Seeking the next big idea in the “shared economy” pioneered by Uber and Airbnb – while also incorporating compatibility matching capabilities of dating and social media sites – an AI (artificial intelligence) newbie has put forth an online business model based on renting items many of us own – party supplies, power tools, wheelchairs, lawn equipment, video gear – to those who’d rather rent than buy.
It’s been observed that a power drill, to take a common example, is only used by its owner for 12 minutes per year. So it makes eminent sense to rent a drill for a few dollars rather than buying one, right? Actually, maybe not. While a rental marketplace seems like an obvious business model, getting it to work in the real world has been another matter. For one thing, if renting a drill involves traveling any significant distance, then many people would just as soon buy one and be done with it. For another, if the owner and renter don’t get along it lessens the chances that either one will become return customers.
Rntus.com is attempting to overcome these challenges by developing a data-driven infrastructure that combines AWS’s auto-scaling compute and storage infrastructure with a home-grown, inference-based AI capability that makes using the site seem like signing up for Match.com or eHarmony. The idea, according to founder and CEO Elias Chavando, is to avoid the fraction-of-a-penny-per-query that Rntus.com would otherwise pay AWS for AI functionality, charges that would add up quickly when the start-up processes the hundreds of thousands of queries per hour it expects – and hopes – come its way.
The self-funded Los Angeles-based company came out of its pilot phase this week with the live launch of its website and mobile marketplace app that joins owners of items and renters (Rntus.com keeps 20 percent of the transaction).