From owners to users – circuly develops solutions for the sharing economy

The young startup circuly shows that economic growth and sustainability can go together. As the software enables companies to rent out their products instead of just selling them. As such, circuly creates further sales potential and, at the same time, brings sustainability to e-commerce. We spoke to Victoria Erdbrügger, ISM graduate and co-founder, about the development of her startup.

 

How did you identify a problem and how does your product solve it?

My co-founder Nick ran his own rental business in Holland prior to circuly, renting out baby strollers through a Magento Store. As a result, he soon recognized the limitations of such store systems. They’re great for simply selling products, but out of their depth when it comes to recurring payments and when products are returned after the rental period. He then developed his own solution for renting via the existing shop and companies started approaching him as they wanted to buy this solution for their shops.

That’s basically how circuly came about. Our software enables companies with existing online shops to also offer a rental model. circuly supports both the online shop as a white-label checkout solution for recurring payments and credit assessment as well as the management of the rental model in the areas of subscription management, recurring billing and asset tracking. As an add-on for existing shop systems, we make them smart for the rental of physical goods.

The market is still young but offers enormous potential: So-called subscription e-commerce is expected to have a market volume of almost €400 billion by 2025 and is growing at an average CAGR of 68%. The success of market pioneers such as Swapfiets, Grover, H&M or IKEA promises great things.

 

What were the biggest challenges at the start?

To come up with a product that offers maximum added value for our customers with minimum complexity. Hiring key resources for a team working fully remotely due to the coronavirus.

 

How did you find your first customers?

Before we got down to building the product, we conducted numerous customer interviews to better understand the problem and to see if what we were planning to build would actually solve it. This obviously led to contact with many companies that were looking for a solution just like ours and we were also able to win them as customers off the bat as soon as the first version was released.

 

When did you start to scale up your startup? And why?

The onboarding of our first customers was still all very manual and took a correspondingly long time. We then further developed the software using feedback from our customers, which gave us an excellent understanding of what is particularly important to them.

In the meantime, we’ve managed to minimize the onboarding times to just a few minutes and the new companies we speak to really appreciate our in-depth understanding of their situation, the helpful functionalities of the software and our customer service.

 

What advice would you have for anyone else wanting to launch a startup?

A detailed validation of the idea and a huge amount of focus. In the beginning, we started circuly with a key vision: To bring about a sustainable change of the consumer society, from owning to using. We had some brilliant ideas but lacked a starting point or specific focus, and basically wanted to do everything. After the first hundred customer meetings, in which we validated our idea, it became clearer to us what we needed to focus on in order to create the greatest possible added value for our customers.