canon C300’s and Sony A7S kits. Oculus rifts have also been incredibly popular. Most of the oculus owners on our site have made enough rentals to more than pay back their initial investment in the rift.
VI: How do you protect from theft, misuse or damage?
LK: We spend a lot of time working on safety and trust and it’s paid off: we have had no theft or major damage happen on KitSplit so far. We protect from theft, misuse and damage in a number of ways: 1) We vet each person who joins our platform to ensure they are who they say they are and that they are trustworthy individuals. 2) We offer an unparalleled damage and theft policy that automatically covers all gear up to $10,000 at no extra charge. 3) For equipment worth more than $10,000 we’ve worked with an amazing entertainment insurance broker, Dennis Reiff and his team, to build out a bespoke short-term insurance product covering equipment for the duration of the rental. For now KitSplitters can purchase KitSplit insurance through Dennis Reiff, and starting early next year they will be able to purchase it with one click on our site right when they pay for a KitSplit rental. 4) Lastly we have a rigorous rating and reviews system — renters and owners rate and review each other after each rental so that if something goes wrong the community is aware of it.
Ultimately the creative world is a small and very networked one. Reputation is a major part of success. People know that if they mistreat equipment on KitSplit it will damage their reputation and have major impact on their career. On the flip side, our users report that they’ve had fantastic rental experiences and have really loved getting to know other KitSplit members through rental transactions.
VI: Technical info! When did you ideate the business? When did you launch? Are you funded?
LK: We came up with the idea for the business from our own challenge finding equipment for productions. We spent about a year interviewing our friends and contacts in the industry. We are constantly collecting feedback and talking to customers so that we can improve our platform and service offering. We have a bit of funding from some amazing investors including Broadway Video Ventures and Joanne Wilson.